PDA

View Full Version : Missing Persons



Fazor
2010-Feb-24, 08:39 PM
Well, this is something I started looking into due to conversation in the CT section, but now that I've put some things together, I no longer feel it's pertinent there. So to avoid a thread-derail, I thought I'd just start a conversation here.

I'm not going to pretend to be an expert or to have done exhaustive research. These numbers were mostly pulled from the NCIC crime-statistics reports. Now I'm familiar with NCIC and some of the advantages, disadvantages, and shortfalls of those reports. In short, output is only as good as the input, and since NCIC is derived from thousands of agencies reporting things in varying manner, it can be a bit suspect at times.

I did also have a (very) short conversation with a specialist with the FBI's Criminal Justice Information Services division to fill in enough holes to allow me to put together some estimates.

It was interesting searching various missing-persons websites and posts. Most make the claim that there are nearly a million people that are missing in the US every year. (There were some of those websites that were using this as a statistic to 'prove' alien abduction, but most were organizations raising awareness of missing persons).

The thing is, the statistics only show the US as only having "nearly" a million missing persons reported on two of the last 18 years. And by nearly, I mean in the range of 995,000. In 2008, the last year for which data is currently available, it dropped from approximately 815,000 to approximately 775,000. Three quarters of a million is a lot, but it's not a million.

And while it's true that that only reflects reported missing persons (i.e., does not include cases in which there's no one to report the person as missing, such as the homeless), the number of active cases at the end of any given year always hovers around the same number, which averaged at about 185,000 over the last 18 years.

Note, that does not mean 185,000 new cases every year. It means 185,000 unsolved cases at any given time.

As for the "soo many people that aliens must be involved!" claims, to me 185,000 missing at any given time, out of the entire US population, given the country's landmass, and people's ability to voluntarily disappear if they want to, along with whatever number of those have been found as unidentified corpses . . . well, it's just not soo unbelievable that I need to throw aliens into the mix.

The other thing that I thought was interesting was the number of cases opened versus the number of cases closed starting after 1996. From 1997 until 2008, every year saw more cases solved than opened. 1996 also happens to be the year the 'Amber Alert' system was enacted.

Anyway, a quick explanation of the PDF I'll link at the end here:
The numbers in the "Reported" column are the number of new Missing Persons cases submitted for that given year. The "Closed" column numbers represent how many cases were marked as closed (cases stay active until the person is found one way or another . . . alive or dead) regardless of the year that person was initially reported missing. The "difference" column is simply the closed cases subtracted from the new cases, which I had to use to calculate some of the year-end Active Files data, working backwards from the last known year.

And in regards to that column, far more of those years had to be estimated than I would have liked. I only had three years available to work from, and out of those three, 2008's doesn't make sense. Unfotunately, NCIC archives weren't available except by request, and the woman I spoke with at the FBI CJIS department only had 2006-2009 on hand (I didn't use 2009 since we don't yet have the NCIC data to go along with it. Good news for you humanitarians; at the end of 2009, we had less than 100,000 active missing persons cases!)

I'd like better information on solid numbers for active-cases by year, but I didn't want to bother someone further for something that was just personal curiosity on my end.

Here's my .pdf: LINK (http://www.greenapple.com/~gibson/doc/missingpersons.pdf)

closetgeek
2010-Feb-25, 01:45 PM
Wow, Fazor! Kudo's for doing your homework.

Fazor
2010-Feb-25, 02:30 PM
I was just curious. Every site I came to--Woo, or support / information for missing persons--used the "reports entered" statistic when talking about how many people go missing.

With 'woo' it really bothers me because they totally misrepresent the problem, saying there's millions of people missing every year. (There's a difference between 'gone missing' and 'never accounted for', but apparently not to them).

With the sites looking to build awareness or gather support for missing persons and their families, it's still a misrepresentation of numbers but it doesn't bother me much. Here's why; a) If a loved one went missing, it'd be awful, regardless of whether or not they turn up. Obviously if they turn up safe, that's a huge relief. But that doesn't make the period while they're missing any less awful. Few things scare me in life. Having something happen to a loved in which they disappear and you never find the answer very much is my worst nightmare.

And while it could be frowned upon using an overall missing-persons report statistic that includes things like runaways, adult disappearances, people missing after a catastrophic disaster (think Katrina), etc., to support, say, missing and exploited children; it's forgivable because the "reason missing" field on the NCIC report isn't mandatory and is only filled out about 30% of the time, thus making it impossible to really break the number down in any meaningful way.

Besides, while scientifically wrong, I have a harder time being mad about using a misrepresented stat to support something that really deserves support than I do about using the same stat to support something stupid, like UFO abduction.

closetgeek
2010-Feb-25, 03:31 PM
Well, it's one thing to have inaccurate facts because of an imperfect system (not that I would know a better system) and intentionally misreporting the fact to support a completely unsubstantiated claim. It sort of makes you wonder how many times a person goes missing and amidst dealing with that tragedy, a woo would find it an appropriate time to contact the family with these suggestions. I have heard of police having to deal with these claims during a missing person search.

On a sort of related side note, I watch that show Disappeared on ID. There were two seperate episodes of teens/young adults going missing without a trace. Neither of the circumstances of the cases were compared to each other in the individual episodes but there were striking similarities between the two cases. In both situations they were college age students; one male and one female, both of their cars were found abandoned on the side of an unpopulated road, both were gone without a trace, both took unplanned trips, both were suggested to be possibly depressed (by friends and family), the strangest was, both had copies of Into The Wild (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Into_the_Wild) by Christopher McCandless on the passenger seat. I am not a detective nor do I claim to be better at their job but I can't help but wonder if they weren't suicide by elements, cases. Then again, it could be aliens abducting them and putting the books in the cars to make it look like so.

Fazor
2010-Feb-25, 03:49 PM
We had a case similar to that here a few years back that if anything, supports evidence of some gypsy curse, dark voodoo magic, or they possibly disturbed an ancient Egyptian burial ground . . . (I shouldn't joke, it is tragic).

A med student at Ohio State lost his mother (to cancer, IIRC). He was depressed about it, though it certainly sounds like he suffered from depression before he lost his mother.

Anyway, within a year of his mother's death, the student went to a bar, was seen on camera leaving, and just disappeared. I don't know that they ever found his car or if he even had a car (can't recall). No notes. No prior warning other than general depression. Just gone.

Two years after that (about this time last year), we had bad wind storms come through Ohio. His father, the only remaining family member, was outside surveying the damage when a large limb came down and killed him. The only fatality in the county, despite the widespread damage (my neighbor's roof was ripped off; I don't mean the shingles, I mean the home looked like a can of peaches with the lid peeled back).

Tragic. And that's part of it; if you're suicidal, or as in Into the Wild, unintentionally suicidal but in the middle of nowhere, there's plenty of places to die where chances are, no one will find you. At least, not for a long long time.

closetgeek
2010-Feb-25, 08:17 PM
Regardless, missing without a trace does not, in anyway, make alien abduction a suddenly plausible explanation. Again, I applaud you for actually going to the length of calling the FBI to clarify confusion. Most people won't take curiosity for the sake of a sound argument that far.

Fazor
2010-Feb-25, 08:20 PM
Calling? Naw. I'd feel like an idiot calling up a stranger and saying "Hey, there's this discussion on an internet forum I use, and I was wondering if you could answer some questions for me?" :) Too intrusive.

E-mailed back and forth a few times. I prefer that, as if they don't feel they can be bothered, they can ignore it.

Probably a bad idea, now that I think about it. It means someone at the FBI has my e-mail address . . . hmm.

rommel543
2010-Feb-25, 08:40 PM
Now if there was a listing on Jon/Jane Doe reports for morgues I wonder how it would match up. Of course you would need to some how cull out the homeless, although some of the missing may actually end up as the homeless.

Fazor
2010-Feb-25, 08:49 PM
The NCIC report for missing persons also has a section for "unknown persons", who are persons found (alive or dead) who's identity cannot be established.

Edit: Bah! I was on the phone when I was typing that, and submitted an incomplete post. I meant to also say that there really is no way you can meaningfully compare the two statistics, as they're not that detailed, but you can make an assumption that some of the found "John/Jan Does" are likely also from the missing persons list, with no way to match them up. On stat is certain; so far none of the "Unknown Persons" found have had any clear signs of being abducted by aliens.

closetgeek
2010-Feb-26, 02:19 PM
The NCIC report for missing persons also has a section for "unknown persons", who are persons found (alive or dead) who's identity cannot be established.

Edit: Bah! I was on the phone when I was typing that, and submitted an incomplete post. I meant to also say that there really is no way you can meaningfully compare the two statistics, as they're not that detailed, but you can make an assumption that some of the found "John/Jan Does" are likely also from the missing persons list, with no way to match them up. On stat is certain; so far none of the "Unknown Persons" found have had any clear signs of being abducted by aliens.

I guess you didn't see Fire In The Sky, which was, in fact, based on a true story. It's also a known fact that Hollywood would never be untruthful on these matters :hand:.