How to Search for a Missing Person

by Joleene DesRosiers Moody

When someone you know and love goes missing, it is a trying and emotional time. Finding him can be an overwhelming task. The individual you are looking for may have decided to leave quietly and on his own. However, if the missing person is a child or elderly, the situation could be questionable. Either way, reach out to law enforcement. While officials work to bring your loved one home, there are things you can do to assist in the search, too.

Stay in touch with law enforcement officials assigned to the case. Placing a call from time to time will keep the case “fresh” in their minds. Ask questions and stay abreast of any new developments.

Search dogs can find clues searchers may not see.

Participate in any “general area” searches in fields, rivers or streams. Recruit family, friends and community members to assist.

Call friends or relatives of the missing person and find out if they know anything. Sometimes you can gain information law enforcement has learned. Share that information with authorities.

Create fliers with your contact information, a photo of your missing person and a description of what he was wearing and when he was last seen. Distribute them throughout the community by tacking them to bulletin boards at gas stations, convenience stores, laundromats and telephone poles. Check on the fliers periodically and replace any that have been removed or damaged.

Place an ad in the local newspaper where the missing person lived. Include the individual’s picture, a description of what he was wearing, where he was last seen and your contact information. Hundreds of people read the papers everyday and may have some information that can help you.

Reach out to organizations that specialize in supporting family and friends of the missing. These organizations are most often started by people who have missing loved ones. Utilize their support services to help you through difficult times.

The internet provides tools to help locate missing persons.

Use search engines like the ones online at the National Center for Missing Adults or the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System. Enter the name of the missing person into the search fields. Continue to check these sites from time to time.

Items you will need
  • Paper
  • Photo of missing person


  • Don't "step on the toes" of law enforcement. Keep yourself informed with the status of the case, but keep them informed of what you are doing to assist in the search as well.

Photo Credits

  • person writing image by Tammy Mobley from