A study of the characteristics of outstanding missing persons: implications for the development of police risk assessment

Geoff Newiss

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The police response to missing persons has attracted growing levels of scrutiny, resulting in an increasing demand to ensure police decisions taken about the likely “outcome” of a disappearance are based on empirical evidence as well as clinical expertise. While most missing persons return soon after their disappearance, a small proportion will remain missing for prolonged periods of time and require ongoing police review and risk assessment. This article presents the findings from an analysis of over 1,000 people reported missing to the police who, at the time of data collection, had remained missing for more than one year. The findings illustrate that long-term outstanding missing persons are more likely to be male, adults and over-represented by people from minority ethnic backgrounds. While it is not possible to know what has actually happened to the individuals concerned, the study indicates that the overall sample is likely to comprise a number of discrete subgroups of individuals experiencing different outcomes (e.g., suicide, homicide, assuming a new identity).
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)212-225
Number of pages14
JournalPolicing and Society
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2005


  • policing
  • missing persons
  • risk assessment
  • outcomes

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