FBI breaks down what you should do if a loved one goes missing

Published: May. 1, 2023 at 1:31 PM EDT|Updated: May. 1, 2023 at 5:31 PM EDT
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - It would be an unimaginable moment. The realization that a family member, maybe a child, is missing.

What do you do first? Where do you turn?

There are multiple questions that need to be answered and, unfortunately, many times mistakes are made in the early stages of this highly emotional moment - mistakes that could set back the investigation.

Special Agent Andy Burke with the FBI Cleveland Field Office said the immediate reaction should be to call 911.

Don’t hesitate, not even for a moment, to make that call, and then request that the FBI be brought into the case.

Burke said the FBI is ready and willing to help in any missing persons case, and they have advantages that some police departments may not have.

“Depending on the size of the department, of their geographic location, we may have things that they do not have access too, that we can add to the investigation,” Burke said.

The FBI has taken steps to that end and has developed “FBI Child ID,” a free mobile application that provides a list of guidelines anyone can follow in the event that someone disappears.

The app also features safety tips, and parents can create child profiles with pictures and other vital information so that it’s literally right at hand if ever needed.

Burke believes it is an app that everyone should download.

“It is stuff that, if it were my kid, I am not going to be thinking clearly when it happens, and it is a good way to make sure that you’re doing everything you can the right way,” he said.

The FBI Child ID app incudes things you should do, and also some things that you should not.

“I think the natural parental instinct is to look as hard and as frantically as you can for your child but the sooner you get law enforcement involved, the better the chances are that we can recover the child safely and quickly,” Burke said.

Burke mentioned that if the FBI does get involved in missing persons case, the family of the missing will be provided with a point person from the FBI Office of Victim Assistance.

Having that designated point person will help to keep the investigation on the right track and help avoid miscommunication between law enforcement and the family.

“I would always encourage the parent to work with law enforcement in order to make sure what they are doing to advocate for their loved one is consistent with the investigation and the plan of the investigation so that were not working against each other,” he said.