HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — I'm sure you've received Amber Alerts or have seen missing persons reports on social media. But what goes on behind the scenes when looking for these people?
In the last six months, Huntsville Police Department says they've had 62 missing persons cases but luckily with a 98% solvability rate.
And you may have heard that you need to wait 24 hours before reporting someone missing. But according to Investigator Jeremy Woods, with Huntsville Police Department's General Investigations Unit, that's not true.
"You talk to your mother every day and then all of a sudden, two days straight, three days, you can't get a hold of your mother. You know, that's deemed unusual. So as soon as you feel like that individual's missing, then you'll want to go ahead and contact us, and we'll start that report immediately."
Reporting someone missing must be done in-person with your signature, sharing everything you know about them.
"Name, birthdate, address, height, weight, description. We're going to want photos…we're going to want to know when was the last time they were seen with whom they were seen, where was this at? And we're going to want to talk to that person," Inv. Woods said.
This is when the police determine if it's a possible runaway or an elderly person who may be lost.
Or if this case involves a child under the age of 13 or it's a potential abduction, which will usually go to the Major Crimes Unit.
The information then gets immediately sent to the NCIC database and the search begins, using whatever they have at their disposal: a K-9 Unit, a drone, sometimes ALEA's helicopter.
"We identify their safety zones and we check those areas, schools, friends houses, churches, playgrounds, places that they're seen after, you know, we conduct a thorough search of the scene, the house and the surrounding area," Inv. Woods said.
AMBER Alerts may go out if the person is under the age of 18 and is suspected to have been abducted.
And posts may be made on social media.
Investigator Woods says they rely on the community for help, "we all can see things that may stand out...The public can be our biggest asset in a lot of things. And, you know, missing children, runaways, missing adults. Those things are things that citizens care about, people, you know, it can become personal to them."
The Huntsville Police Department says to call the police immediately if you see something suspicious or if you need to report a missing person.
They say those who are reported missing and then found, will not get in trouble. They just want to make sure the person gets home safely.