You do not have to wait 24 hours to report someone missing. If you think someone is in danger you can report them missing right away.
Reporting a missing person
If the missing person is in immediate danger, is a young child or vulnerable to harm, call 999 now.
If you have a hearing or speech impairment, use the textphone service 18000 or text 999 if you've pre-registered with the emergencySMS service.
If you don't think they are in immediate danger you can:
Your report will be dealt with by our control room in the same way whether you report it online or call 101.
If you report online you will get an email confirming that we've got your report and telling you what will happen next.
And you may find it easier to answer the questions online at your own pace.
If you are worried about someone's safety, do not hesitate to tell the Police. It is not wasting police time to report someone missing. We are here to protect you and your loved ones.
What you can do
If you don't think someone is in immediate danger, before you report someone missing you should:
- ring round friends and family
- check your phone and email for messages
- search the home or wherever they were last seen
- check the loft, garden, shed or garage
- remember that children can fit into small spaces
- look for any notes or other clues
- ring round local hospitals
If you can, make a note of everything you do.
Leave the missing person's room and things alone in case we need to take a DNA sample.
It is not illegal to go missing
A missing person will not be in trouble or be arrested for going missing. The first concern is for the missing person's wellbeing.
It is not wasting police time to report someone missing. You won't be in trouble for reporting someone missing.
Advice and support for missing people
Missing People charity
The charity Missing People gives advice and support to missing people as well as to the people looking for them.
Message home service
If you don't want to talk to the police, Missing People can help you get in touch with people at home without revealing where you are.
They can also arrange a three-way call between you and the police (with Missing People mediating) if you want to talk to us without letting us know where you are.
- Samaritans are there for you whatever problems you are struggling with. You can call them 24 hours a day on 116 123.
- Mind offers advice and support to people with mental health problems.
- Crisis, Shelter and Centrepoint offer advice and support to homeless people.
Advice for carers of people with dementia at risk of going missing
Here are some things you can do to help stop people with dementia going missing, and help find them if they do.
Fill in a Herbert Protocol form
Family or friends of a vulnerable person, or the person themselves, can fill in a Herbert Protocol form in advance. It contains information to help the police if they go missing.
Find out why they want to go out
If you can find out why the person wants to go out, you might be able to meet their needs in other ways.
For example, they might be bored, or think they have to go out to work or to pick children up from school.
Home and personal technology
You could consider using:
- door sensors that:
- alert friends or family if an external door has opened, or
- play a recorded message telling the person to call someone instead of leaving home
- a boundary alarm that alerts friends or family if the person leaves a certain area
- a tracking device in a watch, key ring or pendant which lets friends, family or police see a person's location
- a wearable alarm the person can use if they realise they are lost
If they have a mobile phone you can:
- add emergency information to their phone which someone who finds them can access from the lock screen
- set up tracking to allow family, friends and police to see their location
These technologies should be used to help someone stay safe while respecting their privacy.
Carry contact information
Whether or not they have a mobile phone, they could carry some basic information in their wallet, like who to contact if they're lost and someone finds them.
Missing persons - Devon and Cornwall Police
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