No waiting period to report missing person
Authorities have dismissed as a myth a social media post that claims people may only be reported as missing 24 hours after they were last seen.
They also warned people to beware of hoax social media posts.
Last weekend, a post about a baby found abandoned at Greenacres Shopping Centre in Port Elizabeth went viral, with police later confirming the post was false and issuing a stern warning to instigators about police resources being wasted.
Police spokesperson Colonel Priscilla Naidu said each police station had directives to prioritise missing person cases, specifically when they involved children.
“In the case of any missing child, the Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences (FCS) unit takes over the case as they deal specially with child-related cases.
“Missing person reports are treated on a case-by-case basis as the circumstances of each report are different,” Naidu said.
“There are various factors that play a role in determining the priority of a case.”
Naidu said if any suspicious circumstances were found during the probe, additional detectives were called in to assist.
“This ensures quick response in the initial gathering of information,” she said.
“Once the basic details are attained all the different role players are roped in.
“A delay in some cases could be the difference between life and death,” she added.
Naidu urged people to submit a recent photograph of the missing person.
“Once we have all the relevant details, detectives start looking into the case.
“In some cases this could mean a helicopter or the municipal search-and-rescue team being called,” she said.
The police also made use of the National Missing Persons Bureau to assist with information.
Naidu highlighted that false missing person reports resulted in a drain on resources.
“If a person lies in a statement they will be held criminally liable for perjury,” she said.
Municipal disaster management head Shane Brown said the city’s search-and-rescue unit was often roped in to assist police.
“Since January, we have assisted with more than 50 search-and-rescue operations in and around the Bay.
“These are mostly urban search operations such as missing persons linked to attempted suicides, runaway children, elderly people who have gone missing, people who have failed to arrive home after work and even, in the odd cases, abductions,” he said.
“Our team works with security companies and Neighbourhood Watch groups around the Bay to ensure the correct information is circulated.
“People are aware of the hoax messages so when they see verified information, they tend to treat it with priority.”
Brown said the municipal and police partnership aimed to improve search operations.
“These hoax messages are malicious, and designed to cause fear and panic.
“There is a priority rescue unit who assist the police when they are available,” he said.
The team has gadgets such as thermal imaging cameras to search bushes at night, as well as trained dogs to detect live scent.