Missing in action

With the death of the formerly missing Jackson State University student, Latasha Norman, the idea of what students should do to help in cases like this is imperative.

January to October 2007, there have been 54 reported missing adult cases. During that same time period, there have been 117 juvenile cases. Although the Florida A&M University Police Department and the Tallahassee Police Department work in different jurisdictions, they both work for the same cause – bringing these cases to a close.

“FAMUPD has a mutual aid agreement,” Crime Prevention Officer Sherri Luke said. “If the incident happens on campus, on our jurisdiction, we’ll handle it. If it originates off campus, the jurisdiction agency of that city or county will handle it.”

FAMUPD and TPD have similar strategies in finding a missing person, but as stated by Luke, “We don’t have a tracking dog, but if needed, we could get one from TPD.”

FAMUPD’s strategy is student networking to help find the missing person. FAMU’s e2Campus Mass Notification System transmits text messages and e-mail to registered users. The system notifies students of crimes and missing persons’ reports.

For TPD, a system called the Florida Crime Investigation Center and National Crime Investigation Center helps to alert the public on missing individuals.

“With FCIC and NCIC, I can enter a person in with their vehicle if they have it along with all their descriptions and say this person is missing or in danger,” said Special Victims Unit Investigator Elizabeth Bascom of the TPD.

TPD’s process of finding the missing is similar to FAMU’s.

“Any law enforcement agency across the county who encounters that person and checks them is going to find that they’re listed as missing with our department.”

Although both departments use different strategies based on their field, one method that has not changed is reporting a case.

“A person files a missing person case by calling the police department or coming to the police department. They can also go to the Leon County sheriff’s office or FAMUPD,” Bascom said.

Similar to false 911 calls, TPD must clarify the case in order to accept the report, but in most cases, they are accepted.

Depending on the information given, the police department may investigate if foul play was in motion.

“Because someone has general concern for someone or suspicious circumstances that may bring us to believe that there could be foul play or there could be some kind of threat for that person, we’d want to call them missing because we want to make efforts to find them to assure that they’re all right,” Bascom added.

At times, detailed information is required to file a report.

“For someone to just call and say that they believe this person is missing would be kind of hard,” Bascom said.

For each case, certain ones are held in different categories such as students, children, and adults. Depending on the category, a level of information is required.

“Student cases, they could go home if they want and if they don’t tell their friends and their friends get worried, that could cause some concern,” Bascom said.

For children, the detailed information level is minimal.

“If a child is not where they are supposed to be, the first line would be their parents,” Bascom said.

Bascom stated that the community helps by calling in with information. Bascom said people should be aware of the signs of a potential missing person especially when a person steps outside their normal routine.