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Assessing Solvability Factors in Missing Person Cases: A Mixed-Method Approach

Award Information

Award #
Funding Category
Competitive Discretionary
Congressional District
Funding First Awarded
Total funding (to date)

Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2023, $110,998)


People going missing is a major global problem. Over half a million people are reported missing to U.S. law enforcement agencies each year. Individuals go missing under a complex array of criminal and non-criminal circumstances, utilizing large amounts of police and community resources. Most people are found alive, yet others are found dead or remain missing.

Despite the prevalence of missing people, there is a lack of empirical assessment of factors related to case solvability. Knowledge on the demographic profile of missing individuals, circumstances, and investigative strategies employed is necessary for successful resolution of these cases. For example, individuals facing marginalization related to age, gender, sexual orientation, race, and ethnicity may be less likely to report a person as missing to police. Differences also exist in the ability to quickly access and mobilize investigative resources necessary to successfully locate missing individuals. Current data sources, however, lack sufficient details to rigorously examine these relationships between case attributes and outcomes.

The purpose of the current study is to assess key solvability factors in missing persons cases. A mixed methodological approach is used to collect and analyze data on circumstances, individual missing person characteristics, investigative strategies, and case outcomes. Primary activities are secondary analysis of 1,500 missing person police case files, interviews with 20 community stakeholders, and a national online survey of 1,000 adults who know a missing person. Results will be triangulated to provide a more comprehensive examination of missing persons in Las Vegas, Nevada which can help inform later inquiries across the nation. Expected outcomes include identifying key investigative strategies related to solvability and reducing socioeconomic disparities in missing person cases. The results of this study can be used to shape criminal justice public policy, practice, and future research on missing people. CA/NCF

Date Created: September 14, 2023