As far as missing child cases or missing persons cases go, the local police have the primary responsibility but of course the immediate family of the missing person and their lawyers often hire private investigators like me to supplement and intensify the hunt for the missing individual. It has to be stressed that children are highly vulnerable and the motives for harming children varies greatly. Some predators could be motivated by the money that they can make by selling or prostituting the child. Other devious minds take a sexual or romantic interest in children and in the worst case scenario, the child will be tortured or killed.
The Missing or Kidnapped Child
Most predators are attracted to under-age children and are known to hunt them as prey. Then are those who use a slower strategy for gaining control over children. Society has not yet discovered a means of stopping predators before they commit any crime. So it is absolutely imperative for the chances of rescuing a child alive that the investigation to find missing children must begin quickly.
Stranger Vs. Known Kidnapper
Most investigators searching for abducted children will no longer make a big distinction between the stranger abductor and the known abductor. The reason is that adults and even children have trouble differentiating between the two. Who is the stranger? Is it the neighbour who takes a walk downstairs in the apartment complex? Is the gardener or the house help a stranger? Is the salesperson at the local grocery store? The insurance salesman? The lift maintenance man?
The answer is both yes and no. These people may not be the family’s closest friends but neither are they total strangers to a parent or child. Some people call this type of abductor – the acquaintance abductor. They may be familiar fixtures in the lives of families and they are not perceived as sinister or threatening. Yet behind the smiling person whom you frequently greet on your way to work could lurk the soul of a rapist or a murderer. Statistics has also repeatedly proved that these people and persons even more close to the families are the most likely kidnappers of children. Doctors, tuition teachers, school teachers, sports coaches, music teachers, school bus drivers, priests – even babysitters and friends and relatives are all potential children-abusers. What is damning is that repeated child abusers actually choose professions that brings them in close contact with under-aged children.
Since the abuser can happen to be just about anyone in a child’s life, experts including us have ceased to recommend to parents about ‘stranger danger’ being the likely cause of a missing child. A different approach must now be taken to prepare children to deal with anyone who treats them in ways that invades their personal space, causes them fear or requires them to do things that they do not wish to do.
Missing Child Timeline
Most times, missing children return home or are located. It is the ones who don’t return that haunt their families. Statistics differ regarding the amount of time that the missing child will remain alive after being kidnapped and most of the statistics paint a very sad picture about this aspect. Since there is really no way of knowing the abductor’s ultimate goal in kidnapping a child, the worst possible scenario must be assumed right from the very beginning of an investigation. Every search must then proceed as if the child has very little time left to be alive.
First Steps in Tracing a Missing Child
One of the first steps to take when tracing a missing child is to check the whereabouts of registered sex offenders within a certain distance of the child’s home or the place where he / she was kidnapped. When located, these past offenders are picked up and interviewed and any alibis for the child’s estimated time of disappearance or death is checked. The biggest problem is that many sex offenders do not have a registered criminal record. Others provide fake addresses or move frequently with the result that the police or private investigator often have a hard time trying to trace them. Then there is the type of offender who is yet to be caught and charged for any criminal offense and no record exists of this person. He is out there but no one knows who he is or where he resides.
The Missing Teenager
Teenagers especially in the adolescent stage are neither children nor adults. They inhabit a world that lies somewhere between the two. It is a world filled with hormones, inexperience, curiosity and feelings of immortality. It is a difficult time for their parents who want to protect them from making impulsive mistakes that may have serious repercussions.
The Involuntarily Missing Adolescent
Adolescents go missing for numerous reasons but recent years have seen an increase in the number of adolescents who leave after meeting someone who they have been introduced to on social media websites. Adolescents do not always intend to leave home permanently. Most decisions to leave home usually happen because of family instability or peer pressures. Some adolescents have been sold or kept as sex slaves. Some are released after differing stages of abuse and some are never seen alive again.
Youngsters are inquisitive and trust easily due to which they can be drawn into online activities without being able to recognize the dangers. Once trapped, they are left without the intelligence or resources to protect themselves. They do not realize that the same-age kid’s photos that they see on Facebook – the one who understands all their problems could be a hairy man waiting to make his move. The world holds many dangers in today’s highly populated world with staggeringly-populated cities and towns. Thanks to the influence of crude Bollywood movies and music, the youth of today is led into a culture of alcohol, drugs, violence, risk-taking and criminal behaviour as not only desirable but preferable to the seemingly staid and boring lifestyles of their parents. Our culture’s fake glitter and glam can lure unsuspecting teens to a place where predators lie in wait. In spite of having a happy and contented home life with loving parents, kids can still be drawn into this fake world looking for excitement, love, money, roles in films and television or whatever they feel is lacking in their lives. It takes skill, determination and grit for these children to venture out into uncharted territories and they consider it as their mission to seek out thrills. The internet has opened a dark new world to inquisitive children and is a continual threat to their safety.
Cyber-sleuths can help solve computer-related crimes. They analyze hard drives and recover private chat informations, emails, posts on social networking sites and instant messaging apps that provide vital clues to the whereabouts of a missing person and also nail suspects.
In my next article, I will talk about preventive measures that parents can take that will help them greatly in investigations should the unthinkable happen and their child ever goes missing.
Amit Sen is the founding partner of Alliance One – who are among the best missing person detective agencies in Mumbai specializing in providing thorough husband wife cheating cases investigation among other private and corporate investigation services. Amit is also a trained pilot and an aviator and likes to remain grounded on the days when he is not flying high.