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What Does A Missing Persons Investigator Do When They Arrive At A Scene?

In Australia, a missing persons report is made every 18 minutes. In many cases, the person is found imminently, but in others, it takes fast-thinking from police investigators to solve the case.

Val Smith is a 35-year veteran of Victoria Police and an expert in the field of missing persons. On this episode of Crime Insiders, he explains to host Brent Sanders what steps the police take when searching for missing people:

Smith spoke about some of the crucial first steps of investigating a missing persons case. First and foremost, he says, is acting as soon as it’s reported.

  1. Act Quickly

Smith stresses that time is of the essence with missing persons cases, it’s crucial to report the person missing immediately and not simply ‘wait and see’ if they return.

Timing is everything in cases like these, especially for gathering detailed evidence from witnesses.

When an investigator is first put on a case, their first job is to capture everything Smith says.

  1. Don’t Touch Anything That Could Be Evidence
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“If you had a magic wand, you would freeze everything you need and say ‘right now, stop. I need to stop everything so I don’t lose everything,'” Smith says.

Where do investigators start? Smith explains:

In some cases, Smith will have first responders ask the person reporting an incident to get their phones out and film a 360 video of their surroundings. In the time it takes for a police unit to arrive on scene, Smith says, this helps capture potential evidence and witnesses.

  1. Figure Out What Might Be Lost

There are countless questions that run through the minds of investigators during a case. Two of those are “how much evidence is lost?” and “how many potential witnesses have already departed?”

Listen to the full episode to hear more details about Smith’s investigative work:

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