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What to Do if Your Child is Missing

If you believe your child is missing, it is critical that you act immediately. If the child is missing from your home, search the house. You should check closets, piles of laundry, under the beds, inside old refrigerators—anywhere a child could crawl or hide. Check the immediate area around your house, backyard, and garage. Check with neighbors and friends of the child. If you cannot find your child, immediately call the police at 911.

If you are at a shopping mall or department store, immediately notify the store manager or security office and ask for assistance in finding your child. After this, immediately telephone the police at 911.

What Will Happen

When talking with the police, remain calm, give the police your name and address, and advise them that you want to report your child missing. Give police a full description of your child and the clothing your child was last wearing. The dispatcher broadcasts the description to units in the field. The dispatcher then dispatchs a police car to your location. All juvenile missing persons under 16 years of age in the District of Columbia are considered critical; all calls will be answered promptly. However, police responses may be expedited if any of these unusual circumstances exist:

  • The child is younger than 7 years of age
  • Your child is mentally incapacitated or in need of medicine or medical attention
  • You find evidence of foul play or the child is with an adult who you think might harm the child

Once a report is initiated, if any of the above circumstances exist, the Watch Commander for the district which took the report, will make a determination if a command post—a nearby base of operations—is warranted. The Watch Commander makes careful consideration of all the facts surrounding the disappearance of your child.

If a command post is established, an immediate search for your child will commence. If available, a detective from the Youth and Preventive Services Division, Missing Persons Section, responds to the scene and an immediate investigation begins. If no Missing Person Investigator is available, the Watch Commander assigns a district officer until one becomes available. Once a command post is established it will not be disbanded without the prior approval of the chief of police, night supervisor, or until the child has been located.

If no command post has been established, the case is directed to the Youth and Preventive Services Division, Missing Persons Section, and your case is assigned to a detective for a follow-up investigation.