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Security Personnel’s Guide to Missing Children

The Metropolitan Police Department gives full consideration and attention to all reports of missing persons, to include careful investigation of factual circumstances surrounding the disappearance. The Department publicizes every missing person in the District whose case is deemed critical. This includes anyone under the age of 15 and people over 65 or anyone that is designated as such by the MPD Watch Commander. While the number of missing persons reported in the District has generally declined over the last three years, MPD has increased its use of social media to bring public awareness to the number of missing juveniles in particular, especially given the concerns that they may be at-risk while away. A large number of juveniles are reported missing more than once and quickly return home or are located. In fact, MPD closes more than 99 percent of its missing persons cases, with the majority of cases being closed in a short amount of time.

There is no minimum time requirement that a person must be missing before a missing person report can be prepared. Members document, investigate and follow-up on all reports of missing persons. Security Personnel should contact the Investigative Services Bureau, Youth and Family Services Division (YFSD) at (202) 576-6768 regarding all critical missing persons.

To respond to concerns of missing persons, some private businesses, such as retail stores, malls, and amusement parks, have begun using the Code Adam protocol. Under the Code Adam protocol, employees of partner businesses (often displaying a Code Adam decal) may be trained to:

  • Obtain a detailed description of the child;
  • Page “Code Adam” describing the child’s physical features and clothing;
  • Stop working if designated and look for the child and monitor front entrances;
  • Call law enforcement; and
  • Reunite the child with his or her searching family member; or
  • Contact law enforcement if the child is found by someone other than a parent or legal guardian.

Finally, the Metropolitan Police Department’s Missing Persons webpage includes useful links in the event that a child is missing and instructions on what to do if a child is missing, including helpful contact information.


This article is part of the MPD’s “Security Snapshot” series, which is designed for security personnel working in the District of Columbia. While this information may be of interest to the general public, any recommendations or guidance in these articles has been created with a focus on security personnel.