How we investigate missing people reports


22 Oct 2018

It’s not just crime we investigate, in 2017 over 800 people were reported missing to Humberside Police in North Lincolnshire alone, with a total of over 5000 people reported as missing across the force area.


DI Paul Welton talks about how we investigate missing people enquiries


While some may be found in a matter of hours, others require comprehensive and detailed plans to trace their last steps.  This can involve a number of departments and teams including a dedicated missing person team, local neighbourhood police teams, response police officers and the marine unit as well as being supported by NHS mental health teams and Social Services.

Detective Inspector (DI) Paul Welton from Humberside Police’s Protecting Vulnerable People Unit said: “Every call we receive reporting a missing person is taken extremely seriously.  We take every case on its own merits and assess the level of risk for each missing person.

“People go missing for a number of different reasons, most however are running from something or running to something.

“Whatever the reason, we will do everything we can to find them and then offer support and assistance to help prevent them from going missing again.”


Missing children and young people

statistics on missing children and young peopleYoung girls are more likely to go missing than boys, with girls aged 15-17-years-old being more likely to go missing

A lot of children that go missing may have problems at home or in their care situation, which includes conflicts with parents, carers or other family members.

This summer saw over 150 children go missing in our force area, some on more than one occasion which actually resulted in over 350 reports to us.

DI Welton said: “Young people are particularly vulnerable due to their age and can easily fall in with the wrong people.  If we receive a report that a young person has gone missing we do our utmost to find them as soon as possible.

“Children who go missing or run away are at increased risk of being harmed, which is exacerbated by the possibility of sleeping rough or committing crime to survive.

“Our priority is to locate and protect them, ensure their safety and to prevent them from becoming involved in crime.

“Those who look to involve children in criminal activity we seek to find and arrest; it’s not the children who we will look to criminalise, we want to find those exploiting them and bring them to justice.”

“We’ve found that young people need to have a real purpose in life and if things are not going well at home or school, they can lose their way and struggle to cope with things.

“Once we have found a missing child, we speak to them about why they went missing and try and find out what they were doing while they were away from home.

“This year we have also introduced a new initiative whereby each child reported missing is invited to a meeting where they can talk to people, including social services and the police, about why they went missing and we try and find a way help them cope with their problems.

“We look to find a focus for them and get them into training or skills-based education to help them get through whatever rough patch they are in.  This is giving us some really good results and a number of frequently reported missing children are starting to turn their lives around with our help.”


Missing adults

statistics on missing adultsIn the same summer period this year, over 70 adults also went missing, again some more than once resulting in over 100 missing person reports.

Where young girls are most likely to go missing it is the opposite in adults.  Adult men are more likely to be reported missing than women, with the main causes being that they are struggling with their everyday lives or suffering with a mental illness.

DI Welton continued: “We get a growing number of adults disappearing with suicidal thoughts, which is often down to a changing society with added daily pressures from work, financial worries or family breakdowns.

“In addition, we also receive cases of missing elderly people. Those over 65 create a higher level of complex demand through a variety of vulnerability issues including general health and dementia.

statistics on missing elderly people“We put as many resources as we can in to locating elderly missing people because they are extremely vulnerable.  With an ageing population there is a potential of an increase in the number of missing elderly reported to the police.

“The vast majority of adults that go missing come back within 24-hours, but unfortunately there are those that do come to harm while they’re missing, however thankfully, this is only a small proportion.

“No matter what the age of the person being reported missing to Humberside Police, we will do everything we can to bring them home safely. Our officers from a variety of departments will be out looking for them and continue to work hard behind the scenes to explore news ways in preventing people from going missing again.”



Humberside Police Statistics 2017

  • Total number of missing persons reported to Humberside Police of all grades in 2017 (Low / Med / High Risk): 5067
  • Total number of missing person reports all grades by area in 2017  (Low / Med / High Risk): North East Lincs 909 / North Lincolnshire 883 / East Riding 1234 / Hull 2041
  • Number assessed as High Risk Missing people in Humberside Police in 2017: 1062
  • Number assessed as High Risk Missing people by area 2017: North East Lincs 174 / North Lincolnshire 127 / East Riding 331 / Hull 430

North Lincolnshire 

Key national statistics

  • In 2017 more than 300,000 calls were made to police in England, Scotland and Wales reporting someone missing.
  • More than 570 missing persons reports a day
  • Up to 80% cent of people who go missing have mental health problems.


Our original article issued on Monday 22 October contained figures which were not specific - to provide a full and comprehensive breakdown we have now included specific figures to give a clear picture of the high number of missing people reported to us every year.