Seeing more missing persons alerts? Police explain rise in cases, outreach efforts

Local News

MONROE COUNTY, N.Y. (WROC) — Nearly 180 separate calls have been made for reports of missing persons in Monroe County in 2021. Local law enforcement says there’s a handful of reasons behind the increase.

For one, it’s the holiday season. Sergeant Matthew Bottone with Monroe County Sheriff’s Department says this can be a hard time for some people who struggle with mental health.

But it’s also 2021. Bottone says there’s been a slight uptick. Not just that, you’re going to be seeing alerts more anyways, because they’ve revamped their their outreach efforts with social media and news partners.

Bottone says around six months ago, they went through training for new protocols on how these alerts are handled. Basically it means more social media posts, and more notifications to area newsrooms.

Bottone says group homes and foster homes are also now mandatory reporters of missing persons.

In terms of the numbers, data for 2021 shows there have been 178 calls for service.

These are calls to 911 for the report of a missing person, and there may be duplicates if an individual runs away more than once.

Following are numbers represented by amount of missing person calls throughout the past three years:

  • 2020 — 122
  • 2019 — 165
  • 2018 — 143

Sgt. Bottone says there’s no definitive reason for why one year sees more calls than another. He believes the onset of the pandemic could’ve played a role in the dip for 2020.

So why are people running away?

“A lot of what we see is the mental health causations,” Bottone said. “A lot of what we’re seeing lately is our adolescent population, at least in our agency, running away, some children in foster care and just don’t feel safe or have some defiance issues.”

In other cases, he says there can be instances of domestic abuse or human trafficking, in which outside resources will be brought in like Bivona or Child Protective Services.

No matter what the reasons are, he says every case is treated with the same urgency.

After the person is found, officials will sit down with the person and have a full conversation to get to the root cause of why they ran away. Often times outside services will intervene, like the county FIT team, to assist with the mental health aspect.

Sgt. Bottone says on average, they’ll usually find the missing person within a day or two.

It sounds like a fast turnaround — and it’s because officers are getting a lot of help beyond social media.

MCSO will also use drones, K9’s and even a bloodhound to track down the missing person. They’ll also interview friends and family members to find out more information, or ask about familiar locations the person often is seen.

“If you left an article of clothing behind, our bloodhound will sniff that article of clothing, and their noses are so sensitive,” Bottone said. “You go over to your parents house, they’re cooking something, you might smell like chicken soup. But what the dog can do is break down, like there’s oregano, there’s parsley, there’s basil, egg noodles, all those individual things.”

There’s also help from when the general public acts on tips.

“About 50% of our cases, it is a call from a community member that has a potential sighting, it at least it gives us something, usually the person saw someone matching this description at a local park. We say ‘excellent, thank you,’ we’ll go over to the local park search around,” said Bottone.

According to Bottone, there can be up to eight officers out searching at a time.

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