You're missing until someone tells us you're not...
One would think that most of what I am getting ready to say would go without saying....but apparently I need to say it anyway.
In the midst of everything else we try to do with our online publications, missing persons are a big deal.
We constantly and consistently post both long term and recently missing persons in an effort to help bring people home and hopefully reunite families or, in extreme cases, give them closure about their loved one.
As a husband, father and grandfather I can not begin to imagine the sheer terror and frustration of my wife, one of my kids, or one of my precious grandbabies being "gone" and me not having information on their whereabouts. I lost the granddaughter in Wal-Mart once for about three minutes and it almost caused me to revisit my heart attack scenario.
We get our information on missing persons from several sources. The Arkansas Never Forgotten Project, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, the Charley Project, NAMUS, various law enforcement agencies and sometimes family members of missing persons before they are ever entered into a state or nationwide database all serve to provide particulars from which we draw our statistics.
I have done this enough that I can almost tell just by looking at a report from one of those sources the actual status of the missing person.
The majority of those reported missing by the Arkansas Never Forgotten Project are simply runaways in the 15-17 year-old age group. Most of the married people over the age of 21 have just up and left their relationship--sometimes it's domestic abuse and sometimes it's just to graze where they think the grass is greener. Sometimes, drugs or mental health plays a factor.
But the majority of the time, those people will either return home or, at the very least, contact a family member and let them know where they are and what they are doing.
In Arkansas alone, there are currently 197 people across the state that have been reported missing in the past calendar year. Overall, Arkansas Never Forgotten has 443 people listed as missing in the state and their database only goes back about three and a half years. There are many others listed as missing on other databases as well, and not all databases have the same people listed.
We endeavor to run long term missing persons every other day on our publications. TIFS will list a single missing person from the River Valley, NWA, and eastern Oklahoma while the other publications in northwest Arkansas, Tulsa and Branson only get missing persons pertinent to their area.
All of the data bases are checked twice a week (at a minimum) for "new" missing person reports or to discover those who have been located and mark and post those individuals accordingly.
If you're over 18 and you want to "go missing" (for whatever reason) be my guest. But let me make this clear. Once Today in Fort Smith has been told by an official source that you are missing, you are missing until an official source tells us otherwise.
Let me explain that statement.
There are currently two people, both females, in our long term missing database who are still listed as missing that aren't really missing.
One has been posted four or five times in the past year, and as soon as I post it I start getting messages...."That's my auntie and she's not missing...she lives with Joe down in Mississippi" and "I know her...she isn't missing. She just moved off."
That one is a grown woman. So where she is and what she is doing with whoever she is doing it with is none of my business. But someone call the cops or the authorities and tell THEM she isn't missing. We don't compile the missing person databases. We just share the information they contain.
The second scenario is a little different. It involves a still-teenager from Oklahoma who ran off with a "male juvenile" in 2017 when she was sixteen and basically stayed in hiding from her family until she reached the age of eighteen. Now that she is "grown" she and her current boyfriend are demanding I quit posting her as a missing person.
But she is a missing person. Until the police in her hometown tell the National Center for Missing and Endangered she is not missing and the latter takes her out of their database, she will remain in rotation and her poster will be posted each time her number comes up.
It's not rocket science (and trust me... we're not dealing with rocket scientists here). IF you are NOT MISSING then YOU need to contact everyone that officially still thinks YOU are missing and let THEM know.
If you're grown enough to send me messages and leave annoying voicemails on my phone, then your grown ass ought to be grown enough to contact authorities and clear up your missing status.
Why ad I such a hard-ass about his deal? Let's say Miss "Breezy" went missing at sixteen. What are the options? She ran away or someone took her and did something bad to her. Or someone convinced her to run away so they could do something bad to her.
Three years later, "someone" starts messaging me claiming to be her boyfriend and saying "she's not missing....she's sitting right here in my lap". Well...good for you. But for all I know she was kidnapped and put in a sex-trafficking ring. Or worse. And the person that contacted me could be could be just trying to cover her--and his--tracks.
Then "she" starts contacting me. I'm "an idiot" because she is a grown woman at nineteen and she is "not missing" and I need to "get out of her business". Once again, for all I know this could be someone fronting for a pimp (or worse)...or maybe this person is connected to the disappearance and trying to throw out a red herring?
Here is the bottom line. If you have been missing and are no longer missing, us running your missing poster one more time isn't going to change anything. But if you have been missing and are still missing and someone--anyone--is successful in throwing those looking for you off the track, then you might be a tragic outcome.
We don't want to post a missing person of you if you're not missing.
But you remain missing until the right person tells us otherwise.
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