Missing persons, citizen search teams and international child abduction

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In recent years, it has become apparent that citizens are playing an increasingly active role in the field of social safety. This is in line with the observation that citizens are increasingly committed to actively contributing to the recovery of a missing person.

This is done both in an organised context and on an individual basis. In some cases, for example, citizens search for their missing loved one on their own initiative. To better support citizens in this search, the police have developed a website, Samen Zoeken (Searching Together). Here you will find advice and information about what you can do yourself in the event of a missing person and how you can search in a coordinated group setting. The website was launched in 2023 and will continue to be developed. In addition, various citizen search teams have been set up in recent years. The police work together with the Veterans Search Team, the Missing Persons Coordination Platform and the Red Cross, among others.

Website Searching Together

The Innovation Workshop (IWP) Care & Safety supports the National Expertise Centre for Missing Persons, part of the National Expertise and Operations Unit (LX) of the Police, by participating in various 'smaller' activities carried out in the context of citizen investigation and citizen participation.

In October, a major search exercise took place in Urk where various police services and citizen search teams worked together on a missing person case. About thirty students and two lecturers travelled from Hanze University of Applied Sciences to Urk to film the exercise. The video about this was shown at the international conference of the Police Expert Network on Missing Persons (PEN-MP) that took place in early December 2023. The convention was attended by about 200 people from some 30 countries. The aim was to share knowledge and expertise related to the search for missing persons. At this conference, lecturer-researcher Roy Krijger gave a presentation on citizen and police participation and on the possibilities for research and collaboration with the IWP in this regard. Within the framework of this international network, the IWP and the police are currently looking at setting up a line of investigation in the field of international child abduction and missing persons. The ultimate goal is to develop a European guide for police deployment in the search for internationally missing children and/or child abduction. It describes the working methods and legal frameworks for each country and provides insight into the possible investigative methods and how they can be used.

Furthermore, we are working on the development of an E-Learning in collaboration with the Red Cross. This is part of the collaboration between the police and Ready2Help SEARCH teams of the Red Cross. SEARCH Teams is part of the Red Cross for which citizens can sign up. The police can call on them if, in the event of a missing person, 'extra eyes' are quickly needed to check locations in a task-oriented manner. The E-Learning can be seen as a crash course in which citizens learn what they can and cannot do when searching for missing persons. It is a prerequisite for whether or not it can be deployed. Students develop various visual material for this, such as videos and animations.

Below a video made by Hanze-students about a training day where the police worked together with citizens on a missing persons case.

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Roy Krijger