Missing Persons

September 22, 2021

Who Is Missing In America?

A missing person case ends with a devastating discovery.
The details of a mystery that captured the nation – and some needed context.
What To Know & Why It Matters

The Latest

This week, the FBI confirmed the identification of the body of 22-year-old missing person Gabby Petito, and a local Wyoming coroner ruled her death a homicide.

Her parents reported Gabby missing on September 11, 2021, 10 days after her fiancé returned alone from a cross-country trip they had taken together; her fiancé is now missing.

While Gabby’s case remains unique to her set of circumstances, her story highlights other missing persons cases – and their limitations.

Who Is Missing?

The latest information from the FBI’s National Crime Information Center (NCIC):

  • The latest data shows more than a half million Americans of all ages were reported missing in the U.S. during 2020.
  • Active missing persons records (investigations ongoing) were just under 90,000 cases.
  • Who is missing? According to gender, those reported missing are roughly divided evenly between male & female.

Why Are They Missing?

BIG PICTURE: Many missing persons cases remain a mystery.

  • 52% of cases did not have a circumstance recorded on how/why they went missing.
  • 45% were listed as runaways.
  • The remaining cases reflect other circumstances – such as abducted by a non-custodial parent, or abducted by a stranger (about .11% of cases w/ known circumstances).
  • 34% of missing persons cases involved minors (those under age 18).

Something To Consider

  • You may have received an “Amber Alert” on your phone or television – this missing persons notification is used for a likely abduction of a minor in “imminent danger.”
  • Federal law now requires local law enforcement to report missing people under the age of 21 without delay.
  • More than half of all U.S. states have “Silver Alerts” or similar programs for missing elderly persons.

Interesting to note – Previous federal law only required local law enforcement to immediately report those under the age of 18 as missing; current law includes those under the age of 21. Once a person becomes a legal adult, the person’s right to privacy becomes a factor in an investigation and whether he/she is considered “missing.” Also notable: Data reflects missing persons according to categories such as gender, race and age. Data is limited based on these categorizations – for example, “white” includes Hispanic and “other” white as one group.

NCIC 2020 Missing Persons Report: https://www.fbi.gov/file-repository/2020-ncic-missing-person-and-unidentified-person-statistics.pdf/view

Click HERE for an interesting read on missing adults from the Congressional Research Service (2019)

by Jenna Lee,