Breaking down the missing person policy

Breaking down the missing person policy / Katie Thurber (WGXA)

It’s a feeling no family member wants to have. Janice Hatchcock knows it too well.

“All she did was walk out of the house with her keys and it’s like the earth opened up and swallowed her,” she said.

Hatchcock’s niece Sabrina Long went missing 26 years ago and hasn’t been heard from since.

She says at the time, her family was told they’d have to wait 72 hours for the investigation to start as part of a policy.

“Those were very critical. I mean they could’ve already been tracing steps. They could have had the dogs out tracing her scent,” she said.

A retired investigator with the Bibb Sheriff’s Office said that they started the investigation the day Long didn’t show up to work, but there’s a common misconception about waiting 24 hours or a few days to report someone missing.

WGXA wondered what’s the policy now on missing people? Shermaine Jones with the Bibb County Sheriff’s Office says it depends on the situation.

“The 24-hour policy is a myth,” he said. “It’s written that way in our policy.”

He said that each case requires a different judgement call.

“Has this person just left town, went on vacation without telling anyone before? Cases like that, there’s nothing suspicious, nothing wrong with it. An adult can do such a thing without getting permission,” Jones said.

Jones said that knowing your loved one’s habits will help in deciphering if that person is actually missing. That’s true for children as well.

“They’ll know the difference between their kid just running away, being a defiant child, rebellious,” he said.

If you know your child or loved one didn’t just leave, he said that investigators will take it seriously.

“If there’s something that makes you think there’s foul play, anything suspicious, this person has went missing for reasons unknown to the family or their loved one, notify us, and we’ll get a unit out to you and we’ll start the investigation from that point on.”

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