Shared responsibility: conceptualising how a public health approach may enhance police response to missing persons
When a person is reported missing there are substantial costs for the individual, their family and society. This paper conceptualises the experience of missing persons episodes, through a public health approach. This then allows police, stakeholders and the community to engage in discussions about who is vulnerable to going missing by intervening in a way that addresses risk. Historically, a missing persons episode involves an absence, typically followed by police involvement in consultation with next of kin with establishing the whereabouts of the missing person being the primary focus. Yet, the risk factors of going missing relate more to the psychosocial aspects that trigger a disappearance – family disconnection, mental health, poverty, intergenerational trauma. A narrative review of the literature reflects that the police are public health interventionists regarding social issues; however, this concept is untested in a missing persons context. Successful examples of public health approaches in the injury and violence prevention fields demonstrate that a public health approach is critical to address risk and protective factors. In a context of going missing (and the aftermath of a missing episode), enhanced awareness of the social and economic costs of an absence may prevent future episodes. This paper proposes a conceptual framework to address key challenges and risk factors in missing persons cases. The paper also proposes a future framework that emphasises shared responsibility between police working alongside public health and social care agencies to better support those at risk of going missing while fully engaging with the experiences of those who return.
Gambier-Ross, K., Apps, J., & Wayland, S. (2023). Shared responsibility: conceptualising how a public health approach may enhance police response to missing persons. International Journal of Missing Persons, 1(1), 26. https://doi.org/10.55917/2769-7045.1001
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