The Missing Persons Unit handles all cases related to missing juveniles and missing adults, to include adults diagnosed with irreversible cognitive deterioration, such as Alzheimer’s and Dementia. Our responsibilities include outreach, awareness, resource gathering, referrals, and response to any and all missing person incidents throughout Palm Beach County. There is no waiting period to report a missing child, and those calling to report are encouraged to call 561-688-3400. This is also the number to call to report the recovery of a missing child/missing person. To better serve our community, the Missing Persons Unit has created and maintains a state of the art leads tracking system to ensure a collaborative well-organized response to Amber and Silver Alerts. The Missing Persons Coordinators work with families, the Department of Children and Families, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to ensure a quick and accurate response to all missing person cases. The Missing Persons Unit can be reached at 561-688-4151 and 561-687-6845; these numbers are not monitored 24/7, therefore all parties are encouraged to contact 911 with any and all emergencies.
Child safety is much different than it was in the “never talk to strangers” days. That message does not resonate in a time when children are used to communicating with people online they label as “friends”. Statistically there has been a decrease in what are described as “stereotypical” abductions and they have been on the decline for years. That doesn’t mean parents and guardians should stop being vigilant when their children are out and about. What it does mean is that there are risks to children that involve people who have access and contact with them. The danger to children is greater from someone you or they know versus a random, faceless stranger. It’s time to go beyond that message and teach children how to recognize and avoid potentially dangerous and risky situations. Children’s ability to distinguish between “good” and “bad” people is limited. Their ability to learn some basic rules is not.
In the ever changing world of Covid-19, online safety is critical for children and youth spending so much time online. Handheld devices are now computers, and the risks have become greater as users are more accessible than ever. Social media apps provide a means of expression but can also be used to trick and entice users into providing personal information that may lead to enticement and and other risks. Forbidding the use of these apps will not stop children and youth from finding a way, so open communication and setting boundaries and guidelines can help them navigate the online world.
There are many reasons children run away. Regardless of the reason, the reality of running away presents serious risks the child may not realize or understand. They may be impulsive or believe they would be better off leaving home. They don’t have the experience or judgment to always make a sound decision. If you have a child whose behavior is changing or who is becoming withdrawn, take some time and find out what is going on in his or her life. Children do not always disclose what they are uncomfortable talking about right away. They may not know how to reveal what’s troubling them, and they may be looking for the right time and circumstance to talk. Keeping the lines of communication open is vital.
This publication highlights some of the resources available to families who have a family member on the Autism Spectrum or who has other cognitive disabilities. The resources include Project Lifesaver and SafetyNet Tracking Systems and how to access these tracking devices. There is also information about contacting law enforcement if a loved one is missing, and information about the National Autism Association, including links for a Personal Emergency Profile Sheet and Wandering Quick Tips in English and Spanish.
- Is there a waiting period for reporting a missing child?
No, there is no waiting period to report.
- My child is missing. How can I get an Amber Alert?
In FL, Amber Alerts are activated by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement at the request of the law enforcement agency to whom the child has been reported missing. There are criteria that must be met for an Amber Alert to be activated. For more information, https://amberalert.ojp.gov/.
- My mother has dementia and wanders. How do I get a Silver Alert?
The State Silver Alert can only be activated by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement at the request of the law enforcement agency who took the report, if the person is in a vehicle, http://www.fdle.state.fl.us/AMBER-Plan/Silver-Alert. If the person is on foot, the local law enforcement agency can issue a local Silver Alert if the appropriate criteria is met.
- Is my child still missing if he/she is not home but is going to school?
Palm Beach County School District Police can recover a missing child in school and give the parent/guardian the option of picking the child up or allowing him/her to remain in class.
- My child needs a mental health commitment. Can I file paperwork?
Yes, you can file an ex-parte Baker Act, https://www.15thcircuit.com/sites/default/files/court-admin/mental-health/baker-act-flyer-6.10.pdf.
- My child needs substance abuse residential treatment. Can I file paperwork?
Yes, you can file a Marchman Act, https://www.15thcircuit.com/sites/default/files/court-admin/mental-health/marchman-act-flyer-3.10.pdf
- Why is PBSO asking for dental records for my missing child?
It is a State Statute to file dental records for any child missing more than 30 days, FL State Statute 937.031 Dental records of missing persons; access and use.—When a person has been reported missing and has not been located within 30 days after such report, the law enforcement agency conducting the investigation of the missing person shall request the family or next of kin to provide written consent to contact the dentist of the missing person and request that person’s dental records.
- How can I get my child’s photo on the local news channels?
PBSO may circulate a child’s photo and information on social media platforms. The local news channels may choose to publicize that information. You can also post your child’s information to your social media, and that has proven very useful to recovery in other cases.
- Why can’t you trace my child’s phone and social media?
Legally, certain criteria have to be met, just like an Amber Alert, for Law Enforcement to be able to acquire phone and social media records. This is something to discuss with Law Enforcement and will be unique to each case.
- What can I do?
- Contact your child’s school, let them know they are missing and ask to speak to the School Resource Officer or the Guidance Counselor, as they may have information on your child’s friends or behaviors.
- Call the school while your child is missing to check to see if they are in attendance.
- Post your child’s picture to your social media pages, and ask people to get the word out
- Contact your child’s friends to see if they have heard from them.
- Monitor your child’s social media sites for activity.
- Remember- no one knows your child better than you do!
- Do I need to call when my child is located?
Yes, when you file a missing persons report that becomes an active and open investigation. It is important to notify Law Enforcement that your child has returned so they are no longer listed as a missing person and the case can be closed. A few helpful tips:
- Any Law Enforcement Agency, including School Police, can recover a missing juvenile.
- A Law Enforcement officer must meet with the juvenile in person. This is to verify their well-being and is a legal requirement.
- To recover your child, a Law Enforcement Officer will meet with them, ask where they have been and ask if they are ok.
- If they are located and are not with their legal guardian, that legal guardian will be contacted. For example, if you child is located in class School Police will contact you to see if you would like to pick them up or leave them in class.