Missing persons – an introduction

Each year Police receive more than 8000 reports relating to missing persons. Of those reported missing about 95 percent are found within 14 days, with over half located within the first two days.

Within two days, most people reported missing will either be found safe and well or will have returned home and made contact with their friends or family.

However, there are more than 350 people in New Zealand who have been missing for more than a year.

People go missing for a number of reasons, including:

  • by their own choice
  • they are wanderers or absconders
  • they are suicidal
  • they have no choice – they are a victim of a crime, mishap or misadventure.

If a family member or friend is missing and you hold genuine fears for their safety, immediately contact your local police.

See more information about How to report a missing person.

Emotional impact

When a relative or friend is reported missing the emotional impact on families and friends can be considerable. Feelings of fear, anger, frustration, guilt, blame and helplessness are some of the reactions people experience. These responses are normal, and people react to situations in different ways. It is challenging to live with uncertainty, so you could seek professional help to provide additional strength.

The following information may be helpful for families and friends of missing persons:

  • encourage family and friends of missing persons to talk to someone about how they are feeling
  • take care of each other; each person can be affected in their own way
  • encourage children and teenagers to talk about their feelings, even though they are sometimes afraid of upsetting their parents
  • encourage young people to show their feelings and talk openly
  • take one day at a time and avoid making any significant life changes
  • try and maintain a normal daily routine.

Professional services

Do not hesitate to contact professional help if ongoing support is needed. Contact your doctor, counsellor, therapist or community health centre for advice.

If a loved one is located and returns home, family and friends may consider professional counselling, mediation or reconciliation to help prevent the situation happening again.

If you lose contact with a family member

There is a difference between a missing person and a lost contact case – police do not deal with the latter. There are a number of reasons why people lose touch with each other, such as moving house or family conflict, and it is understandable that they seek to reconnect. However, if there is no indication of vulnerability or concern for safety then this is considered to be a tracing matter. Police do not provide a family tracing service, nor are they able to help with people who have lost contact with friends or family over time.

For general person-tracing services look for private investigators in your local telephone directory or on the Internet.

The Salvation Army in New Zealand and Australia provides a tracing service for people you wish to trace or have lost contact with.
Visit the Salvation Army Family Tracing Service website.

Getting help

A number of organisations provide information and support for people who have missing family or friends.See Missing persons – useful websites.