Research Alert

Missing persons is among the most challenging issues for modern police forces, with the number of reported cases to the police reaching 382,960 in 2018/2019 (NCA, 2020). The COVID-19 pandemic (a new strain of Corona virus) and the resultant national as well as localised lockdowns placed unique demands on the emergency services (WHO, 2020). As such, it is crucial to understand the extent to which the period of lockdown in early 2020 has impacted the profile of UK missing persons reports. Therefore, this study aimed to compare the characteristics of missing persons cases reported to participating forces during the period of the COVID-19 lockdown in England with sample of cases taken from the same time period last year. This research is concerned with the change that has occurred between these periods, rather than on the difference between responding forces at each point in time. The sample comprised of reports of adults and children who went missing between 23rd March 2020 until 20th May 2020 (the first period of full ‘lockdown’ in England), and the same time period in 2019 recorded by six UK1 police forces (see table 1). The data included all solved cases that meet the criteria of ‘a missing person’ as described by College of Policing (2020). Cases, rather than persons, were adopted as the unit of analysis. As expected, the lockdown period led to a substantial reduction in the overall number of missing persons. There was a 35% decrease in missing children reports and 36% reduction in missing adult reports. The report present findings from the overall analysis of the data. The results of analysis of individual forces and comparison between forces can be found in the appendices.

Register for reporter access to contact details

The impact of COVID-19 lockdown restrictions on missing person reports

Download PDF