Let’s start with Missing Persons reports.
First, a disclaimer: I write only of California law, with which I am familiar. If your book is set in another state or special jurisdiction (such as Indian Reservations, Federal Lands such as BLM, Army Corps of Engineers, and Harbors and Airports) for the sake of credibility, consult that agency to answer your specific procedural questions.
When you sketch out your scene, have a few variables in mind. For instance, a mother returns home to find her 9 year-old daughter missing from their house. They’d had an argument before Mom left. Their home borders an Indian Reservation. Mom calls 911 frantically reporting her little girl has run away.
Under California law, there is NO required wait time to make the report. In fact, any police officer, agency is required to take a report from anyone wanting to report someone missing. In the olden days, cops and dispatchers alike had the discretion to take or refuse a report. Especially in the case of a possible runaway, officers were reluctant to take a report because the reporting process is so cumbersome or the missing person (MP) lived in another jurisdiction. It was (and still is) common for these kids to return home, unrepentant or not, making the paperwork and computer work a frustrating waste of time.
However, as sometimes happens with discretion, a “presumed” runaway turned up as a homicide victim. Imagine your indignation if you were the parent of such a child and had been told, “Wait 24 hours, then we’ll take a report,” instead of initiating a search immediately.
Due to the length of this post, I’m only publishing the first part this week. Look for more specific procedures next week. I’ll be posting on Sunday.