Special Unit Unites Missing With Loved Ones

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) -

Each year between 12,000 and 14,000 New Jerseyans are reported missing and, while the outcome may not always be favorable, the vast majority of those people are located.

“Between 98 and 99-percent of those people are located, recovered or identified,” said Lt. Louis Andrinopoulos, the head of the state police’s Missing Persons and Child Exploitation Unit. “That’s because of officers’ training and their commitment to find these people.”

The Missing Persons Unit, which consists of one civilian analyst and eight troopers, was established by legislation in 1984. It is one of the few law enforcement units in the United States which comprehensively addresses the many facets of the missing persons problem.

The missing persons unit “is the clearinghouse” for the state of New Jersey,” Andrinopoulos said.

“We keep track of all the FBI’s NCIC (National Crime Information Center) entries,” he said. “…We have an idea of who is missing and can query databases to see if there are possible matches,” he said. “We also get involved when a local, county, state or federal agency needs assistance with cases — from a missing child to an unidentified person.”

Andrinopoulos said the majority reported missing are between the ages of 14 and mid-20s.

When a child goes missing, it should be reported to police, Andrinopoulos said. The information is then forwarded to the county prosecutor’s child abduction response team coordinator.

In 2008 former Attorney General Anne Milgram signed a child abduction directive, establishing 21 response teams.

In a child abduction case, time is of the essence, Andrinopoulos said.

Statistically, he said, with such cases, the longer the child is missing, there more risk of the child being killed.

Nationally, 40-percent of abducted children are dead before they are even reported missing, he said.

But not everyone whose child is missing reports it immediately to police, he said. Sometimes they try to find the child themselves.