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by Peter Moskos

March 20, 2008

Missing. . . . not!

New Jersey Governor Corzine signed “Patricia’s Law” mandating that police must accept—without delay—any report of a missing person. I would assert that no law named after a person has ever been good. This one sure isn’t.

The Record reports:
Under Patricia's Law, police cannot refuse to take on the case of a missing person — whether child or adult — on any basis, including if circumstances do not indicate foul play or if it appears the person disappeared voluntarily.

Police must then take down more than two dozen pieces of information, from the person's name to the address of his or her dentist. If the person remains missing after 30 days, police must attempt to gather DNA samples as well.

People worry about their loved ones. But the last thing you want is police hunting down dental records because a bus is late and a cell phone is out of juice.

The vast majority of “missing” persons aren’t missing. Missing persons come home. Traffic was a bitch. Or they had to work late. Or they’re having an affair. This is not police work. Mandating police to waste hours on useless cases is no way to help find real missing persons. And the strain on resources will hurt us all. Any law that assumes that police have unlimited resources is a bad law.

One probable outcome is that police response time to a call for missing person will increase in to the hours. That’s what I would do. Because 99 times out of 100, that person will appear before then. And for the 1 time out of 100, it’s not like broadcasting a report one hour faster will help anyway.

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