“Maybe they don’t want to be found.”

17 Jan

In 2018, National Crime Information Center entered in 612,846 missing persons cases–1800 people a day. 80% of those return or are found after 3 days, but most don’t… and it’s not a crime to go missing. So if the cops can’t help, who do you turn to? The Salvation Army.

The LAPD Adult Missing Persons Unit (yes, they have an entire staff dedicated to this) points to the Salvation Army as a resource to find missing people. This was a surprising discovery to me as well–you don’t think of the Salvation Army as being an investigation arm–but it didn’t take long for me to figure out why. The “army” is very active among the homeless population, and as a “holiness congregation,” they take Jesus’ message to feed the poor very seriously. Which is why their churches are always in the worst parts of town–because that’s where their mission field is.

Despite the uniforms and the military organization, the Salvation Army is a just a Christian denomination, based on a quote by their founders back in the late 19th Century. Ministers are “commissioned officers,” starting off at the rank of lieutenant while in seminary, and then becoming captains for most of their career. A minister with long service might become a major, but colonels and above are limited to administrative roles (what most other denominations would call bishops).

Now why would the Army be able to help when the cops couldn’t? Well, if you can’t afford a private investigator (which is what the LAPD suggests first), they’re free. Since they deal with the homeless, they’re probably the best resource in tracking homeless populations, and they have a century of experience to back them up. Even so, the Southern District of the SA (Salvation Army) says that out of the 2,000 inquiries a year, they open 600 cases, and locate 350 people on average. Even if you add up all four districts within the US, that seems like a drop in the bucket, but remember… they do this for free, so they don’t have a lot of resources to dedicate to this.

Now the SA gets a lot of flack from the low-income and homeless community–“the Starvation Army,” I’ve heard one person call them. Yet I find that people tend to resent anyone helping them–they feel guilty, so they lash out in anger–which in my opinion, explains why a lot of the homeless I’ve met are homeless. However, let’s flip the numbers. If we assume 80% of missing persons are found come back on their own, and you deduct the SA’s efforts, that still leaves over a hundred thousand people a year.

That’s a lot of people who don’t want to be found, and that assumes that every person who goes missing as a report filed. Criminal justice professors teach that half of all crimes go unreported, so that means it might be closer to a quarter million a year, and that doesn’t even include underage children. I could write another post on my theories on homelessness, but suffice it to say, in a technological world where people are so interconnected, there’s a lot of people who we simply don’t see.

What do you think? Is the Salvation Army doing the Lord’s work or just getting in the way? Why do you think people don’t want to be found? Let me know in the comments below!

2 Responses to ““Maybe they don’t want to be found.””

  1. Silk Cords January 17, 2021 at 2:04 pm #

    Great post. I’m sure quite a few people don’t know what all the Salvation Army does to help. Yes, I think they’re at least TRYING to help also.

    You’re right, and all but opened a can of worms talking about the bad attitude they receive, as well as the reasons for it. That’s hardly the only situation we see similar behavior in society though. I’ll leave THAT at that. 🙂

    Not wanting to be found… I’m sure the reasons there aren’t all that different although the exact circumstances are as varied as the disappearing people. I’d imagine it comes down to they want to start a new life somewhere and escape their old one, they got into drugs or alcohol, were abducted, OR they are mentally ill and wandered off.

    An example on that last one, and how it can skew the numbers; there was a guy with alzheimers that got loose from his family nearly EVERY day, and the Sacramento police department would be out looking for him, and have the helicopter circling my brother’s neighborhood for hours broadcasting a BOLO message.

  2. Agent X March 6, 2021 at 1:16 pm #

    I’ve seen evidence for either way. Dunno just how the SA shakes out in the big scheme of things.

    I am pretty sure the church I belong to is part of the problem though

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