Nearly 800 reports of missing people in Welwyn Hatfield

PUBLISHED: 10:13 14 March 2018

Pictured: Front row (from left to right) Chief Superintendent Matthew Nicholls, Detective Chief Inspector Francesa Ward and Locate Team Manager Fraser Wylie Picture: Herts Police

Pictured: Front row (from left to right) Chief Superintendent Matthew Nicholls, Detective Chief Inspector Francesa Ward and Locate Team Manager Fraser Wylie Picture: Herts Police

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A new policing team has been set up to deal with missing people as it is revealed there were nearly 800 reports of missing individuals in Welwyn Hatfield last year.

The idea for the new team was conceived in 2016 after Herts Police “identified a concern that significant demands were being placed upon frontline officers due to medium risk missing people, and when these cases are then re-categorised as high risk”, a spokeswoman said.

Since 2010 the number of people reported missing across the county to Herts Police has more than doubled.

While there has been an increase in the number of high risk missing people, the vast majority are low to medium risk, the police spokeswoman added.

In 2006, there were 156 reports of missing people in Welwyn Hatfield.

In the following years, the figure began to climb for the borough: 2007 (203), 2008 (229), 2009 (206), 2010 (231), 2011 (287), 2012 (261), 2013 (214), 2014 (367), 2015 (416) and 2016 (497).

Last year saw the figure peak with a staggering 783 reports and by February 14 this year, 148 reports of missing people in Welwyn Hatfield had already been made.

Explaining the rise, Detective Superintendent Paul Maghie, head of safeguarding, told the Welwyn Hatfield Times: “We have a number of children under the care of social services living within the Welwyn Hatfield area.

“These young people are understandably often vulnerable with complex needs and, for a number of reasons, some have on occasions gone missing from their accommodation.

“Some of these missing reports relate to children that have failed to return home at their agreed time.

“Even though their location may be known, a missing report is still created until the individual is seen in person and returned to their accommodation.

“We are continuing to work with our partners within the local authority to address this on-going issue.”

Across the county during 2016, a total of 3,245 people were graded as medium risk, of this figure 1,082 were adults and 2,163 were children – a third of cases.

On February 12, Herts Police launched a new team to deal with missing people.

The Locate Team, which consists of nine assistant investigators and a team manager, serves the whole of the county and works with operational police officers to assist with missing person investigations.

The team aims to reduce pressure on frontline officers by taking on desk based investigations such as liaising with families of the missing person, speaking to witnesses, screening CCTV, obtaining mobile phone data and coordinating with relevant partner agencies. Previously frontline officers had responsibility to complete all missing person enquires.

The introduction of the new team will mean that these officers will now be able to spend more time physically going out to search for missing people, as well as responding to other emergency incidents.

The team works alongside a number of policing teams including Intervention (emergency response), Safer Neighbourhood Teams, the Operational Support Group, Community Safety Units and Safeguarding and Children and Young People.

It also works with the Missing Person Unit, which is based at Police Headquarters in WGC, and focuses on working with partnership agencies to develop longer term strategies to reduce the number of times people repeatedly go missing.

If someone is missing and you are concerned, call police on 101.

If a child or vulnerable person is missing you should call 999. You don’t have to wait 24 hours before reporting a person as missing.

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