One of the most useful tools in a missing persons investigation is a current photo made available for viewing by people who may come in contact with the missing person.
Zero Abuse Project creates and distributes posters upon request for missing persons listed in the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) by police upon taking a missing persons report. We require a signed consent and release form from a custodial parent/guardian of a missing child, or authorized representative of a missing adult, to create a missing person poster.
To request this service, please contact Zero Abuse Project by phone at (800) 325-HOPE. Posters can usually be created within the hour.
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) also creates, distributes and maintains an up-to-date list of missing children posters. These posters will take the place of Zero Abuse Project-created posters, if applicable.
- Have an electronic version of the photo available, in addition to a hard copy. This makes it fast and easy to send photos to law enforcement, NCMEC and JWRC.
- Photos should be of the face (including hair) and shoulders. Candid photos with neutral expressions work best, but school pictures can be used. Try to choose pictures with high contrast and a neutral background.
- Save pictures as .jpeg, .gif. or .bmp files.
- It's helpful to use an experienced agency like JWRC or NCMEC for poster creation and distribution, but you can always make your own instead or in addition. Here are some helpful hints:
- You can use a word-processing program like Microsoft Word, or an online generator such as the Laura Recovery Center's Flyer Generator.
- Never list your home or cell phone number on the poster; list only the number for the police or NCMEC. The number listed may receive false leads or inappropriate calls, which will only add to the stress you encounter when a loved one is missing. The police are trained to deal with this.
- It is illegal to include pictures of potential abductors unless there is a warrant out for the person's arrest. Instead, use vague language such as, "the child may be accompanied by an adult female."
- If you plan to distribute the poster electronically, upload a PDF copy to an online server and distribute only the link to the file.
- Using a PDF instead of a Word document will prevent others from making unauthorized changes to your poster.
- If you attach the actual poster or photo to an email, people may keep forwarding the email even after the missing person has been recovered. Distributing only a link allows you to have control over whether people can get access to the poster.
- After the missing person is recovered, take down the posters you have put up, and let others know to do the same.