Missing persons

Last updated on August 11, 2021

In B.C., there is no waiting period to report someone missing and anyone can make a report. You do not need to be a member of the missing person’s immediate family.

Reporting a missing person

If someone is missing, report it to police.

If you are concerned with a person's immediate safety, call 9-1-1.  In less urgent situations, contact the non-emergency number of the police agency where you think the missing person was last seen, or your local police.

Go to the B.C. police forces webpage for contact information.

What happens when you report a missing person?

Finding the missing person safe and well is the primary concern. To assist in locating the missing person and assessing the urgency of investigation, police will ask questions about the missing person such as where they were last seen, their physical description, their physical or mental health or emotional state, and their lifestyle.

You can expect police to:

  • Take your report seriously, start an investigation without delay, and ask questions to ensure they have the information they need.
  • Conduct a thorough investigation, including a risk assessment, focussed on the safety and wellbeing of the missing person.
  • Offer information about supports or resources that may be available, designate a contact person within the police force to support ongoing communication, and keep you updated on the investigation, as appropriate.
  • Consult with the family or reportee before releasing information or photographs of the missing person to the media, unless doing so would jeopardize the missing person or the investigation, for example by creating delays.
  • When a missing person has been found, attend the location in person to confirm their identity and wellbeing. To balance respect for privacy with police duty to investigate safety concerns, this may be handled differently in some circumstances.
  • Not close a file until the missing person has been located and their identity has been established.
  • Not share information about the location of a found missing adult without their permission. Police may also keep this information confidential in certain cases involving minors, depending on the circumstances.
  • Where appropriate, work with other agencies to promote a found missing person’s ongoing safety and limit recurring reports involving the same person, or to prevent others from going missing in similar circumstances.

What can you do to help an investigation?

Be prepared to answer questions and provide information or items to police as requested, such as a photograph or a personal item belonging to the missing person.

Update the police as soon as possible if the missing person contacts you or returns home, or you obtain new information that could assist the investigation.

More information about the missing person investigation process in B.C.

In B.C., Provincial Policing Standards for Missing Persons Investigations have been in effect since September 2016. The standards and associated Guiding Principles (PDF, 305KB) establish the overall approach to missing person investigations for all B.C. police agencies. The standards recognize the need for officer discretion to address the unique needs of each case, with accountability for decisions through supervisory review.

In June 2015, new provincial legislation came into effect, the Missing Persons Act, which improves police access to information that could help locate a missing person. The Act allows police to apply for court orders to access records or conduct searches, in cases where a criminal offence is not suspected. The Act also allows officers to directly demand access to records in emergency situations.