"Each case is unique," says investigator on missing persons case - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina

"Each case is unique," says investigator on missing persons cases

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) -

There are so many questions about the case of the three missing teenagers in Cleveland. That story has plenty of us wondering how can we help in missing persons cases right here in South Carolina.

The state's Sheriff's Association says there are over 6,000 missing person cases reported each year in the Palmetto State.

Currently, there are 44 cases of missing children on the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children website. Ten of those kids are from right here in the Midlands -- some are from five months ago, some five years and longer.

"Each case is unique there's not a standard in any way," said Sgt. Arthur Thomas with the Columbia Police Department's Special Victims Unit.

So how can you as a neighbor or part of the community know where to look? Police say it's as simple as being observant.

"If you hear strange noises, screams or what have you, don't ignore them go ahead and call law enforcement, notify them and let them check on it," said Thomas.

While it's not always easy like in Cleveland, investigators say those responsible are often skilled in containing the victim.

"If you step out of the door without one of us with you, this will happen and you make it happen after a while the kid will not move unless they're told to," said Thomas. "The adult conditioned for 10 years will not act unless they're given permission."

Which is why it pays to notice the smallest detail, and police say follow your gut.

"They noticed when the gentleman tugged the child, the child looked at the man with fear, not as a parent not as a guardian but as a stranger, cue in on these things, even if you're wrong, even if the child does belong there, have someone check it out," said Thomas.

Investigators say there's a huge misconception when it comes to reporting missing person cases. It should be done immediately.

"The instant you believe a party is missing, out of character for what you know on the day to day, you can call law enforcement out; you can file a report," said Thomas.

Thomas says within an hour of reporting someone missing, the police agency it's reported to must place that person in a national database for missing persons.

Copyright 2013 WIS. All rights reserved.

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