NJ officials want missing persons cases to be treated like crimes
A plan is taking shape to help authorities in New Jersey find people who are missing more quickly and easily.
Legislation, S2081, sponsored by state Sen. Linda Greenstein, D-Mercer, would expand the authority of the New Jersey State Police Missing Persons and Human Traffic Unit.
She said under current state law it is not a crime for someone to go missing, so in order for authorities to be able to get information about someone who is missing, whether it has to do with their property or their cell phone records, they have to get a warrant, which can be time-consuming.
To solve the problem Greenstein said the measure she is sponsoring “creates a rebuttable presumption that there is a crime, and once there’s a crime they’re able to get the records they need very quickly in order to treat it on an emergent basis.”
She said this is particularly important in high-risk situations like when a senior citizen, someone with dementia or a child goes missing.
She said the idea here is “to get over the legal problem that there may not be a crime there ... and that would allow the police to get the records they need.”
She explained the term rebuttable presumption is used for a specific reason.
“It can be rebutted (proven false) by very quick information that says this person is fine, they just decided to take off on their own. So in other words, they are not in any way harmed by the idea of the bill,” said Greenstein.
She noted when it comes to people who go missing, beginning the search for them as early as possible is very important.
“All of us have seen TV shows about these kinds of things where every second counts, and so we know the police certainly want to get on these cases very quickly.”
She pointed out the request for the legislation came directly from the State Police.
"They feel that this approach will make it much easier for them to find missing persons or even people who have been victims of human trafficking," she said. “We want to do everything in our power to assist the police in trying to find victims as soon as possible.”
Under the bill, there would be various specifications as to whether a missing person would be considered high risk, including if the circumstances in which they are missing indicate to be involuntary, if they have been missing for more than 30 days and if the person is missing under known dangerous circumstances.
The measure has been passed by the State Senate Law and Public Safety Committee and will now be considered by the full Upper House in the coming weeks.