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Missing Persons Policy

Missing Person Notification Policy and Procedures

It is the policy of the Swarthmore College Department of Public Safety to thoroughly investigate all reports of missing persons.  Additionally, the College holds that every person reported missing will be considered at risk until significant information to the contrary is confirmed.  All reports of missing persons must immediately be directed to the Department of Public Safety by calling extension 8281 (Off Campus: 610-328-8281) or made in person at the Benjamin West House on campus.  Reports of missing students received by other College departments are to be promptly forwarded to the Department of Public Safety and/or Swarthmore Police Department.  It is the policy of this department to support and assist missing person investigations originating outside our jurisdiction.  It should also be noted that there is no required waiting period for reporting a missing person.  A person may be declared “missing” when his, her or their whereabouts are unknown and unexplainable for a period of time, typically 24 hours or sooner,  especially if it is regarded by knowledgeable persons as highly unusual or suspicious in consideration of the subject’s behavior patterns, plans, or routines.

The purpose of this policy is to establish procedures to be followed if a missing person complaint is made to the Department of Public Safety office.  If a complaint is made to this office, Public Safety staff will follow the steps listed below:

  •  Person receiving the complaint will immediately dispatch a Public Safety officer to the location of the complaint.  In addition, make appropriate notification to the VP and Dean of Students (or their designee).
  •  The responding officer will gather all essential information about the person (description, clothes last worn, where subject might be, with whom they might be, vehicle description, etc.) And every effort will be made to make contact directly with the student or their designated confidential contact(s).
  • An up to date photograph may also be obtained to aid in the search. 
  • The responding officer will also gather information about the physical and mental wellbeing of the individual. 
  • Appropriate campus staff will be notified to aid in the search for the individual. A quick but thorough search will be conducted in all campus buildings, grounds, and parking lots.
  • Class schedules will be obtained and a search of appropriate classrooms will be conducted.
  • The VP and Dean of Students (or designee) will be promptly notified and is responsible for communicating with the family or relatives of the missing person. 

If the above actions are unsuccessful in locating the person or it is apparent from the beginning that the person is actually missing (i.e. call from parents, guardians), the investigation will be turned over to the appropriate local law enforcement agency.  This will take place as soon as practical but never later than 24 hours from the initial report.  At this time, the local law enforcement agency becomes the authority in charge and the Department of Public Safety will assist them in any way necessary.

In accordance with the Higher Education Act of 2008, all students may register a confidential contact with the College.  Access to this information is restricted to authorized campus officials and law enforcement officers actively involved in the furtherance of a missing person investigation.  The confidential contact does not have to be a parent of a student.  This is the individual who will be contacted by Public Safety or another police department within 24 hours of the determination that the student is reported missing.  This individual will also be updated as to the progress of the investigation.  In the event a student is under 18 years of age, and has not been legally emancipated, the student’s parents or guardian will also be contacted within 24 hours of the determination that the student is reported missing.  Please note that the local police department will be notified even if a student has not registered a confidential contact.  

For students to register an individual as a confidential contact this may be done by logging into My Swarthmore.