The ‘huge’ demand police face from missing people revealed

High demand: Missing persons reported to police

EVERY year, thousands of people are reported missing to Dyfed-Powys Police, and a new TV series is about to showcase the hard work and determination that goes in to finding them.

From people going missing under tragic circumstances, and those intent on not being found, to children skipping school, and even those who don’t realise they are missing – a range of cases will be featured in S4C series Ar Goll.

The series follows the work of call handlers and incident managers who deal with the initial response to missing people reports, to the policing teams that do all they can to find them and ensure they are safe.

Temporary Deputy Chief Constable Richard Lewis said: “The work that goes on to find missing people is a huge demand on the force, and not one that many people are aware of.

“A lot of the enquiries our staff and officers undertake go on behind the scenes, and there are a huge number of missing people who are found very quickly without the need for a public appeal for information.

“It is only in five per cent of all cases that we ask for the public’s help in locating someone who has been reported missing, so it is impossible for the public to truly comprehend how much of our resources are tied up looking for missing people.”

In 2018, call handlers in the force control centre took 3,030 calls from people reporting their family members, friends, colleagues and pupils missing. Many were found within minutes, while in other cases searches lasted days, weeks, and even months.

During the six-part series, ITV Wales’s production team was given access to different stages of missing people enquiries, shadowing police search advisor (POLSA) officers, dog handlers, NPAS helicopters, the marine unit and partner organisations including Coastguard, Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service, and mountain rescue teams.

During the first episode, a rare insight is given into the workings of the control room at Dyfed-Powys Police headquarters in Carmarthen, where staff respond to 999 and 101 calls 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Call handlers responding: Police HQ in Carmarthen

Film crews followed call handlers, dispatchers and incident managers as they directed policing teams to find two missing 10-year-old schoolboys in Llanelli.

Last year, 185 young people were reported missing from education premises, and FCC staff admitted tensions were always high when children were missing.

Speaking in the first episode, Force Incident Manager Chief Inspector Dyfed Bolton said: “We have just had a call from a school in the Llanelli area to say that two pupils have jumped over the fence and have disappeared.

“With any call about a missing child, we need to look at their age – we are dealing with something different if it is a 15-year-old or an eight-year-old.

“Younger children might not realise how busy the roads can be, they might not know who they can trust to speak to, and they don’t always look at the risks when they are playing with no adults around.”

As time goes on, with no sign of the children, resources are drafted in from other areas, and the risk grading to the children is elevated to high. Concern rises for control room staff.

“The risk is that these children could become injured or come to some harm,” Chief Inspector Bolton said. “They could head somewhere to cool down, like a pond, so I’m asking officers to check those areas.

“It is always a tense time when young children are missing.”

From young people to the elderly, the series also follows the search for an 80-year-old woman with dementia who went missing from her home in Carmarthenshire, as well as enquiries lasting more than two weeks to trace a man who disappeared after getting on a bus.

Over six weeks, viewers will be taken through fast-pace searches, high-pressured decision-making, and will witness the frustration, relief and tragedy officers and staff are faced with daily.

Hearing from family members and even the people reported missing themselves, viewers will gain an understanding of the factors that lead people to disappear and the impact this has on their loved ones.

Ar Goll episode one will air on S4C at 9pm on Wednesday, February 27.

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