Five long-term missing persons cases haunt Clarence
POLICE from the Coffs-Clarence LAC deal with several missing person reports every week, and the vast majority of them are solved in short order.
But occasionally the searches drag on and require a concerted effort from police and the wider community to reunite loved ones with their families.
"We have a very strong clearance rate - it would be 90% or even higher for missing persons," Detective Inspector Darren Jameson said.
"(But) we are currently actively reviewing five long-term missing person cases that are more than 12 months old."
Authorities are using Missing Persons Week to dispel several myths about reporting the disappearance of a friend or loved one.
In particular, they hope to break one falsehood from the public psyche and to instil the week's motto: "trust your instincts".
Det Insp Jameson said there was no 24-hour timeframe before which someone could be reported missing, despite popular belief.
"Each case is treated on its own merits," he said.
"The level of concern we have for the safety of the missing person will determine the level of response.
"For instance, if someone who is a runaway or has disappeared is accessing their banking records, that's a different story to someone who has just unexpectedly disappeared."
Quite often, suspicions of foul play are misplaced and the missing person simply does not want to be found.
She recalled a recent case of a young runaway who had been missing for four years.
"It was heartbreaking to the family," she said.
"Because it had been so many years, they were very worried about their daughter.
"It turned out she just didn't want to have contact with her family."
Police have stressed it is not a crime to go missing, and no charges will be laid against a person for intentionally vanishing if they later choose to make their whereabouts known.
"One message in that experience is that it's important to let your friends and family know you're okay, even if you don't want to be found," Detective Acting Inspector Ingram said.
"You can send a message and you don't have to do it personally - it can be through a third party.
"It was tough for us, because we have to keep in regular contact with the next of kin and it took a lot of resources to find her.
"We had real concerns about her welfare."
Breaking the news to the girl's next of kin was an ordeal in itself, but worth the effort.
"Now they can move on and accept the situation," she said.
"They're no longer left wondering whether she is okay, and they were left in limbo for a very long time."
If you suspect a friend or family member has gone missing, you do not have to wait 24 hours to take action, follow your instincts and report the matter to police immediately.
You do not have to wait 24 hours before reporting someone as missing
When a missing person is located, their whereabouts will not be released to the person who reported them missing, unless permission is granted
Going missing is not a crime
About 35,000 people are reported missing in Australia each year - one person every 15 minutes
99.5% of people are located - 85% within a week of being reported missing
About one third of missing persons go missing more than once
Roughly two-thirds of missing persons are younger than 18