Sunday, August 18, 2013

Age, Race, Gender, Disability, Socioeconomic status play potential role in lack of resources and media coverage for missing persons

For Immediate Release
Monday, August 19, 2013

San Francisco – Sean Sidi vanished on May 21, 2013, near 150 Oak Street in San Francisco, CA. Frantic, Sean’s parents Claude Sidi and Lynn Ching, immediately called San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) to make a missing person report. The Sidi’s were particularly concerned because Sean was recovering from emergency brain surgery after sustaining a severe traumatic brain injury in an accident several months earlier. According to a statement issued by Dr. Geoffrey Manley, Chief of Neurosurgery at San Francisco General Hospital, “Sean’s medical condition puts him at significant risk of death, or of not making a meaningful recovery from his brain injury if not found quickly.” What the Sidi family did not realize is local and national resources to help them find their son are minimal. 


Kevin Collins missing February 10, 1984
It has been almost 30 years since Kevin Collins vanished from San Francisco on February 10, 1984. One of the first children to appear on a milk carton, Kevin’s case garnered national media attention.  

The missing, featured on a milk carton.

In the years following Kevin’s disappearance, there were many advances in the way law enforcement and media respond to missing child cases.  However, as the Sidi family found out, how much help you receive depends upon the age of your missing child and possibly even their gender. Unlike the disappearance of Kevin Collins, few missing persons ever become a household name.


As of August 1, 2013, there were 80,870 active missing person cases in the United States. The total number of active juvenile cases totals 40,671 missing children ages 0 - 17, and 11,025 active missing persons ages 18 - 21, with 29,174 active missing adults ages 22 - 99. Of the total number of active missing person cases 39,692 are missing males and the total number of individuals entered as disabled total 5,104.


In 1982, Congress enacted the Missing Children’s Act, requiring law enforcement to enter a missing child’s information into the FBI National Crime Information Center (NCIC). In 1984, President Ronald Reagan officially opened the doors of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) to provide assistance to law enforcement and families of missing children up to age 17.


Suzanne’s Law, which passed in 2003, required that law enforcement enter any missing person between    18 - 21 years of age into NCIC.  In addition to NCIC entry, Suzanne’s Law enables law enforcement to register 18 - 21 year olds with the NCMEC and profiled on www.missingkids.com, along with making additional resources available.  However, despite the passage of Suzanne’s Law, many law enforcement agencies throughout the country are still unaware this law exists, and missing persons ages 18-21, are often not provided the services of NCMEC or properly entered into NCIC databases.


Sean was entered into National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NAMUS) and receiving services from NCMEC searching for their missing disabled son but discovered other resources to assist in the search are scarce. Experts say missing persons over the age of 18 still have minimal resources, and even less media attention, especially for missing young men.


Typically, Amber Alerts and Silver Alerts are not available for young adults who vanish – even if severely disabled. According to the official Amber Alert website, one of the criteria for issuing an emergency broadcast is the missing person must be under age 17. The California Highway Patrol - Silver Alert  website indicates the missing person must be 65 or older to issue a Silver Alert. Sean does not fit either requirement.


A family’s desperate efforts to find missing son transforms into national public awareness campaign

Sean Sidi, critically disabled missing person.
With the help of an army of volunteers, the Sidi family has conducted ground searches, held vigils, posted thousands of fliers, visited homeless shelters and food kitchens, and even traveled to the Montana Rainbow Gathering in an effort to find Sean. They have distributed a minimum 30,000 missing person fliers.


They have also conducted a very impressive social media campaign. The Sidi’s immediately created a website for their son at www.seansidi.com that has received over 80,000 unique site visits since May and 1,613,306 hits to their website. In addition, they created “Find Sean Sidi” Facebook page, along with utilizing Twitter and Pinterest, to get Sean’s information out to the public. Together, the social media sites are averaging 7,000 visitors per day.


The Sidi family post updates on activities, dates of vigils, personal notes to Sean from family and friends, and “Calls to Action” asking for help from the public to “share” and post fliers of Sean nationwide, hoping to generate the one lead that will bring Sean home safe. They even announced a $5,000 reward.


According to NOKR’s National Director for Missing Adults, Sean is considered an extremely “high risk” missing person case but even his critical medical condition does not garner the same media attention as other missing persons.


“Sean’s medical condition places him in a category of individuals with a disability who are at significant risk of injury or victimization if not found immediately - and with the public’s help, I believe we can find Sean,” says Kym L. Pasqualini. “I’ve spent twenty years in the field of missing persons and services to families of missing adults are minimal, but there also exists disproportionate media coverage and historically we have had more difficulty getting media coverage for missing adult males, and the same is true for missing persons of different races and socioeconomic status.” NBC news Damsels in Distress and TRU TV reports from 2004, reflect little has changed for families of missing adults.


Despite the challenges they have faced in their effort to find their missing son, Sean’s parents remain undeterred from continuing their aggressive public awareness campaign.


“We will never stop searching for Sean until he is found.  Despite the many advances in the way law enforcement and media respond to missing child cases, since Kevin Collins’ disappearance 30 years ago, there is a serious lack of resources available when an adult goes missing,” says Lynn Ching, Sean Sidi’s mother. “It has been very difficult to obtain government assistance in our search for Sean. There is an urgent need for stronger laws to ensure timely assistance in the search for missing adults, especially those with serious medical conditions.”


For general information and statistics about missing persons, you can reach Kym L. Pasqualini at (480) 466-0063 or kympasqualini@gmail.com.



About NOKR
Established in January 2004, The Next of Kin Registry (NOKR) is a humanitarian non-profit 501c3 dedicated to bridging rapid emergency contact information. NOKR is a 100% volunteer work force with volunteers in 87 countries. NOKR is a resource on more than 92% of all State websites, the American Red Cross, International Committee for the Red Cross, Homeland Security Disasterhelp.gov, USA.gov, Ready FEMA, and other federal agencies, as a critical resource for daily emergencies. NOKR is also an official partner of Microsoft HealthVault. For more information, please contact NOKR Deputy Director Gerry DiStefano at (803) 319-3017 or Kym L. Pasqualini at (480) 466-0063. Visit NOKR's website at www.nokr.org.