Division of Criminal Justice Services

Missing Adult Alert Program
FAQs for Law Enforcement

Phone: 1-800-346-3543
E-mail: missingpersons@dcjs.ny.gov


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What is the Missing Adult Alert Program?

The program alerts the public and law enforcement when an individual who is at least 18 years old and has a cognitive disorder, mental disability or brain disorder goes missing. Time is of the essence when a person goes missing; the program allows for the rapid dissemination of information that can result in an individual’s safe return.

When did the Missing Vulnerable Adult Program begin?

The Missing Adult Alert Program took effect on October 23, 2011, after being signed into law by Governor Andrew M. Cuomo. The program is administered by the Missing Persons Clearinghouse at the state Division of Criminal Justice Services. 

Why was the Missing Adult Alert Program created?

The law creating the program responded to several instances where cognitively impaired individuals wandered from their homes and went missing for an extended period of time, placing themselves at risk.

What are the criteria for activating a Missing Adult Alert?

  • The missing person must be at least 18 years older and have a cognitive disorder, mental disability or brain disorder.
  • Law enforcement has determined that there is a credible risk of harm to the missing individual.
  • Only law enforcement agencies can contact the Missing Persons Clearinghouse and request a Missing Adult Alert.
  • Family members of a loved one who has gone missing should contact their local law enforcement agency (police department or sheriff’s office) as soon as possible; that call will trigger the Missing Adult Alert process. The reporting party must articulate the fact that the missing person has a cognitive impairment; medical confirmation of the individual’s condition by a physician or health care professional is not required.

How does a law enforcement agency request a Missing Adult Alert?

A law enforcement agency must determine whether the criteria for an Alert are met. The agency then must contact the Missing Persons Clearinghouse at 1-800-346-3543 (option 1) to request a Missing Adult Alert. The agency must:

  • Enter the individual into the NCIC/DCJS database with the missing person condition of “vulnerable adult.”
  • Complete a Missing Adult Alert submission form and submit the form via e-mail: missingpersons@dcjs.ny.gov or fax: 518-457-6965.
  • E-mail a photo of the missing individual to the Clearinghouse: missingpersons@dcjs.ny.gov. A JPEG file format is preferred, but other formats will be accepted.

If a vehicle is involved in the disappearance and the use of state Department of Transportation and Thruway messaging signs is requested (activation for eight hours only), the law enforcement agency must:

  • Verify the vehicle and registration information.
  • Enter the vehicle information in the missing person record in the NCIC/DCJS database.

If the Missing Adult Alert criteria have been met, activation regions for the alert will be determined and highway message signs can be activated.

Is there a waiting period to report a missing vulnerable adult or to request a Missing Adult Alert? 

No. Under the law, whenever a criminal justice agency determines that a missing person is a vulnerable adult or  an unidentified living person may be a missing vulnerable adult, the criminal justice agency shall enter the report of such missing vulnerable adult into the national and state database (NCIC/DCJS) and request an Alert.

If the missing vulnerable adult case does not meet the criteria for a Missing Adult Alert, the case may be handled as a routine missing persons case. The request for assistance from the Clearinghouse must still come from law enforcement.

What is the media’s role when a Missing Adult Alert is issued?

Media outlets have the option of whether to broadcast Missing Adult Alert information; they are not required to do so.

How long does a Missing Adult Alert stay active?

A Missing Adult Alert is active for up to 72 hours; highway message signs are activated for the first eight hours after the Alert is issued. If the individual is not located in 72 hours, the case will remain an active missing persons case and continue to be publicized on the DCJS website: www.criminaljustice.ny.gov

Where can law enforcement direct family members and caregivers for support?

The following organizations and agencies can assist:
Alzheimer’s Association: www.alz.org
National Autism Association: www.autismsafety.org
New York State Office for People with Developmental Disabilities: www.opwdd.ny.gov
New York State Office for the Aging: www.aging.ny.gov
New York State Office of Mental Health: www.omh.ny.gov