Looking for the lost
St. Louis Search and Rescue Team helps locate missing persons throughout the region
By Charlotte Beard
According to the Missouri State Highway Patrol (MSHP), Missouri law requires that any law enforcement agency receiving a report of a missing child or adult must immediately enter the name of the person into the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) and into the Missouri Uniform Law Enforcement System (MULES) with all available identifying features and information.
However, local law enforcement struggles with the manpower to conduct searches to meet the needs of all missing individuals. In some cases, outside agencies have gotten involved in search and rescue missions as was the case with the young Berkeley woman, Monica Sykes, who went missing in October 2016.
Texas EquuSearch volunteers, a national and global search and rescue team, are stated to have been at the forefront of that search, though the outcome was not favorable. However, the case did result in many people in the community unifying in a quest to help Regina Sykes, Monica’s mother, find answers. One of the ongoing missions that surfaced is the St. Louis Search and Rescue Team. Lakresha “Lala” Moore of North County started the mission because she desired to do more to help further the efforts of the Berkeley Police Department.
Husband and wife, Lorenzo and Ingrid Murphy, are no strangers to having a loved one missing. Their daughter was at one time a victim of abduction and was later found. The Murphys partner with Moore in the local search and rescue team.
“The mission of St. Louis Search and Rescue is to bring awareness to people about those who have gone missing,” states Ingrid. “From a statistics standpoint, we’re no. 20 on the list for human trafficking. That doesn’t sound high at all, but it’s high enough. We’re no. 20 in terms of being a hub for human trafficking. As of Feb. 15, in St. Louis City there were 172 individuals missing. Out of those 172, 135 are adults and 37 are juveniles. Out of those 172 [missing adults] only 26 have posters or photos in the [MSHP and NICI] database. In the St. Louis Municipalities we have 249 individuals missing – 115 are adults; only 29 have photos attached. One hundred thirty-four are juveniles with only two photos available.”
Ingrid, who shared that she has a license in social work with background study in psychology, emphasized that there is strong support for missing individuals on social media. One is Unity Alert on Facebook administered by Shawn Williams.
“I get messages from Unity Alert every day with the names of children and adults gone missing.”
Ingrid shared that Williams gets his information from MSHP and NCIC. These postings make the missing persons information more visible due to the nature and traffic of social media. The Search and Rescue Team also hosts its own page on Facebook–www.facebook.com/pg/BringThemHomeStl. Ingrid states that with the help of others in the community and leads from the team’s investigations on Facebook, they have found three out of five missing persons, though the result has not always been favorable for loved ones.
“It’s frustrating,” stressed Ingrid. “We reach out to the community and we ask them on our search and rescue page and personal pages ‘do you know this person’…somebody [must] know something. Nobody wants to talk. Right now, St. Louis has this Facebook game for kids – “Gone for 48 Hours.” It’s a challenge where [the child] runs away for 48 hours then they are reported missing. The problem with that is these kids don’t know these streets will devour them. I spend a lot of time with Lala and Lorenzo not just on the streets but on the computer.”
A video on YouTube called “New Facebook Challenge Causes Kids to Disappear” created by InformOverload, explains that the challenge originated in the UK. There is a point system whereby kids are awarded for time they go missing and the amount of frightened media posts made by their parents.
Ingrid shared some of the dilemma in a missing person’s case involving a child who is a repeat runaway. She has begun to look more into the home life of these individuals.
“When there is clearly an issue at home, [returning the child home] is not the solution,” she said.
Moore, founder of the team, stresses that she wants the community to know that if they have a missing loved one, the St. Louis Search and Rescue Team, with the help of others in the community, will do their best to bring that person home.
For further information please contact the St. Louis Search and Rescue Team by calling 314-366-9663 or visit the Facebook page – www.facebook.com/pg/BringThemHomeStl. You may report a missing person to your local law enforcement agency. To view the Missouri Statues regarding the criteria for a missing person and how to report a missing person, visit: www.mshp.dps.missouri.gov.
CUTLINE: Submitted photo