California Missing Persons

The Missing and Unidentified Persons Section in the California Department of Justice assists law enforcement and criminal justice agencies in locating missing persons and identifying unknown live and deceased persons through the comparison of physical characteristics, fingerprints and dental/body X-rays.

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In California, a missing person is someone whose whereabouts is unknown to the reporting party. This includes any child who may have run away, been taken involuntary or may be in need of assistance. It includes a child illegally taken, held or hidden by a parent or non-parent family member (See California Penal Code Sections 277-280).

There is NO waiting period for reporting a person missing. All California police and sheriffs' departments must accept any report, including a report by telephone, of a missing person, including runaways, without delay and will give priority to the handling of the report.

Schools are part of the network to help find missing children, not only through notices required to be given to a public school district or private school within 10 days of a child's disappearance but also through use of our Missing Person Bulletin.

By making photographs of missing persons available, we seek to aid in the identification and recovery of missing persons. According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, one in six missing children are recovered as a direct result of someone recognizing their photo and notifying authorities. We also offer resources on this website for locating missing persons and safeguarding your children.

The Missing and Unidentified Persons Section (MUPS) also works closely with the Department of Justice Division of Law Enforcement’s Bureau of Forensic Services Missing Persons DNA Program (MPDP). The Missing Persons DNA Program compares DNA from unidentified persons and unidentified human remains with DNA from personal articles belonging to missing persons and DNA from relatives of missing persons.

The following offers a summary of some of our programs. Further information is available by selecting the program categories on the left menu.

Attention 5th Graders!

We welcome your participation in the U.S. Department of Justice’s National Missing Children’s Day Poster Contest, pdf

Missing Persons Search

A searchable database of missing persons allows you to look for a missing person by name, description, county and several other categories which is a subset of all persons reported as missing by law enforcement in the State of California.

DATA LIMITATIONS: This database is a subset of all persons reported as missing by law enforcement in the State of California.

Missing Children Clearinghouse

The Clearinghouse provides a nationwide, toll-free hotline to receive tips on the whereabouts of missing persons. Call toll-free: 1-800-222-FIND (1-800-222-3463)

Featured Missing Children and Adult Cases

The number of active missing person cases averages around 20,000 in California. The Featured Missing Children and Featured Missing Adults highlight cases where photographs have been submitted by law enforcement for use in accordance with laws and policies for sharing the image of the missing person. To have a photograph added, family members of a missing person should submit their photographs to the law enforcement agency taking the missing person report.

Featured Unidentified Person

There are currently over 3,000 reports of unidentified persons in our automated database. Periodically, we will be providing photographs or drawings of selected cases.

Missing Persons Bulletin

Subscribe to Missing Persons Bulletins

The Missing Persons Bulletin is of special value to schools, as the missing children are categorized by school level: preschool, primary and secondary. There are also sections for dependent adults and voluntary missing adults. To help locate missing persons, the Department of Justice also produces and distributes a monthly poster of missing children and a quarterly bulletin of missing children and dependent adults. The on-line version of the published quarterly bulletin has additional categories.

Missing Person Statistics

The Department of Justice annually will update the statistics of missing persons from information provided by law enforcement agencies. Law enforcement agencies are required by state law to report missing persons cases to the Missing Persons System, an automated database which can be used by authorized law enforcement and criminal justice agencies via the California Law Enforcement Telecommunications System.