More than 1000 children and young people missing: “Often particularly abstruse theories on the Internet”

More than 1000 children and young people missing: “Often particularly abstruse theories on the Internet”

Image: Colourbox

“It is often particularly absurd theories that are spread here,” said Stefan Mayer of the Federal Criminal Police Office (BK) ahead of Missing Children’s Day on Saturday. “The Internet does not always make our work easier here,” said the detective.

Postings on social media or websites regularly cause him and his colleagues headaches. “All sorts of improbable things are spread there,” said Mayer, who heads the Competence Center for Missing Persons (KAP) at the Federal Criminal Police Office. The spectrum ranges from missing persons who are “locked up somewhere” as sex slaves to alleged whereabouts of missing persons. “The relatives then read it and that is of course a real blow for them,” explained Mayer.

  • Also read: For eight years, the association “Austria finds you”, founded by Christian Mader, has been assisting the police in the search for missing persons. >> Romana Rausch is responsible for the Upper Austrian cases.

Careless handling of information

The recently solved case of an almost two-year-old girl in Serbia who went missing in April and was then found dead at a garbage dump is also an example of the careless handling of information on the Internet. On Easter weekend, a video made by a Serb living in Vienna appeared on Serbian online portals, showing two Romanian-speaking women with a girl on Schottenring. The man had stated that this could be the missing person. Because the relatives also recognized the missing person, the Vienna police launched a public search. A short time later, it turned out that the child was not the missing girl.

Mayer is critical of the involvement of the public in missing persons cases, especially when it comes to children and young people. “Before publishing on Facebook, I always point out to relatives that really unpleasant, even hurtful feedback can appear in the comments. You can’t predict how such publications will develop,” says Mayer. Relatives are often exposed to massive hate online after publishing on social media. The expert is also concerned about the increasing AI trend. “If the face of a missing person then appears somewhere using a deepfake, it will be difficult for us to refute it,” says Mayer.

75 percent of all missing people are minors

According to the Federal Criminal Police Office, 75 percent of all missing people are minors. As of May 1, 2024, 1,015 children and young people were reported missing in Austria. They often come from care facilities, crisis centers or shared apartments, says Mayer. “Very often it is the same minors. We have cases where they have gone missing hundreds of times.”

85 percent of missing people turn up again within a week, 95 percent within a month and 98 percent within a year. In 65 to 70 percent of cases, the missing people return of their own accord and in around 20 to 25 percent of cases the police find them. Around 100 missing people are found dead each year. Of all the cases reported within a year, five to ten remain unsolved.

  • The police appeal for immediate reporting of missing persons. The KAP at the Federal Criminal Police Office will answer any questions you may have: +43 (0)1 24 836-985025, [email protected].
  • Relatives of missing children and young people can receive psychological support, among other things, from the 116000 hotline for missing children.
  • The association “Austria finds you” also offers psychological and legal advice at [email protected].

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