1. jesscatlady
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    jesscatlady New Member

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    missing person/suspected murder/law enforcement activity?

    Discussion in 'Research' started by jesscatlady, Feb 27, 2015.

    Hello!

    I have no knowledge of legal things, so that's why I am here :)

    My MC is in NY state, but lives in PA. While in NY, he abducts a teenager and later murders them. The MC doesn't return home to house house in PA. The MCs daughter expects him to be back home at the end of the weekend, so she does not expect anything strange while he is away.

    How long would it take for law enforcement to pick up on this? Also, what would happen after they believe there is a missing person or suspected murder case?

    I am imagining a timeline something like this:

    Abduction happens Friday night.
    Teenage victim's family reports him missing by Saturday night.
    Local NY police begin scanning security tapes and see MC's car and search his license plate info.
    (No footage of him actually abducting the teenager.. but MC is now a suspect)
    Local NY police inform PA police of the situation.
    PA police go to MC's house to bring him in for questioning, but he is not there.
    PA police inform MC's daughter that a detective will be coming by the next morning to investigate their house.

    Does this sound logical and realistic?

    Thank you!!!
     
  2. stevesh
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    stevesh Banned Contributor

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    Seems reasonable to me, once you've filled in the details (what security tapes were scanned, and why does his presence make him a suspect, among others). Be sure to have the detective arrive with a search warrant.
     
  3. Jack Asher
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    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

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    Hmmm. I'm not sure if the county they're in has a search and rescue. Oh wait, I can internet. Yes, all of New York has.

    SAR gets called in pretty frequently even for urban searches (which I have less experience with), so it's going to be them doing the searching, not the police. Once they get the call they'll get between 10-20 volunteers to spiral out and start looking. That thing about needing to be missing for 48 hours before a search is complete bullshit, there's absolutely no time frame. Your child can walk out the door and you can make an SAR call a minute later.

    There would be no looking at security tapes unless SAR had reason to believe that a subject was in a specific area. When we work we have somewhere around infinity options on where a person might be. That's very difficult to narrow down to a location that happens to have camera's.

    If SAR had very good reason to believe that the victim was in a certain area they would then have to call the police (or more likely an officer was also on the team as a private citizen volunteer). The police then usually have to subpoena the video evidence.

    Then there's about 1-3 weeks of going through the video record, which SAR brass (not the volunteers) might have to do. Sometimes the police take it all over, but if that happens is likely 1-3 months instead. And unless the cameras are super high def, there's basically a snowballs chance in hell of getting a license plate number. The most that the SAR could get is maybe the make and color, and that's it.

    I'm not sure why the police thing your main character should be a suspect now, either. The camera would exist in a high traffic area, there aren't usually any reasons to train your cameras in an empty field. So your main character is probably one of hundreds who drove past that spot.
     
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  4. jesscatlady
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    jesscatlady New Member

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    Thanks for the info! This stuff is foreign to me so it really helps.

    What I planned to do was to have my MC follow the teen to a convenience store and have the video of him acting like he was "stalking" the teenager... and then maybe grabbing him (or something). I want it to be significant enough to get the police involved and looking for my MC right away (crucial to the plot).
     
  5. Catrin Lewis
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    Catrin Lewis Contributing Member Contributor

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    Could you have a clerk or a customer notice something?

    But that would probably mean a member of the teenager's family knowing he was going there, and heading there him or herself and questioning the clerk, then informing the police. Could happen.
     
  6. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    Given the time-lag that Jack Asher suggested, it's more than likely that the convenience store would have recorded over the tape in question within a couple of weeks. They only keep video records so that any theft from their premises might be detectable - once they've opened up in the morning and found nothing missing, they've got no reason to keep the tape, so they'd tend to have one tape in the machine, and last night's ready to use again tomorrow.
    Besides which, how does anybody know the teen was at the convenience store?
    You'd do better having somebody notice the out-of-town plates. Or maybe a statue of a charging bull (or whatever) on the hood.
     
  7. jesscatlady
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    jesscatlady New Member

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    Good point about the video tapes. See, I wouldn't have known something like that, so thank you again for helping me :) (On a side note, I love your username, Shadowfax!)

    I like the idea of the teen's family member going to the store to look for him and questioning the clerk. I'm imagining now how the clerk could respond: "Oh yeah, he got in a car with a man with PA license plates..." Or would it need to be more suspicious, such as "This man came and forced him in to his car. He had PA license plates. I already called the police..." ?
     
  8. Jack Asher
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    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

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    Oh, no, sorry.
    Most security companies use the equivalent of a DVR, with various levels of recording time. This can be adjusted to whatever the convenience store needs. To be honest I don't really know how long is standard for a gas station to keep the recording. At the very least it would be two days. I wouldn't guess longer then two weeks.

    Because of use for the recording as shop lifting info, there's good reason to keep the "tapes" for at least that long. Most shoplifters will hit the same store over and over again, so having some kind of record of how they came in, when they took stuff, and what they took.

    The thing is that those recordings are almost never looked at unless something goes wrong, and that usually takes between 48 hours and a week to track down.
     
  9. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    Thanks!

    But why would the family go to the convenience store? Does the teen hang out there a lot? Do they even know where he hangs out? Depending on age, he'll probably be secretive about where he and his mates hang out. Would he actually hang out in a convenience store? Our local convenience store usually has a dozen or more teens hanging around outside...because that's where security keeps them, out of the store itself. If anything, he'd be somebody the store suspects of shop-lifting! If they've just gone looking because he's late home, would they think to take a photo? And staff at the store won't have noticed him unless there's something noticeable (Mohawk haircut, anyone?) and here you're getting into coincidence territory. Joe Average could get abducted and nobody would notice. I'd reckon that Joe Average Teenager could get dragged kicking and screaming into a car by Joe Average Adult with Jill Passerby nodding "Kids nowadays...tut!"

    Thinking about the out-of-town plates...I don't know how obvious things are in the States, but over here we changed the system a few years ago, and I (bit of a nerd) only have a vague idea whether the new system plates are local or not. Hell, we have so many transients in the UK that I might not even notice if a car's on Bulgarian, Polish or Lithuanian plates! As I say, don't know how noticeable things like that are Stateside
     
  10. Catrin Lewis
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    Catrin Lewis Contributing Member Contributor

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    Believe it or not, there are parents who know where their kids hang out, and adults who don't assume all teenagers are potential criminals.

    Maybe the clerk could be someone who knows the kid casually. He graduated from the same high school, but a few years before. Maybe the perp bought something he needed to show his license for a few minutes before he nabbed the kid-- the clerk might notice it's a PA license without remembering the man's name. Maybe the perp had bad breath or a weird tattoo or something else memorable. Maybe the clerk saw him getting into the kid's personal space, but didn't think anything of it until the parents show up to say he's missing.

    @jesscatlady still has a lot of viable possibilities.
     
  11. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    [/QUOTE="Catrin Lewis, post: 1313680, member: 64336"]Believe it or not, there are parents who know where their kids hang out, and adults who don't assume all teenagers are potential criminals.[/QUOTE]
    I do believe that there are some of both. However, the teens who go to convenience stores, other than to get some groceries and then get back home? In which case, the parents would have blown the whistle much earlier, like when the teen wasn't back in half-an-hour.
    Graduated a few years before? Unless those "few years" mean that our teen was in first year when the clerk was in his last? In which case, why would our 6th-former clerk remember a first-year?

    I agree about the perp needing SOMETHING to make him memorable. As far as showing his licence, why would he need to do that? I don't know about local laws - which is why I'm asking - but somebody from NY would, and would call foul if the writer invents a law in justification.

    I agree, there are still possibilities. All I'm trying to do is highlight what would strike me as implausible, so that they can be dealt with - even if it's by ignoring me!
     
  12. Catrin Lewis
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    Catrin Lewis Contributing Member Contributor

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    @jesscatlady would have to say if any of this fits in with how she's conceived the situation and the characters, so keep in mind that all this is hypothetical. That said . . .
    it's perfectly possible that a kid could have plans to spend the night at a friend's (maybe working on a project for school-- victims do have lives, after all), and plan to drop by the convenience store for snacks on the way. The parents trust their kid, his friend, and his friend's parents, and they wouldn't expect him home till after school the next day. There'd be a question of how he got there-- is there a car sitting for hours in the store pull-up lot or a bike still leaning against the wall?-- but that can be solved and might provide another clue.

    I think your concept of "a few" is a lot bigger than mine. A lot of convenience store clerks are fairly young, and he could be no more than three or four years older (but the OP, if she likes this idea, would have to check minimum ages for working convenience stores, because-- see below). Or know the kid because he hangs out with his own kid brother. Or just know him from the neighborhood, to say Hi to. (

    Over here, most states have laws that all people buying cigarettes MUST be carded. A lot of clerks don't bother if the buyer is obviously over 21, but given how severe the penalties (including loss of a store's tobacco license) are for selling cigarettes to minors, many store owners tell their clerks to demand a picture ID with the bearer's birth date on it (usually a driver's license) regardless of old the buyer looks, on pain of getting fired.

    No problem!
     
  13. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    Good points.


    I'm thinking of our local convenience store (open from I don't know when to 10pm) where the evening staff tend to be middle-aged women, with a middle-aged male security guard. Although there's probably a couple of late teens/early twenties lads re-stocking the shelves.


    I don't know about cigarettes, but I know that over here booze needs to be age-proved unless you're clearly old enough (and that's over 25).
     
  14. Crick
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    Crick Member

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    I would suggest avoiding police shows and movies as inspiration. They get so much wrong concerning law enforcement that it's hilarious. But maybe you already know that. Not that I'm an expert or anything. I can only imagine the sort of mistakes one would find in my story were I to write something like this.

    I would suggest actually going to your local police station (if this is possible) and seeing if you can ask a police officer a couple of questions. I know the police around here on a first name basis (not because I'm a criminal, I swear!) and I imagine that they would be rather receptive to someone genuinely interested in their standard procedure. Now I'm not sure where you live and so procedures are going to change from place to place such as from NY to PA to wherever it is that you live.

    If there is a bookstore near you, I would also suggest going there and seeing if you can find a simple book on police procedures. Maybe one of those For Dummies... books. I love those things. They're well organized for the messy writer.

    But from what little I know about the subject, a lot of the advice you've already received seems to have hit the nail on the head.

    Good luck!
     
  15. cutecat22
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    cutecat22 The Strange One Contributor

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    Hi @jesscatlady

    Look up information on the Amber Alert system for that area. I know that an amber alert won't actually be implemented until the police know that the person missing has actually been abducted and is in danger and also, the alert only relates to children, I'm not sure how young (or old) your teenager is.

    But if you look at it from all sides/possibilities, you will find your answer.
     
  16. bossfearless
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    bossfearless Active Member

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    Just seeing his car in the area without any footage to suggest he actually took the teenager wouldn't make him a suspect. Suspect is a word used for someone the cops believe is guilty. His presence in the area would only be enough for them to go knock on his doorand ask him "Hey, were you the one driving this car and did you see anything that night?"
     

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