DPS Reveals Categorization Criteria in Missing Person Reports

DES MOINES, Iowa -- The Iowa Department of Public Safety isn't speculating why Mollie Tibbett's case is gaining national attention but it's feeling the pressure from all sides.

"We have had a lot of requests from not only the media but parents asking how they can keep their kids safe," says Medina Rahmanovic.

She heads the state's missing persons information clearing house database. Close to 400 Iowa are reported missing right now, the majority of them juvenile runway cases. Numbers are up about 30% over the last five years.  Officials attribute that to law enforcement reporting more runaway children but stress there is no "recent" spike of missing children.

Of those reported missing, only a small percentage get specialized attention from state investigators.  "Most of the missing person cases are handled at the local level and resolved at the local level. It is when a high-profile case like this comes up is when the DCI gets involved and that is by request," Rahmanovic says.

The Department of Criminal investigation assists with all Amber Alerts and is currently actively investigating the case of  Jake Wilson, an ausistic boy from La Porte City. In the past, the department has worked other high - profile case like abduction and kidnappings of a pair of Evansdale cousins and Dayton's Katheryn Shepard.

Local law enforcement agencies must request the state's assistance but before that they first must categorization the type of missing person's report. There are eight categories: involuntary, endangered, disability, catastrophe , familial kidnap, wandered away, juvenile and adult. For example, Jake Wilson is filed under the endangered category which officials classify as " a person of any age who is missing under circumstances indicating that his / her physical safety is in danger." More than three months ago, Wilson told his family he was going to walk along the creek but never returned. Studies show those suffering from autism are drawn towards water. However,  Tibbett's case does not fit into any of the categories.

"Her case really doesn`t meet any of the criteria of missing person possible entries. So were entering her as a missing adult because we can't find her," Rahmanovic says.

The missing persons database is public, in hopes those who view the site can help bring them home. The director of investigation operations for the DPS calling the investigation into missing person cases difficult and demanding.