The missing persons issue, especially regarding indigenous peoples, has received increased attention over the past several years. High-profile cases, social media, and low-level statistical analysis have all contributed to the heightened awareness.
Attorney General Tim Fox and his team at the Montana Department of Justice (MTDOJ) believe the data can be evaluated more thoroughly to help law enforcement agencies locate missing persons, inform policymakers to craft better solutions, and help communities prevent people from going missing in the first place.
The MTDOJ is uniquely positioned to access key lists and data sets, including the missing persons clearinghouse, records from the Department of Public Health and Human Services’ Child and Family Services Division (CFSD), autopsy reports from the state crime laboratory, and more.
For this project, the MTDOJ gathered and reviewed data from 2017-2019. The results were important and instructive for two key reasons.
First, the data confirms general beliefs or low-level statistical analysis on several fronts: indigenous persons are more than four times as likely to go missing as non-indigenous persons; and underreporting of these issues from tribal areas has been an issue for years (although it is showing signs of improvement).
Second, the data reveals new information that can be incredibly helpful in assisting law enforcement, policymakers, stakeholders, and Montana communities in addressing missing persons issues.