The Philadelphia police department has taken more than 4,500 missing-persons reports this year, 3,667 involving children. Latoyia Figueroa’s disappearance is the one most people are talking about, says the Philadelphia Inquirer. The search for the 24-year-old has become a national and local news event. Television and newspapers almost daily supply reports of searches and updates on the case. Officials say they have put this sort of attention into other missing-persons cases, regardless of whether the media and the public have noticed. “We try to handle all the missing-persons cases the same. There’s a protocol,” said Police Commissioner Sylvester M. Johnson. “A couple, the news just blow it up.”
Whether a missing person is endangered determines the level of police involvement. Said Inspector William Colarulo: “Latoyia Figueroa had no history of disappearing. She is five months pregnant, has a 7-year-old daughter, was gainfully employed, and went to that job. That’s not the type of person who disappears. That raises a red flag and would warrant immediate attention. But if we had a person who had marital problems, in debt, a history of disappearing, not gainfully employed, taking off days at a time, would we still take a report? Absolutely. But would it be given the same amount of attention as a person who fits the schematic as Latoyia Figueroa? The answer is no.” Nationwide, police departments have no mandate on how to handle adult missing persons, which leads to inconsistencies and creates difficulties, said Erin Bruno of the Phoenix-based National Center for Missing Adults.