Police: False reports and misleading tips create confusion in missing persons cases

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MOLINE--When it comes to solving a missing persons case, Detective Mike Griffin, from the Moline Police Departments credits social media as a helpful tool.

But, he admits it can also make finding the truth difficult.

“You have people that have no good intentions. They just want to involve themselves, “ says Griffin.

A screen grab of the Iowa Department of Public Safety's Missing Person Information Clearing house webpage has stirred social media controversy. The post brought attention the number of missing persons in the state.

Officials from the Iowa Department of Public Safety say that the current number of missing persons in the state is not out of the ordinary, and in fact, is right in line with a typical year, however people on social media disagree.

Iowa Department of Public Safety:There is not a missing persons crisis in the state.

Moline Police tell WQAD News 8 that there’s been no spike in missing persons case in their area, but they have also noticed people raising false red flags.

For example, when David Harker went missing in 2013, Griffin recalled receiving a tip from a person who claimed David moved to Chicago and had gotten remarried. The person later claimed they were only dreaming.

“If you don’t know anything then don’t dream up something, don’t see something in a dream and then call us because it’s not true,” says Griffin.

David Harker’s father Dennis Harker, founder of the Quad Cities Missing Persons Network, says he’s also noticed people overreacting, and reporting false attempts of abduction.

“You can overreact a little bit as far as the white van following you around then anytime any one sees a white van it’s like oh my god are they after me,” says Dennis Harker.

Griffin says so far this year every missing persons report filed in Moline involved a person who voluntarily went missing.

“It’s a young person that went out on their own and didn’t return when they were supposed to, or an adult where a loved one has lost contact with family members voluntarily,” says Griffin.

For a more serious missing persons case, Griffin says a legitimate tip will have specific details about the case that may not be easily assessable to the public.

He says although most missing person cases this year have been solved within the first couple of days, he encourages everyone to report suspicious activity in their neighborhoods.

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