Missing person reports contain fingerprints

Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA)

Since it was founded in 1951, the Federal Criminal Police Office has dealt with the processing of missing persons cases as the central criminal police agency for the Federal Republic of Germany.

The tasks of the "missing persons office" of the BKA are

  • the search for missing people
  • the identification of unknown corpses and
  • unknown helpless people.

The processing of these three fields of work is summarized because missing persons can be found in a helpless position or the identification of an initially unknown corpse is possible based on a missing person report.

When is a person considered missing from the police point of view?

If a person stays away from their usual place of residence for inexplicable reasons, relatives or acquaintances usually report them to the police as missing.

The police will initiate a missing person search, if

  • a person has left their usual circle of life,
  • her current whereabouts are unknown and
  • a danger to life or limb (e.g. victim of a crime, accident, helplessness, suicide) can be assumed.


Adultswho are in full possession of their mental and physical strength have the right to freely choose their whereabouts, even without informing relatives or friends. It is therefore not the task of the police to conduct a whereabouts investigation if the danger to life or limb described above does not exist.

If such a danger situation exists, the search for missing adults is usually carried out initially with the aim of "determining the whereabouts". If the whereabouts of the missing person is determined, the person is asked whether he or she agrees that his or her whereabouts are disclosed to the relatives. The relatives / acquaintances are informed according to the wishes of the missing person (with or without disclosure of the whereabouts). Provided the person is well, they have not been the victim of a criminal act and they have not committed any criminal acts, the case for the police is settled with the determination of the whereabouts.


People up to 18 years of age (minors) are not allowed to determine their whereabouts themselves. They are generally assumed to pose a risk to life or limb. You are already considered missing by the police when you have left your familiar circle and your whereabouts are unknown.
If the police encounter missing minors, they are taken into state custody (e.g. in a youth facility) until the missing person can be returned to the custodian. This police measure should not be confused with an arrest, it is carried out to protect the minor.


What do the police do about missing persons?

Responsibilities of the local police station

The immediate person search

The statements made by the reporter serve as a basis for the police to assess the overall situation.

So it can be especially with immediate Danger to life or limb of the missing person (e.g. suicide threat) or in the case of missing children, immediately after receipt of the missing person report - sometimes large-scale - Search measures initiate.

In order to be able to carry out a large-scale search, the staff of the local police are very often insufficient. Therefore, all available forces are usually drawn from the Hundreds of riot police and if necessary also the hundreds of other federal states or the Federal Police alarmed. The local emergency services (Red Cross, fire brigade, THW) have the necessary local knowledge and are therefore also indispensable.

The use of Search dogs, helicopters with thermal imaging cameras or further technical equipment is also conceivable in poorly accessible terrain or during the night.

In principle, the police station in whose area the missing person was domiciled or last stayed is responsible for processing a missing person's matter and for collecting identification material.

Wanted alert in the INPOL police information system

The personal details of missing persons are recorded in the "Information System of the Police" (INPOL) and thus advertised for "wanted". All German police stations have access to this system. If the person is checked in the course of a police check, it can be determined that they are missing and which police station is processing the matter.

Responsibilities of the Federal Criminal Police Office (Interpol Wiesbaden / SIRENE Germany)

Domestic cases

If a person is reported missing in Germany, processing is carried out by the local police station. If there are indications that the person could be abroad or even at a certain location abroad, a Request for a search via the Federal Criminal Police Office to the Interpol or SIRENE offices these countries addressed.

In justified exceptional cases, the "Missing Persons Office" of the Federal Criminal Police Office initiates a worldwide search for missing persons at the request of a domestic police station, so that all Interpol member countries are informed of this missing person case.

For searches within the Schengen signatory states, a computer-aided recording and query system for people (and property searches), the second generation Schengen Information System (SIS II), is available.

The BKA forwards the investigation results from abroad to the requesting police station.

Requests from abroad

In Germany, the BKA is the national central office of the International Criminal Police Organization "IKPO", better known as "Interpol". SIRENE Germany, which is responsible for foreign requests from Schengen states, is also located at the BKA.

In the case of search requests from foreign states, the BKA is the responsible German police station. All search measures, such as checking for traces or indications of the possible whereabouts of a missing person in Germany, are initiated and coordinated by the BKA.

The result of the checks will be sent to the foreign Interpol respectively in the same way. SIRENE agency passed on.

If the first checks in Germany are negative, the person will be listed in INPOL as "missing". Further processing in Germany lies with the BKA.

Missing Germans / foreigners abroad with their first place of residence in Germany

German nationals who live abroad or are staying there as tourists or foreigners with their first place of residence in Germany can be reported missing abroad. In these cases, the Federal Criminal Police Office will be informed via the respective German diplomatic mission (embassy or consulate) or the country's Interpol or SIRENE office. The Missing persons office of the Federal Criminal Police Office or SIRENE Germany will inform the German police station responsible for the place of residence of this missing person and ask for appropriate checks.

If the missing person returns home or if their whereabouts are known, the foreign Interpol or SIRENE service will be informed. The search for missing persons is canceled.

If the whereabouts of the missing person cannot be determined, further processing is carried out by the responsible German police station. It raises, inter alia.Identification material (Photos, fingerprints, tooth diagram) of the missing person and makes this available to the requesting agency abroad via the State Criminal Police Office and the BKA.

If necessary, other states are included in the search for the missing person by the Federal Criminal Police Office.

File for missing, unknown dead and unknown helpless ("Vermi / Utot")

By entering the data of a missing person in INPOL, they are automatically included in the "Vermi / Utot" file. This file contains the data of all reported in Germany

  • current missing persons cases,
  • Cases of unknown deaths,
  • Cases of unidentified helpless people as well
  • the foreign cases reported to the BKA.

The missing persons offices of the BKA and the 16 state criminal police offices have access to the database, which was put into operation in 1992.

The aim of this file is to use a computer-aided comparison To recognize connections between missing persons and unknown corpses or unidentified helpless persons through the description of the person and the circumstances of the case.

If, during a search in the "Vermi / Utot" file, it is found that an unknown corpse / unidentified, helpless person could be identical to a missing person, the departments involved are informed. You carry out a direct comparison of the description features of the respective counterpart.

If the existing features are insufficient for unequivocal identification, a DNA comparison is carried out. If the identity of a missing person with an unknown corpse / unidentified helpless person is proven, the relatives are notified. All affected data will be deleted from the file. The file basically only contains current cases.


How many people are missing in Germany?

On March 1st, 2021, a total of 8,044 cases of missing persons in Germany were registered in "INPOL". This number includes both cases of missing persons who are cleared up within a few days, as well as those who have been missing over many years / decades whose whereabouts / whereabouts could not be determined.

Around 200 to 300 searches are recorded every day, and around the same number is deleted due to completion.

Experience has shown that around 50% of missing persons cases are resolved within the first week. Within a month, the "completion rate" is already over 80%. The proportion of people who have been missing for more than a year is only around 3%.

More than two thirds of all missing persons are male. Around half of all missing are children and young people. There are various reasons for their disappearance (problems at school or with their parents, lovesickness, etc.).

If a missing person's case is not cleared up, the search will continue until further notice.

The figures listed in the following sections were collected on January 1st of the respective year.

For the first time with the number of cases for 2020, the survey is based on the missing persons registered in the police information system "INPOL". In previous years, the evaluation was carried out on the basis of the “Vermi / Utot” database, in which only the cases of people who were missing for more than four hours were taken into account.
This means that from now on, all missing person searches carried out by the German police, regardless of their duration, will be expelled. On this database, the number of missing persons can be shown retrospectively from 2018.

The following must be observed in connection with the evaluation of statistical figures on missing persons:
The numbers are subject to fluctuations. They can vary on a daily basis, as searches are done again in the meantime, or search content is updated.
Therefore, the figures listed can only be used as a snapshot. They can change depending on the time of the query.

Missing children (up to and including 13 years of age)

All Minors are considered missing if they have left their usual circle of life and their whereabouts are unknown (to the custodian). As long as the investigation does not reveal otherwise, will As a precaution, assumed a danger to the life or physical integrity of the person concerned.

The topic of "missing children" is very important to the German public. The intensive media coverage of current individual cases suggests a high risk potential for all children.

This sometimes gives the impression that

  • the number of children not found again or cases that have not been clarified is dramatically high,
  • a significant number of missing and not found children are victims of so-called child pornography rings and
  • the police are not doing enough to stop it.

However, the figures registered in the police databases show a different picture:

In 2018, a total of 15,550 children were registered as missing in "INPOL". In the course of the year 15,009 cases were cleared up, which corresponds to a clearing rate of almost 96.5%. The as yet unresolved cases also include cases of child abduction and cases of so-called unaccompanied refugee children who have left their accommodation facilities. Also included are cases of permanent outliers / strays (children who repeatedly run away or disappear from their familiar living environment).

In the course of 2019, a total of 18,125 children were missing in Germany, of which 17,622 cases were cleared up. This corresponds to a clearance rate of around 97.2%.

Of the 14,614 children missing in 2020, 14,223 (97.3%) were found again.

On March 16, 2020, a total of 1,621 unexplained cases of missing children were recorded in the "Vermi / Utot" file in Germany - calculated from the earliest registered missing date on March 3, 1951 to the present day. More than half of these children are unaccompanied refugees (see separate section), belong to the so-called permanent runaways / strays or have been withdrawn from their custodians.

Parents' disputes about exercising custody, especially if the parents come from different cultures, are the trigger for child abduction. The cases of child abduction reported to the police are recorded as "missing persons" as long as a danger to the children in the police sense cannot be ruled out. As a rule, however, in these cases there is no danger for the children, since they are in the care of an adult with whom they have a close bond during their "absence".

In the case of the remaining number of missing children, it is to be feared that they have been the victims of a crime or an accident, are in a helpless situation or are no longer alive.

Overall, it can be said that although many children are reported missing every day, the proportion of children whose whereabouts cannot be clarified even after a long period of time is very low.

Missing youths (14-17 years)

In 2018, 87,328 young people were registered as missing. In the course of the year, 84,918 cases were cleared up, which corresponds to a clearing rate of 97.4%.

The following picture emerges for the following years:

  • 2019: a total of 84,330 missing, of which 82,155 were found again (clearance rate 97.4%)
  • 2020: a total of 73,701 missing, 72,159 of which were found again (clearance rate 97.9%)

Unaccompanied minor refugees (up to and including 17 years of age)

Numbers on missing unaccompanied underage refugees (UMF) can only be collected via the "Vermi / Utot" file, since only here the data records are labeled with the keyword "unaccompanied underage refugees". The currently published data was collected on March 16, 2021.

The phenomenon of unaccompanied minor refugees (UMF) is an issue that also concerns the German police. This has been particularly true since autumn 2015, when a large wave of refugees hit Germany. Overall, the situation has calmed down considerably. This is also clearly reflected in the number of cases over the past few years.

While the number of missing UMFs in 2016 was around 9,700, in 2018, according to "Vermi / Utot", only 3,990 UMFs were registered as missing. In the meantime, the whereabouts of 3,889 cases and thus around 97.5% have been determined and the search has been deleted.

Of the 2,308 cases of UMFs registered as missing in the course of 2019, 90.2% (2,082 cases) have already been clarified.

In 2020, only 1,508 missing UMFs were registered, of which 1,111 had already been found. This corresponds to a completion rate of 73.7%.

Last year, the number of missing UMFs made up a total of 1.5% based on the total number of all missing persons registered in Germany in the “Vermi / Utot” (100,421).

In this category of missing persons, the vast majority of missing persons are young (94.2%). The male UMF missing dominate with a share of approx. 86.1% compared to the female UMF missing.

Afghans, followed by Moroccans, Algerians, Syrians and Somalis, should be mentioned first and foremost among the nationalities concerned.

The reasons for the decline are the ongoing closure of the Balkan route and the successful implementation of support concepts and integration measures.

Special note on the number of unaccompanied minor refugees missing:

Due to various problems, such as multiple entries due to different spellings of a name, missing personal papers or a lack of identification service treatment, it is not possible to precisely ascertain the actually missing UMF. The figures given can therefore only be used as an approximation.

For these reasons, it will not be possible to make a reliable statement about this group of people in the future either.


Search for relatives or acquaintances

The federal and state police are often asked by private individuals to help out when looking for relatives, such as B. to support (grand) parents, siblings or former (school) friends.

However, the police are only able to help and initiate measures if the missing person criteria are met. Often the required missing person status is lacking, in particular because there is no danger to life or limb of the person sought.

In such cases, it is not uncommon for those sought to consciously withdraw from their circle of relatives and / or acquaintances without leaving any contact.

Here the police can only refer to other institutions (e.g. tracing services).