Missing-person cases often draw national attention, media alerts and raise local concerns.
But local authorities say that in 95 percent of such cases the people they are trying to find actually want to get away.
"The hardest thing for most people to understand ... it's not a crime to be missing," said Richmond County Sheriff's Investigator Paul Evans.
Still, police encourage the public to be vigilant in reporting such cases. It's best to start looking sooner rather than later, Investigator Evans said. Don't hesitate to notify authorities if you think something is wrong,
"The whole 24-hours-before-reporting-someone-is-missing thing is a myth," he said.
People are encouraged to file an incident report with a deputy so the missing person can be added to the National Crime Information Center database and a similar system for the state, he said.
If someone doesn't want to be found, the sheriff's office can't tell friends or family the person's whereabouts. Authorities can only tell the person who filed the report that the individual has been located, Investigator Evans said.
In Columbia County, Sheriff's Capt. Steve Morris said all of the 47 missing-person cases reported this year are closed.
In Aiken County, the sheriff's office Web site shows two unsolved cases.
And in Richmond County, missing-person reports have actually dropped this year. Deputies logged 756 reports in the first nine months of 2008 -- 58 fewer than the first nine months of 2007. Investigator Evans said there are fewer than 12 unsolved cases.
"I try to tell all people that all missing persons are important to me," he said.
Which is why they still haven't closed the file on Sadie Edney. Ms. Edney, an Alzheimer's patient, walked away from a personal care home on Clanton Road in south Richmond County on May 11, 1992, when she was 86.
"We have never located her," said Investigator Evans, adding that it's not known whether any of her family members still live in the Augusta area. Plus, she would be 102 years old today.
"You come to a stop at some point on some cases," he said.
Reach Preston Sparks at (706) 823-3338 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
MISSING PERSON REPORT
To report a person missing, you will need:
- The person's full name and Social Security number
- Details on where and when the person was last seen
- Details on the vehicle the person might have last used
- Any known travel plans
- Last one to see the person
- Person's physical description
Columbia: (706) 541-2800
Richmond: (706) 821-1080
Aiken: (800) 922-9709
Source: Columbia County Sheriff's Office