Some high-profile missing persons cases have become a part of New York’s history: The disappearance of 6-year-old Etan Patz, who was last seen on his way to school one May morning in 1979 and became the first missing child to be featured on a milk carton. Avonte Oquendo, a 14-year-old boy with autism, whose 2013 disappearance was announced on every subway train until his remains were found months later.
But far more people go missing than news reports might indicate. Last year, more than 13,000 people were reported missing in New York City. While the majority of these people were found within the first few hours, others disappeared, leaving little trace of their whereabouts – and leaving behind family and friends who might never find out what happened to their loved ones.
Reporters from the NYCity News Service at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism set out to tell stories of the missing that don’t always get the media coverage they deserve – or, more importantly, the immediate and full attention of the NYPD.
In “The Missing,” our team combines data, video, audio, pictures and words to offer a big-picture view of the issue – including the growing role of social media in missing person cases and what critics call the NYPD’s flawed approach. The special report also packs sharp-focused pieces detailing the plight of LGBT children who flee unsupportive homes and the toll taken on families – like the loved ones of Brian Gewirtz, a 20-year-old man with autism whose disappearance spurred a massive, volunteer-driven search.