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Officials release findings of 3 year study of Montana missing persons cases

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Posted at 10:46 AM, May 05, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-05 13:03:26-04

The Montana Department of Justice released findings Tuesday from an analysis of three years of state data on missing persons.

The Montana Department of Justice looked missing person cases between 2017 and 2019. According to the report, nearly 81 percent of individuals who went missing during the period studied were under the age of 18.

They also discovered that there was a strong correlation between juveniles who were reported missing and also listed in the state's Child and Family Services system.

Other key observations include:

  • Women only slightly outnumbered men in missing person cases. In one year men even outnumbered women.
  • A county's size didn't necessarily mean it had more cases per capita. Missoula and Gallatin were lower than other counties with large populations (Yellowstone, Lewis and Clark, Flathead), and Big Horn County had nearly double (per capita) the number of missing persons than the next highest county.
  • Most missing persons reports involve people who have gone missing more than once. Roughly 60 percent of reports in Montana’s missing persons clearinghouse pertain to 28 percent of the unique individuals.
  • Most people reported as missing are found. Of the 3,277 individuals entered in the system between 2017 and 2019, 97.7 percent were located/recovered.

The data was released ahead of a Thursday presentation before the State-Tribal Relations Interim Committee. According to the Montana Department of Justice, the data analysis is part of a multi-phase project.

Tuesday is also the National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Native Women and the birthday of Hanna Harris. Harris was found murdered on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation in 2013.

Hanna's Act, a law passed by the 2019 Montana Legislature, is named after her. The law created a special position in the Montana Department of Justice to investigate all missing persons cases in the state.