Internal police tactics on the way the South Yorkshire force deals with missing people have been reviewed in an attempt to both help protect the vulnerable and make savings on police resources.
Many people who are reported missing are either children or those with mental health issues, which means they are vulnerable and a priority for police, but searches to track down those involved are enormous.
So senior officers have taken another look at the way they handle repeat cases, either the geographical locations where people are reported missing or the individuals themselves, involving the recently created neighbourhood policing teams in the work.
Early results suggest they are meeting with success as numbers were beginning to fall in the last few months of last year, with 122 repeat individuals reported missing in October, falling by a quarter to 91 by December.
In October half the missing person cases dealt with by officers were repeats, but by December that proportion was also down, to 39 per cent.
Chief Constable Stephen Watson said: “Missing people take a lot of time for our people to deal with. There is a real focus on repeats. Repeat individuals and repeat locations,” he said.
Work by neighbourhood officers was beginning to take an effect on what had previously been “intractable problems”, he said.
“There has started to be a fall off in some of these repeat individuals. We are seeing some very pleasing signs in reducing that workload,” he said.
One issue police have to deal with is local authorities from other parts of the country using accommodation in the county for their looked after children.
As a result, police were now focusing on homes to identify those which were well run and those which were not.
A further advance is expected when new communications computer systems are up and running.
They will change the way call handlers see and record information from those contacting the force and will also allow them access to a greater spread of information about individuals who appear on police records, allowing them to provide a more complete picture to officers who will respond to the call for assistance.