With 586 active missing adult and 686 missing child cases in Missouri, Kansas City organizations are teaming up in an effort to search for them. September 30 through October 2, volunteers will conduct the fourth annual point-in-time search for missing persons in the Kansas City area, called Search KC.
The effort is led by Veronica’s Voice, a local group that empowers women to exit from, to prevent the entry into, and to end all demand for prostitution sex trafficking in the United States through survivor leadership.
Search KC aims to build and lead a powerful alliance with the local community, businesses, law enforcement and media to educate and raise awareness of the issue of missing persons, resulting in locating missing persons and connecting them with restorative services.
Despite a pandemic, Search KC will return for the fourth year. Supported by a team of experienced individuals operating the Search KC Command Center, volunteers will canvas the community, distribute booklets of missing persons posters and gather any information that could lead to the recovery of those individuals.
“This year we’re hoping that we’re still going to be able to do the live search,” Search KC Director Maureen Reintjes said. “If not we’ll do a virtual search, but we won’t make that determination until probably a weekend before.”
Volunteers will search assigned areas of the metro in small groups during four-hour shifts across three days. They pass out the booklets to businesses and other public areas, never homes.
As Reintjes puts together the books, she has included people from as far away as Topeka, Leavenworth and Liberty in addition to the Kansas City metro area.
“This can all change, I mean, obviously missing persons are found so we don’t print this booklet until about two weeks ahead of the search,” Reintjes said. “I do have some older cases in there but for the most part they’re back to about June.”
Although it’s the focus of partnering organization Veronica’s Voice to help women being sexually exploited, the volunteers don’t focus on a specific type of missing person.
“With missing persons there’s usually the unknown, but we do know that they may have left home – for whatever reason that may be, and that could be a billion different reasons,” Reintjes said. “We do know that the evil out there, the traffickers, usually come after them, usually get ahold of them pretty quickly so we don’t know for sure if everybody in the book has been trafficked.”
The planners and volunteers of Search KC have to play to those scenarios in case they have been, though. Because of this, they don’t share the locations their volunteers will be searching as a safety measure.
Local partners big and small are stepping up to assist with the search like Avenue of Life, Children’s Mercy Hospital, City Union Mission, Colonial Presbyterian Church, Concerned Citizens for Responsible Government, Johnson County Human Trafficking Coalition, Justice and Dignity Center, Kansas City Dream Center, Missouri Missing, Missouri Department of Social Services, Morris Nelson & Associates, P.O.S.S.E, Rended Heart, Restoration House of Greater Kansas, St. Luke’s Hospital, Synergy Services, Veronica’s Voice, Vineyard Church Stop Trafficking Ministry, and Wyandotte Pregnancy Clinic.
Their large community partners bring a lot of organizational power and expertise in crunching the numbers and mapping, which Reintjes said is a huge help. In her regular work, she’s used to the searches where one or two people are missing and she’s out there going through creeks and fields searching, where this is more outreach to the community.
Reintjes has been involved in every Search KC so far, and initially began searching for missing persons in 2005 when a loved one was missing. Since then, she’s received training from the Department of Justice, is Amber Alert trained, completed the academy at the National Missing and Unidentified Persons system where she is the volunteer victim advocate, and is the Executive Director of Missouri Missing.
“I live and breathe trying to help find missing persons and supporting the families,” Reintjes said. “Missing is missing, and every missing person deserves to be looked for.”
Even with COVID-19 spreading in Missouri, Reintjes said it’s crucial that they continue these searches for both the families and the missing persons.
“It gives them such an emotional boost to know that someone cares and is out there looking,” Reintjes said. “It can be a boost for a missing person who didn’t think anyone was looking for them, didn’t think anybody cared enough to look. That’s huge for them to see that a community comes together, cares.”
Search KC is looking for volunteers to sign up at their website, veronicasvoice.org/searchkc, for either an in-person or virtual search, which will be determined at a later date.