Thanks to the film and television fiction we all know that when a vehicle has an accident, it will explode in a thousand pieces. But only when the protagonist has gone far enough. Fiction has also taught us to address our superiors “with all due respect.” Also that the different law enforcement agencies they get along badly with each other. And what the bad guys have poor shooting and that the good guys are so fast that they can dodge a bullet.

For various reasons, the things we see in a movie or television series differ from reality. Sometimes, they serve as a reference and help us learn or get an idea of ​​something, but they are not always a good reference and can make misconceptions remain in popular culture, such as the explosion noise in space or a myth that remains in our day, that of wait 24 or 48 hours before reporting a disappearance.

You will have heard that phrase in virtually any series or movie, usually American, whether old or recent. There are a handful of examples, and the scene is usually identical. A family member of a missing person telephones the police or goes directly to their nearest police station. The officer in charge usually ask when was the last time who saw the missing person. And in most cases, it usually tells you that even after 24 or 48 hours you can do nothing. According to the argument of the story, that official can decorate that phrase indicating that it will already appear, that it does not matter or that he is saturated with work and cannot dedicate himself to that specific disappearance.

The myth of the 24 hours in disappearances is so internalized in popular culture and by Hollywood screenwriters who focused series such as Without a trace, Without a trace in Spain, which was precisely a division of the FBI dedicated to disappearances. to get started there is no such divisionAlthough the FBI is dedicated to that task in specific situations and in collaboration with local authorities. As well. His synopsis goes like this: “Using the vast resources of his office, the team, led by Agent Jack Malone, runs against time in the narrow window 72 hours later of a disappearance ”.

Common sense

There is a popular saying that goes something like a lie repeated a thousand times it becomes true. This phrase applies very well to this frequent error in fiction. And is that, if we stop to think about it, what is the point of waiting 24 or 48 hours? If someone is lost or kidnapped, waiting that long is more of a problem than a solution.

It is clear that for the plot of a series or movie to take its course, sometimes you have to twist reality. A film about a courageous father or mother would not be such if the police solved the case within ten minutes of footage.

In Spain, the Civil Guard He posted a post three years ago on his official Facebook channel debunking this 24-hour myth. The reality is that when someone disappears, you must denounce it the sooner the better. As much work as the security forces of your city or country have, common sense tells us that the sooner you report a crime, the sooner it will be solved. Or as it says another topic of police fiction, “You have to follow the tracks while they are fresh”.

Of course. It must be made clear that a disappearance cannot be reported as well. Reporting a disappearance of someone who went out to buy an hour ago is curious to say the least. But when someone is unreachable When he was always available, he is not in any of the places he usually frequents and nobody he has seen has seen him in his daily routine, it is time to worry. I mean, there is a lot of difference between 8 or 10 hours that you may need to realize that someone you know has disappeared and that 24 to 48 hours.

Fortunately, not all fiction makes this mistake. Outside of Hollywood, in the English miniseries A Confession, starring the popular actor Martin Freeman, the disappearance from which the story begins occurs within a few hours, when his family and partner realize that they do not know where he is. The police themselves start their search as soon as it is notified of disappearance.

On the other hand, the documentary genre has contributed to cornering this myth, since documentaries about disappearances or crimes, being based on real events, do not usually fall into this plot trap 24 or 48 hour wait.

The question is, how did this myth start? Is it something common in the United States and does not occur in other countries?

It will be a USA thing

Fast answer. No. In Spain it is recommended to report a disappearance as soon as possible, as long as we are sure that it is a disappearance. But in other countries the same thing happens.

We could think that waiting 24 to 48 hours before reporting a disappearance is something that belongs to those who live in the United States. Hence this myth is reproduced in American fiction.

As well. The well-known New York police, known for their NYPD and who has constant appearances in series and movies, explains on their website how they are dedicated to solving cases of disappearances.

And among other things, they say, “Call 911. No reason to wait 24 hours. ” “There is a common myth among the public that you have to wait 24 hours before reporting someone’s disappearance, but it is not.” Furthermore, they point out that “you waste valuable time during those 24 hours ”.

The funny thing is that if we travel from New York City to the state of Michigan, we find something a little different. The Michigan State Police, on its website, gives some guidelines on what to do if someone you know has disappeared. Among the first tips is the contact friends and family. All good so far. But one of the councils notes that “depending on the policy of the police department, you may be asked to wait between 24 and 72 hours before considering your complaint. “

The only exception, “missing minors or people suspected of being victims of foul play.” As it is. It also adds to this 24-hour exception “vulnerable people”, that is, those under 18, over 65, with physical or mental illnesses, depressed or suicidal tendencies or in which disappearance is somewhat out of the ordinary.

It is contradictory. In some cases, recommends reporting as soon as possible. Furthermore, he stresses that “it is never too soon” to report. But in others, it will depend on the police who treat you.

It is clear that an elderly person who needs to take medication every 12 hours is not the same as an independent adult whom you only see a few times a week. But if we take a look at the website of the city of Roseville, in the state of Michigan, the police department copies the indications shown on the State page as is but eliminates the mention at 24-72 hours. That is to say, that such mention seems something of the past.

The Australian federal police It also includes the question of whether to wait 24 hours before reporting. On his page titled Myths and facts, Myths and facts, he warns that it is better denounce as soon as possible if you have doubts about the security or situation of that person. In United Kingdom also fighting myth, and in Canada They also advise that there is no waiting period before reporting.

A practice expires

We can continue searching, but the result will be the same. On the official page of the State of California, in an article where he talks about missing persons, clearly says that “there is no waiting period before reporting someone’s disappearance ”.

We know, then, that today, the 24-hour myth is just that, a myth. The question is where this myth comes from. Maybe from the same place where the mothers learned that we couldn’t bathe Until waiting several hours after eating, we were not going to give a cut of digestion.

Things have changed a lot. A few decades ago, there were no mobile phones. A few decades ago, there was not even a landline phone in the houses, and to call you had to go to the neighbor’s house or to a public establishment. The same must have happened in the United States. Cinema and TV have told us, this time with success, that there are very unpopulated areas in which it is difficult to meet someone, something common in the first half of the last century, which surely contributed to spread this police practice. Today there is only a remnant in outdated manuals, but in those days it must have been frequent wait at least 24 hours to find out if the person had disappeared or not. There was no mobile phone to call.

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