Investigators are often asked to conduct subject locates. The usual paper trail: telephone records, address histories, voter registrations, professional licenses, civil and criminal court filings, Department of Motor Vehicle records, credit reporting agency records, Social Security data, etc., will, in a majority of cases, return with the subject’s current and valid contact information. But what do you do if the subject is simply not in the mainstream – for whatever reason: joblessness, homelessness or “on the run”? What then?
The success of a subject locate depends on several factors including the information provided to the investigator and the investigator’s own skills and tenacity.
We’ve put together a checklist for locating transient witnesses that has generally returned successful locates:
1. Check the name and SSN versus death records. (Don’t assume the subject is alive but definitely rule out that he isn’t.)
2. Scour social media for leads. (We all know the drill at this point: Facebook, Instagram, etc.)
3. Interview family and friends. (Remember to request the date of last known contact.)
4 . Upon developing a location start off point, check with local and adjoining police departments. Electronically, check VineLink.com. (In their own words: VINELink is the online version of VINE (Victim Information and Notification Everyday), the National Victim Notification Network. This service allows crime victims to obtain timely and reliable information about criminal cases and the custody status of offenders 24 hours a day.)
5. Check with area hospitals and morgues.
6. Contact the local Salvation Army center and other charity organizations in the area.
7. If you are aware of the subject’s hobbies, (e.g., wine-tasting), scour the social groups, such as Meet-Up, for meeting events. (We’ve backed up into subjects by identifying a particular interest and then contacting group members.)
8. Identify and canvass, if applicable, local day worker locations and restaurant, bars and clubs – especially seasonal venues.
9. Recon area bus and train stations.
and finally, go the digital milkbox route:
10. Post a YouTube video, or Instagram picture of the subject, if family and or friends can provide reasonable current photos of the subject. Add as many tags as you can to increase the chances of good hits.
Most importantly, though, when a case first enters a law firm, as much personal information , i.e., contact and emergency contact info should be obtained as possible. Our experience bears out that in the vast majority of situations, someone “disappearing into thin air” is just a myth.
BNI Operatives: Situationally aware.
As always, be safe.