Facebook Finds Missing Loved Ones - Valley News Live - KVLY/KXJB - Fargo/Grand Forks

Facebook Finds Missing Loved Ones

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An army is rising among us to give a voice for the tens of thousands of people across the country who aren't able to speak for themselves.
"This is all happening right in our backyard. We have to take a stand; we can't let this continue to happen," Aubrey Millar said of the cause she is most passionate.
The FBI says 87,000 people are currently missing in the United States, but that number is getting smaller each year as more families locate more loved ones.
The search no longer takes the 'boots on the ground' approach. It's not neighbors knocking on doors or pictures on milk cartons. These days, the battle to find missing persons is fought online.
Every day, 250 million people log into Facebook to sort through a feed of endless information.
"When it comes to issues of missing children, one of the most valuable resources we have is technology," Lieutenant Joel Vettel, of the Fargo Police Department said.
Every day, logging into a power that couldn't possibly be defined.
"You're just searching for anything you possibly can and reaching for anything that you can," Aubrey said. "I mean, it's a pain that you would never wish on anyone."
Aubrey Millar discovered that power last spring, when her uncle went missing. She said newspapers, television, and radio found nothing.
"We searched high and low to think of anything possible we could do to try and find him. There were just no resources out there to help us," she said.
It wasn't until she turned to a community of 500 million people, that the mystery of disappearance came to light. Her family found him deceased, but still searched for answers.
"I knew after that time of reaching and not finding the answers we needed as far as any attention, that I needed to do something to help these others who have missing loved ones to bring them home," Aubrey said.
Now, she hears the pleas of dozens more. Aubrey created and manages the Facebook page North Dakota Lost and Missing. She creates flyers, organizes search parties, and, perhaps most importantly, gives the missing a voice.
"Just knowing that there's someone out there who is willing to help, and knowing that there are others who are going to share your cause and share what you're doing to get that word out there, means more than anyone realizes."
The page is based out of Deering, North Dakota. About 120 miles away, Ann Larson posted a photo of her sixteen-year-old son, Izik, who had gone missing in August. As of our original broadcast, November 11, that picture has been shared 5,769 times. Ann found her son. Now, she shares this message: "I can tell you that my son would not have been found as quick as he was if it wasn't for my post on Facebook and who knows what would have happened to him if we hadn't found him so quick. I also believe that the integrity of the majority of people who live in North Dakota make it possible to have posts like this. I know I did it before I needed the people of Facebook's help and I continue to repost reports of missing kids and adults. I can only repay everyone's help by doing the same for someone else. I wouldn't want any parent to go through the anguish I did when I had no idea where he was."
The Fargo Police Department has sanctioned this system as an effective way to cut down search time and expand their reach.
"You hear the stories of the first 48 hours, the first 24 hours, and, even more importantly, is that every minute counts," Lieutenant Joel Vettel said of the several times the force has used social media to find missing children.
And so, Aubrey marches on with an army of faith behind her.
"We will never give up. We will never lose hope," she said.
In 2011, Facebook teamed up with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to bring Amber Alerts to users' feeds. To sign up, just like your state's Amber Alert Facebook page. We links posted to the Hot Button.


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