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Missing persons by the numbers

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Fargo ND 301 8th St. S. 58103

Fargo, ND (WDAY TV) - While it took police less than one day to find Polk, Thursday marks five years since the disappearance of an 82-year-old man from rural Staples, Minnesota.


Side by side, the two cases show how different the search for a missing person can be.

Just how many people go missing in the area... and how many are found again?

This grainy photograph is just a memory of Gerald Bartlett.

He disappeared from Devil's Lake in 1925 and remains on North Dakota's missing person list today.

But Bartlett is among just 28 people on that list.

Steve Gabrielson/ Cass County Detective: “The cases are always left active, but they may not be actively worked.”

So far this year, Cass and Clay counties have no open cases of missing persons.

Both agencies field several hundred missing person reports every year.

Runaways and those out of contact with family tend to fall on that list.

Authorities say that while they may take more than a hundred missing person reports in a year, they quickly resolve the majority of those.

Nationwide, authorities resolve more than 95% of the cases filed.

Gabrielson: “Whether it's a runaway or a suicidal individual, they're going to be listed as a missing person originally. So that's where they get the numbers and that's why the majority of them are, you know, case closed because either the juvenile was located or the individual people were concerned about was located.”

And thanks to modern technology and social media... the number of missing persons continues to shrink.

Gabrielson: “If they have a cell phone... we'll try and triangulate where the cell phone might be or where it was last used... contacting friends, relatives... anyone the caller might think this person might be in contact with.”

But some cases, like that of Gerald Bartlett, will continue to puzzle investigators.

In addition to missing persons cases, there are some several thousand unidentified or unclaimed remains across the country.