It's a sad fact that it's not that unusual for someone to vanish in Chicago. Chicago Police Department files are packed with missing-person cases -- kids, mostly, but also a growing number of adults.
Of the 20,000-plus people reported missing in Chicago last year, about 8,000 were 17 or older -- 40 percent of the total, up from 35 percent in 2000.
The figures are inching upward nationally, too. Last year, 169,447 adult missing-person cases were logged nationwide, up from 144,209 a decade ago.
Whether the actual number of missing adults is rising isn't clear. The increase might be due in part to better reporting and federal efforts that have spurred more police departments to take a report when anyone says a person they know is missing.
But when it comes to missing adults, law enforcement is severely lacking, critics say, with police opting to put their resources into the very young, very old, and those deemed "endangered."
There's logic to that thinking, the police figure: Adults have a right to disappear; most of the time when they're missing, it's of their own accord, and they almost always turn up fine. Indeed, 98 percent of such cases in Chicago end up "cleared" by police.
But often the authorities here are dismissive at first of what turn out to be legitimate cases of missing adults, a Chicago Sun-Times investigation found, potentially jeopardizing the safe return of victims and adding to the pain their families feel.
Regardless, a Sun-Times analysis of FBI data found that blacks account for a disproportionate number of the missing -- 32 percent last year, compared with a 12.8 percent representation in the U.S. population. A decade ago, they were at 24 percent, the newspaper's analysis shows.
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