The figures are disturbing and shed some light on the ‘hidden challenge’ facing Gloucestershire Police.

Records show that from January to May this year, there were 1,382 Missing ‘episodes’ recorded by the Constabulary – many of them individuals who go missing repeatedly.

Of those, 588 were linked to mental health and 269 related to children with mental health problems.

Most who went missing were children and in 43% of those cases, mental health was a factor.

These alarming statistics are revealed in Police and Crime Commissioner Martin Surl’s annual report for 2018/19.

Mr. Surl says,

“As the range and complexity of crimes continues to grow, the answer is further complicated by the additional social issues around mental health and lack of youth provision.

“With much of the Constabulary’s time now spent as first responders to the mental health crisis that is gripping our country, what you might call ‘conventional’ police work is being squeezed.

“Notwithstanding the impact on families and friends, it is an immense strain on police resources. Callous as it sounds to evaluate a human problem in terms of hard cash, in the context of a Constabulary under considerable financial pressure it is not unreasonable”.

Research also suggests that on average, a child goes missing 18 times, a situation further compounded by the fact that 67% of missing episodes recorded are between the hours of 6pm-7am.

Mr. Surl said, “This may be as a result of other statutory services being unavailable but if the Constabulary is now the agency of first resort as well as last, the time it has to spend on burglary, assault, anti-social behaviour, vehicle and other crimes is bound to be reduced”.

You can find more on this story and read the PCC’s annual report in full here.