'To the end of the world’: space, place, and missing persons investigations

Fyfe, N., Parr, H. , Stevenson, O. and Woolnough, P. (2015) 'To the end of the world’: space, place, and missing persons investigations. Policing: A Journal of Policy and Practice, 9(3), pp. 275-283. (doi:10.1093/police/pav025)

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Police investigations of major crimes are typically conducted in contexts where there is contested or ambiguous knowledge about what occurred and such challenges are also routinely faced in the investigation of missing persons. This article examines ways in which attempts to ‘manufacture certainty’ in missing persons cases are strongly informed by geographical notions of space and place. The article is structured around the key phases of police investigations, each of which involves the mobilization of different forms of geographical knowledge. In the first stage of ‘identifying and acquiring’ information, the process of search is structured by knowledge about the possible spatial behaviours of missing people often generated using spatial profiling techniques. In the second phase of ‘interpreting and understanding’, more nuanced accounts of what may have happened to a missing person are constructed as the police attempt to ‘place’ a person’s disappearance within a particular narrative based on their reading of the intelligence picture that emerges during the investigation. In the concluding phase of ‘ordering and representing’, the case to internal (senior police management) and external (relatives of the missing person and wider public) audiences investigators will often invoke a notion of ‘the end of the world’ referring not just to how they have defined the geographical limits of the police search if the person is still unaccounted for but also the boundaries of reputational risk and the proportionality of the police response.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Parr, Professor Hester and Stevenson, Dr Olivia
Authors: Fyfe, N., Parr, H., Stevenson, O., and Woolnough, P.
College/School:College of Science and Engineering > School of Geographical and Earth Sciences
Journal Name:Policing: A Journal of Policy and Practice
Publisher:Oxford University Press
ISSN (Online):1752-4520

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Project CodeAward NoProject NamePrincipal InvestigatorFunder's NameFunder RefLead Dept
512121Geographies of missing people: processes, experiences and responsesHester ParrEconomic & Social Research Council (ESRC)ES/H030166/1SCHOOL OF GEOGRAPHICAL & EARTH SCIENCES