InvestigatorsMaryland Mysteries


Anne Arundel County detective shares the search methods to find missing persons

Police rely on technology and volunteers
Posted at 5:48 AM, Nov 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-08 08:39:38-05

MILLERSVILLE, Md. — Each Monday in November, WMAR-2 News is putting a spotlight on a missing person case in Maryland.

More than 200 of those cases remain unsolved for more than a year or even decades.

One of those unsolved cases is the disappearance of Susan Lane in Anne Arundel County. Lane went missing after she was last seen along west street in Annapolis.

An Anne Arundel County detective gave WMAR-2 News an inside look at the methods they used to search for her and other missing persons.

Contrary to popular belief, a missing person doesn't have to be gone for 24 hours.

If someone is not where they're typically supposed to be, and it’s out of character to not hear from them, they can be reported as missing.

Anne Arundel County Police detective Jay Schline gave an example of when someone could be reported as missing.

“A kid getting off the school bus might get off at 3:25, it's now 10 of four, and the kid's not there. The mom calls the school, and the school says yeah, he got on the school bus and the school bus was supposed to drop him off but that didn't happen,” Schline said.

Detective Jay Schline outlined the elaborate steps police take when searching for a missing person, from using search dogs outfitted with GPS trackers to a small army of volunteers.

“We have horse teams, we have canines related to air scent, cadaver bloodhounds, we have teams that are primarily just ground searchers,” Schline said.

All looking for clues or signs to lead them to where someone disappeared.

“They'll look for sign cutting, that means perhaps footprints, in the sand by a stream, or broken sticks,” Schline said.

Volunteers also help with many other aspects of a search such as managing logistics, downloading GPS tracking maps of where crews searched, and debriefing search crews for detective Schline.

“OK, this team came in, they had an alert, they investigated the alert, couldn't see anything. It wasn't a great alert but their dog showed a change in behavior,” Schline said.

Each dog reacts differently to what it finds on a search depending upon how it was trained to alert its handler.

“Some of them will bark. Some of them will scratch. Some of them will sit down. Some of them will lay down,” Schline said.

Information taken from dogs armed with GPS trackers is converted into a color coded map which shows the path they took and the ground they covered.

“This area here as you'll notice has no tracks in it. We had patrol officers who didn't have the GPS actually search this area,” Schline said.

On any given search, detective Schline may get 50 to 60 volunteers to lend their eyes and ears.

“I can call them two, three o'clock in the morning and I will get a response. I’ve never not gotten a response from our resources. Always there to help,” Schline said.

The volunteers the detective relies on are not just volunteers but trained volunteers.

Volunteers pay for their own training and their own equipment out of their own pocket.

Maryland State Police work with many certified volunteer search and rescue organizations such as Calvert K-9 Search Team.