How missing persons cases have changed since Jacob Wetterling

As the intense search for Jayme Closs continues, how that search is being done has changed dramatically over the last 30 years.  

Jacob Wetterling disappeared in 1989 and when that happened, methods used to find him would be considered primitive nowadays.

In fact, the AMBER Alert didn’t exist until 1996, and many other tools have been developed since then to help bring an end to terrifying situations.

Today, social media works fast, allowing information to be disseminated in an instant.  This has been helping spread news of Jayme’s disappearance across the country. 

“Now it’s a click of the button with the poster, and 30,000 people have seen it within the hour,”  said Alison Feigh of the Jacob Wetterling Resource Center.  

But in 1989 when Wetterling disappeared - and in the many years that followed - there was no social media to help with missing person cases. There were milk cartons in the 80s and 90s, but not much more.

“The first fundraiser for the Jacob Wetterling Resource Center was for a brand new thing called a fax machine," said Feigh. "We could take fax posters of missing children and find out, we would have a questionnaire, ‘does this child like going to the movies, does this child spend time at the mall,’ and based on what the possibilities were, we’d fax out to those places.”

It’s not just technology that’s helping, but training. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children reportedly is in Wisconsin helping with the Closs case. The group there is called team Adam.

“Team Adam are retired law enforcement officers who work missing child cases who go through special training when there’s not an emergency, when there’s nothing that’s happening that’s emergent, so they can be boots on the ground when there’s a problem,” said Feigh.

The number of resources available to help has exploded over the years.

“We used to be in a place in our culture when a case is happening everything was held very tightly and wasn’t shared," said Feigh. "Now it’s a place where they’re reaching out to nonprofits, they’re getting all the tools that they can use. So the fact that they’re working with the best of the best has me hopeful that there will be good information soon.”