Tracking down missing people isn't often a priority in many police forces, but a special unit at the Surrey RCMP has a near-perfect success rate.

While missing persons cases are an afterthought in some departments, part of a general investigation section or just another duty that a single officer runs off the side of his desk, the Surrey RCMP's Missing Persons Unit has a sergeant-in-charge and two constables tasked with locating people full-time.

The successful unit netted all but four missing people in 2011; solved every reported disappearance in 2010; and all but two in 2009. So how do they do it?

Const. Michael Halskov, one of the unit's investigators, developed a knack for locating people after studying criminology at Victoria's Camosun College and then working as a private investigator for seven years.

"It's a pride thing, you like to be good at something," Halskov tells The Huffington Post B.C. "I like to find people, even people who are difficult to find."

Halskov learned early on that relationships were key to finding people. He built contacts who helped him track down the missing. It's a skill he has taken into the RCMP, where he sometimes has to get information from people who want nothing to do with him.

"People get a sense when you talk to them on the phone, this is a person I think I can trust," Halskov says. "If he says he'll do something he'll do it."

People go missing under tons of different circumstances, Halskov says. They may be senior citizens who have wandered away from home. They may be teens who have gone missing from group homes.

Other reasons for going missing include substance abuse issues, a mental health condition, according to the Surrey RCMP website. Sometimes they simply want to get away.

When the RCMP receive a report of someone who's disappeared, they will go to the missing person's home and search for clues. They'll talk to the complainant, people in the neighbourhood and determine if anything looks suspicious. Officers will also contact their colleagues in forces like the Vancouver police and Transit Police.

Social media has also been useful, especially when tracking down young people. Police have followed teens through their Facebook friends.

"We're pretty plugged in as far as technology goes," Halskov says.

The Surrey RCMP also don't give up on unsolved cases. They still have a file open on Albert Humphrey Wilkinson, who went missing in 1957, and they won't close it until they find a body — or 100 years have passed.

Last year, the unit began profiling a missing person every month to generate tips in cold cases. They started with Stephen Begg, a software designer who went missing in February 2011.

The monthly appeals haven't generated much new information yet, but Halskov says it's worth the work: "Maybe someone's been out of the country and didn't see media attention. Next thing you know, they're back home."

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  • Yashpal Mehay

    The Surrey RCMP's Missing Persons Unit is looking for these people. <a href="http://surrey.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/ViewPage.action?siteNodeId=1473&languageId=1&contentId=26161">Yashpal Mehay</a> disappeared in July 2009.

  • Elfrieda Erickson

    Last seen in <a href="http://surrey.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/ViewPage.action?siteNodeId=1473&languageId=1&contentId=25994">October 2002</a>.

  • Yasmine Christina Reddy

    Last seen in <a href="http://surrey.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/ViewPage.action?siteNodeId=1473&languageId=1&contentId=25965">February 1997</a> and briefly in Jordan in 2002.

  • Nadia Reddy

    Last seen in <a href="http://surrey.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/ViewPage.action?siteNodeId=1473&languageId=1&contentId=25964">February 1997</a>.

  • Stephen Begg

    Last seen in <a href="http://surrey.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/ViewPage.action?siteNodeId=1473&languageId=1&contentId=25215">February 2011</a>.

  • Sahil Sharma

    Last seen in <a href="http://surrey.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/ViewPage.action?siteNodeId=1473&languageId=1&contentId=25134">November 2008</a>.

  • Glen Ryder

    Last seen in <a href="http://surrey.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/ViewPage.action?siteNodeId=1473&languageId=1&contentId=25120">December 1976</a>.

  • Fred Wong

    Last seen in <a href="http://surrey.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/ViewPage.action?siteNodeId=1473&languageId=1&contentId=24631">October 1985</a>.

  • Albert Wilkinson

    Last seen in <a href="http://surrey.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/ViewPage.action?siteNodeId=1473&languageId=1&contentId=7057">January 1957</a>.

  • William Hick

    Last heard from in India in <a href="http://surrey.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/ViewPage.action?siteNodeId=1473&languageId=1&contentId=6808">October 2003</a>.

  • Karamjeet Gill

    Last seen in <a href="http://surrey.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/ViewPage.action?siteNodeId=1473&languageId=1&contentId=6807">December 2001</a>.

  • Davender Gill

    Left his residence in <a href="http://surrey.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/ViewPage.action?siteNodeId=1473&languageId=1&contentId=6806">October 2003</a>.

  • Jody Beaurone

    Last seen in <a href="http://surrey.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/ViewPage.action?siteNodeId=1473&languageId=1&contentId=6624">December 2000</a>.

  • NEXT: <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/09/25/highway-of-tears-bc-missing-murdered_n_1914069.html" target="_blank">Highway of Tears: B.C.'s Missing and Murdered Women</a>

  • Colleen MacMillen

    Age: 16 Last Seen: Aug. 9, 1974 near Lac La Hache. Body found Sept. 5, 1974 near 100 Mile House. Was believed to be hitchhiking. RCMP have determined through DNA testing that Bobby Jack Fowler was responsible for her death.

  • Gale Ann Weys

    Age: 19 Last Seen: Oct. 19, 1973 in Clearwater. Body found April 6, 1974 along Yellowhead Highway. Believed hitchhiking to Kamloops.

  • Pamela Darlington

    Age: 19 Last Seen: Nov. 6, 1973 in Kamloops. Body found Nov. 7, 1973 in a city park. Believed to be hitchhiking at the time.

  • Delphine Nikkal

    Age: 16 Last Seen: June 14, 1990, along Highway 16 in Smithers.

  • Lana Derrick

    Age: 19 Last Seen: October 7, 1995 at a service station in Thornhill, B.C.

  • Nicole Hoar

    Age: 25 Last Seen: June 21, 2002 in Prince George. Believed to be hitchhiking on Highway 16.

  • Tamara Chipman

    Age: 22 Last Seen: Sept. 21, 2005 in Prince Rupert. Believed to be hitchhiking on Highway 16.

  • Alberta Williams

    Age: 24 Last Seen: Aug. 26, 1989 in Prince Rupert. Body found Sept. 16, 1989 on Highway 16.

  • Ramona Wilson

    Age: 16 Last Seen: June 11, 1994, hitchhiking to a friend's home in Smithers. Body found April 1995, Smithers Airport.

  • Roxanne Thiara

    Age: 15 Last Seen: Nov. 1994 in Prince George. Body found near Burns Lake.

  • Leah Alisha Germaine

    Age: 15 Her body was found Dec. 9, 1994.

  • Cecilia Anne Nikal

    Last Seen: 1989

  • Monica Ignas

    Age: 14 Last Seen: Dec. 13, 1974 in Thornhill, B.C. Body found Apr. 6, 1975 near Terrace.

  • Aielah Saric Auger

    Age: 14 Last Seen: Feb. 2, 2006 in Prince George. Body found Feb. 10, 2006 on Highway 16.

  • Gloria Moody

    Age: 27 Last Seen: Oct. 25, 1969 in Williams Lake. Body found Oct. 26 1969.

  • Micheline Pare

    Age: 18 Last Seen: July 1970 along Fort St. John/Hudson's Hope Highway. Body found Aug. 8, 1970 near Hudson's Hope. Last seen hitchhiking to a ranch.

  • Shelly Ann Bascu

    Age: 16 Last Seen: May 3, 1983 near Hinton, Alberta. Seen walking along Highway 16.

  • Monica Jack

    Age: 12 Last Seen: May 6, 1978 near Nicola Lake. Body found in June 1995 north of Merritt.

  • Maureen Mosie

    Age: 33 Last Seen: May 8, 1981 in Salmon Arm. Body found May 9, 1981 near Kamloops. Believed to have been hitchhiking.


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