THERE were 287 reports of missing persons from South and West Fife in the space of just five months in 2022.

Police Scotland community inspector Tony Rogers said it was an average of almost two people per day and that the issue was "hugely time-consuming" for his officers.

It's got to the stage that the Force has now created a new role to try to help lighten the load for officers so they can focus on tackling crime.

Last week, he told councillors: "In South West Fife we have a real challenge with missing persons.

"A large proportion are coming from the various residential establishments we've got in the area.

"Between April 1 and August 31, over a five-month period, there were over 1,800 people reported missing in Fife.

"There were 287 in South West Fife in those 153 days, so that's averaging almost two a day.

"This can be hugely time-consuming in an area where policing resource is relatively low on a day-to-day basis."

While appreciative of the mental health issues, Insp Rogers continued: "It can take up a lot of our time. These people travel far and wide and in the case of young people, this can result in a relay to get people back to their care setting.

"If people jump on a train from, for instance, Aberdour to Aberdeen, we have to get them back somehow and that's a challenge.

"That's where a large part of our time goes.

"In that same time period, four out of the top 10 most frequently missing persons in Fife were in the South West Fife area."

He said the working relationship they had with the care settings was "excellent" and that those four people had now been moved to more appropriate accommodation, outwith the area.

At the South and West Fife area committee last week, Insp Rogers said: "We've identified a new role and an officer for that role, a missing persons liaison officer.

"They will be based in South West Fife, initially focusing on South West Fife care homes and liaising with the residential establishments, but we hope to expand that across the area in time.

"The overall aim will be reducing the list of missing persons, reducing the repeat incidents of them going missing and reducing the time we spend on them, which will hopefully increase the time we have to spend on other priorities.

"Hopefully, that post will be up and running in the next three-to-four weeks."

Looking out for vulnerable people and dealing with concerns of harm has become a major task for police forces, and Insp Rogers said he expected that workload to increase.

He said: "Looking ahead, I need to look at demand and a big part of that is around vulnerability, specifically missing persons.

"That vulnerability is going to increase, I would imagine.

"With the cost-of-living crisis, a lot of people will feel the pinch so a large part of what we do is dealing with concerns in the community already.

"We spend a of lot time dealing with people where perhaps the police is not the best agency long-term to deal with them, we are the best short-term answer."