Chini built missing persons search app

Ben Chini's missing persons app
Photo credit: Ben Chini/Studio040

Eindhoven resident Ben Chini (37) spent the past few weeks building an app that allows volunteers to search for missing people together in a more structured way.

The reason was the disappearance of Ben’s aunt, who had dementia, last March. She was found dead by a volunteer a week later. “Friends and family are going to search anyway when a loved one is missing. Then the search had better be coordinated well.”

Starting on Tuesday, the “Samen Zoeken” (search together) app will be available for download through the app store. “There are official maps on it in which everyone who helps with the search can indicate where they have already searched. That way you avoid looking in the same place ten times”, app builder Ben explains.

Chaotic search operation

Ben himself became somewhat frustrated with the chaos during the search for his aunt. “On Sunday afternoon her slipper was found and it wasn’t until Tuesday afternoon that a volunteer found her body, not far from the location of that slipper”. The frustration is still audible in his voice. We must be able to do better in the future, he thought. With his IT background, a search app was a logical step.

He shared his idea fairly quickly with people he knew and with Omroep Brabant. Official search organisations such as SAR and Veterans Search Team reacted less enthusiastically to Ben’s plan. They feared that untrained volunteers would erase traces and get in the way. Ben understands that criticism. “Things are indeed more organised in the Netherlands than in Belgium where my aunt disappeared. But you can’t stop people who are missing a loved one from searching. So it is better to do that in an organised way”.

Police see value

Ben did take the criticism to heart and engaged with the police, who he said recogised the app’s supporting value. “I also made a modification to it. I can indicate on the map where trained searchers are working so others won’t search there”.

The police’s national coordinator for missing persons Izanne de Wit said she is very pleased with this initiative by the Eindhoven citizen. “Every year 40,000 missing persons are reported and only in 75 cases do we call in auxiliary agencies like the Veterans Search Team. In all those other cases, it is a valuable app for concerned volunteers. It is that we as police are not allowed to use this app because of privacy, otherwise we would have put the name of this app on our site “”, where you can find advice and tips for searches”.

Source: Studio040

Translated by: Bob

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