47 ewn... kathryn: we have an eyewitness news special report.
Every year thousands of people are reported missing from the fresno area.
Ken: but police now have a new tool to help solve more of those cases.... ken: cbs47 investigative reporter ' patrick nelson ' joins us live at fresno police headquarters with the large number of cases they're handling.
Patrick: right now about 80 percent of the missing persons cases in fresno county are in the hands of detectives here at fresno p-d.
Tonight-- those three investigators gives us a look at how they close many of those cases and the challenges they face.
George wilson / fpd missing persons unit 10:49 "there's really no boundaries.
You're not sure what direction to go in.
We don't have crime scene tape, we don't have a suspect, we don't have a victim.
We have a person that like the old cliché just vanished into thin air."
11:05 sergeant george wilson and detectives from the fresno police department's missing persons unit face one of the biggest challenges in law enforcement-- tracking down roughly 3,000 people who are reported missing in fresno every year.
Paul hill / fresno police department 8:34 "from watching tv people think we have the capability to just put in a name and it gives us a spot on the map and that's just not the way it is" 8:45 the workload for this trio is staggering-- state law enforcement numbers show there are currently 20,000 active missing persons cases in the state of california.
One thousand of those cases are based in fresno county-- 800 of them are currently in the hands of the fresno police department.
55:05 "i think success is defined as one case at a time, granted we get a high volume of cases, but each time a person is located and we're able to close out a case that's a success."
55:20 so far this year-- 4,200 missing persons cases have been reported in fresno county-- fresno policedetec tives report they've solved 3,200 of those.
One of those cases involved at risk adult eustacia gonzalez-- who went missing after escaping a dental appointment near cedar and shields.
Her sister esther describes the chaos when eustacia went missing.
Esther leifsson / sister of missing person 04:06 "my brain is going 100 miles an hour, what am i gonna do?
I know the cops are going to do their part, the detectives are going to do their part, but what am i going to do?
That's my sister and nobody is going care the way i do and the way the family cares."
4:19 esther took to social media and passed out flyers as police activated their code red alert system sending messages via text, phone call, and email to area residents.
10:40 "it's a very valuable tool because the word really got around.
Everybody, everybody saw it."
10:46 eventually construction workers led officers to an abandoned apartment where eustacia was found inside unharmed.
Putting an end to an emotion four hour search.
08:04 "i didn't know how to react.
I was mad, i was happy, my emotions were mixed."
08:09 this all unfolded in the city of fresno, but sometimes the locations can make cases more complicated-- last week a fresno woman in her 70's vickie cortez crashed her vehicle into a wooded area near oakhurst-- a silver alert was issued-- notifying everyone in the area that an at risk senior was missing.
Karen cortez / sister in-law of missing woman 45:16 "up until today i had never heard of a silver alert and i think that's what's important.
Multiple law enforcement agencies worked for 12 hours to find her-- needing help from an eye in the sky.
Eventually vickie's vehicle was pulled out of the ravine-- her family is thankful she's now home recovering.
Renee cortez / vickie's sister in- law 37:40 "we weren't sure how this was going to end.
37:43 38:31 thank god for the helicopter because they were able to see the crash site."
38:46 while these two cases were solved in a matter of hours-- there are still dozens of open missing persons cases at fresno p-d that could take years-- but detectives won't give up.
"we're always doing some type of follow up to find this person," patrick: stranger abductions are very rare in fresno-- detectives say most cases that are suspicious involve someone the victim knows.
A large number of cases police handle are runaways-- but investigators still dedicate resources to these cases-- because they can't assume anyone is a runaway until they contact the missing person themselves.
Live in fresno patrick nelson cbs47 eyewitness news.