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Police asking for help in search for missing Thief River Falls woman

Gina Anderson

As the search continues for a Thief River Falls woman missing for three weeks, law enforcement officials say help from the public is more important than ever.

"Every lead that we've had so far has turned up nothing," said Thief River Falls Police investigator Jim Van Schaick. "We've had nothing that has given us any indication where she is yet."

Authorities are asking the public to keep their eyes out for any sign of Gina Anderson, 32, or her yellow 2002 Pontiac Sunfire. Hunters in the region and landowners are being asked to check their property and buildings they may not go to all the time.

"There's a lot of places that we wouldn't have any authority to look," Van Schaick said.

Law enforcement often turn to the public for help in an investigation - ranging from assisting in finding a suspect and being on the lookout for car prowlers to notifying authorities about something suspicious such as a mobile meth lab.

"There's like 90,000 to 100,000 people in this city, and it's a lot easier to have all those eyes looking for you than just ours," said Fargo Police Sgt. Jeff Skuza.

He cited an example in which a city snowplow driver saw a man coming out of a bar with a bag on his head. The driver followed him and gave his license plate to police. Turned out the man had just robbed the bar, Skuza said.

"We solved that crime because of that driver," he said.

While authorities often seek the public's help, that help should only go so far to avoid a dangerous situation.

"We never encourage people to confront suspects on their own," Skuza said. But there have been instances in which an officer is struggling with a suspect and someone will stop and lend a hand.

Skuza cited as an example an off-duty deputy who helped loss-prevention personnel during an Aug. 1 struggle with a suspected shoplifter.

For the most part, being on the lookout for anything suspicious can be a big help to law enforcement.

"Just seeing someone go into your neighbor's car and taking the time to pick up the phone is a huge help to us," Skuza said.

Clay County Sheriff Bill Bergquist agreed, citing Tuesday's discovery of a mobile methamphetamine lab near Sabin, Minn., by a landowner scouting for deer.

"It's the general public that usually lets us know about these things," he said.