NTX Magazine Volume 5 - Page 40

INDUSTRY SPOTLIGHT Science and Technology Missing Persons Database First name Middle name Last name Date last seen Age last seen Age now Sex Avis Beatrice Mooney Sep 1, 1961 33 years old 87 years old Female O n any given day, as many as 100,000 people in the U.S. are listed as missing. For their family and friends, they are much more than a statistic: They are people who deserve the benefit of all existing resources available to help find them and bring closure to their lives. This large statistic is what missing persons experts call America’s “silent mass disaster” over time. Today, technology is being used in a new way, with an improved approach to information storage and retrieval that is being managed right here in North Texas. “I don’t think a lot of people realize that Fort Worth, Texas, is essentially the epicenter for identifying missing and unidentified persons. This is literally a one-stop shop for agencies and families who are trying to resolve missing and unidentified cases,” said B.J. Spamer, director of training and analysis for NamUs. The to Power sing Mis Solve ons Pers Cases 38 www.ntc-dfw.org FALL/WINTER 2015 Researchers give names to the nameless. FOUND The National Missing and Unidentified Persons – NamUs – database is a free, nationwide centralized repository and the only program accessible to all with case management, forensic and analytical resources to solve cases. The database is part of the NamUs initiative, launched by the U.S. Department of Justice in July 2007 in response to law enforcement, families, medical examiners and more who needed a solution to the growing problem of the missing and unidentified. Now managed and administered by the University of North Texas Health Science Center in Fort Worth, under the direction of National Institute of Justice through a cooperative agreement, professionals in North Texas are helping to make a difference for families of missing persons nationwide. Spamer and her team, numbering 20 full-time experts, administer the database and provide important training and education to meet the goals of the NamUs program. The team at UNT is part of a cadre of professionals who are bringing the NamUs promise to reality. The fact is that missing persons and unidentified human remains cases are a monumental challenge to local and state law enforcement agencies. The workload for these agencies is staggering: More than 40,000 sets of human remains that cannot be identified through conventional means are held in the evidence rooms of medical examiners throughout the country. Across jurisdictions and state lines, and found in dozens of different databases, are the clues to the truth behind these mystery cases. And now, with the help of this next-generation solution, housed and administered in North Texas, there is a new way to put technology to work. “We provide forensics resources, personnel and investigative support,” said Spamer. “When an agency has a case they put into the system, they are assigned a regional system administrator. We provide primary support to investigative agencies. They will look at the info, find other biometrics, provide support in getting family DNA collected, obtain dental records, have fingerprint experts collect fingerprints and more. “We do find a lot of missing persons alive and well,” she added. NamUs not only allows law enforcement, coroners and families to access information that may help solve cases – it also provides a way for volunteers to join in the search. Accessible online via the website www.namus.gov, the site invites anyone to use their time to help in solving cases. While certain information may be limited to law enforcement agencies,