In 2003, the Office of Justice Program’s (OJP) National Institute of Justice (NIJ) began funding major efforts to maximize the use of DNA technology in our criminal justice system. Much of NIJ’s work has focused on developing tools to investigate and solve the cases of missing persons and unidentified decedents. Recently the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs) has gone online to help solve the nation’s 100,000 missing persons’ cases.
NamUs, a free online system, is a clearinghouse for missing persons and unidentified decedent records. This system can be searched by medical examiners, coroners, law enforcement officials and the general public to solve cases. By entering information such as description, photos, fingerprints, dental records and DNA information, the database provides potential matches and helps to further investigations.
So far, about 6,200 sets of remains and nearly 2,800 missing people have been entered. However, only about 1,100 of the nearly 17,000 law enforcement agencies nationwide are registered to use the system. This system has helped to solve 16 cases since it became operational last year.
As a result, legislation has been introduced named, “Billy’s Law” after a missing person who vanished five years ago. The bill would help to link NamUs with major FBI crime database. The cost of the bill is $10 million in grants annually to police, sheriffs, medical examiners and coroners to train people to use NamUs and to help cover the costs of entering date into the system. It will also provide another $2.4 million a year to run the system and to ensure permanent funding. The bill has passed the House and is pending in the Senate. Supporters are confident it will easily pass.