Why Billy’s Law should not pass and NCIC and NamUs should not be joined together

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WBAY has reported this week they have discovered that there is “no requirement to enter information into a national database listing all missing and unidentified people that both police and the public can access.”  WBAY, stated that Marshal Loritz, the daughter of missing Victoria Prokopovitz, brought this information to their attention.

For those of you that have missing loved ones or have been following MPofA and the Missing Texas Forty already know this.  One of the most frustrating jobs we had was to track down all the missing in Montgomery and Liberty County Texas.  It took a very long time going to many different places in order to get a complete list. We found out that the LE is not required to put missing information into any database except for NCIC, which is not accessible by the public. I myself have sat in front of a computer and have entered information into NCIC, as part of my job.  It seemed antiquated, with a dark screen and a blinking dash to show you were you are at, but it is efficient.  It is also monitored and tracked, and big brother knowns exactly who is using the system at all times.

WBAY posted, “The high profile cases in Northeast Wisconsin have been listed on a public database called Nam-Us (National Missing and Unidentified Persons System).  However, Target 2 found a missing person may be on one database, yet not on another.”

WBAY lists a different number of missing people in Wisconsin.

  • NamUs: 128 open cases
  • The Wisconsin Clearinghouse for the Missing & Exploited: 53
  • The Charley Project: 90
  • The Doe Network: 56

“Yet the official number from the Wisconsin Department of Justice lists 1,005 children and adults missing as of June 30, 2015, the most recent data released,” said WBAY.  “No where can we find exactly who is on that full list.”

NCIC equipment in a small LE office

NamUs.gov. is a national centralized repository and resource center for missing persons and unidentified decedent records.  But even though it is run by the Department of Justice it relies on family, coroners, medical examiners, police and volunteers to put in the information.   It primarily is a source for family’s that have lost track of their missing family member for a period of time, which leads the family to believe they probably are deceased.  With NamUs they are able to put in their loved ones profile and also their DNA, in hopes that one day there is a match.  But, a match is not automatically done by NamUs.  It needs a third party to initiate it.  So it is important that a family member or a member of the public keeps checking for unidentified matches, and if a possibility is found, NamUs can be notified and they will check to see if there is a match.

NAMUS a tool everyone should use

Most families of missing loved ones do not know that NamUs even exists, as whenever I am asked for help to promote a person that is missing, I find that the family do not know they can submit their DNA for free to NamUs.

The Bill

Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy and Texas Representative Ted Poe hope to change all that as they introduced the Help Find the Missing Act, also known as Billy’s Law, on Capitol hill.  Billy’s Law is named in honor of Billy Smolinski, Jr., who went missing more than six years ago, and has yet to be found.  Their idea is to connect NamUs with NCIC.  Although a great idea, intially, I do not see how it will work.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For one thing NCIC is not a super sophisticated database, and looks antiquated compared to what we have now.   It stills has a black background with white or green lettering, circa 1980’s.  It is not WYSIWYG.  It takes training in order to know how to enter information, let alone how to read it.  It is set up for those knowledgeable of law enforcement speak and abbreviations.  It is a very powerful and informative tool, but it is only  connected to the governments Intranet (not internet) which is exactly how it should be, as NCIC is not just for missing persons, it lists criminals who have done some pretty bad stuff.  So, how any computer engineer is going to be able to use a database that is on the Internet to cherry pick the info that is on the governments Intranet, and most of it in police code or government acronyms, mind you, and convert it to html and put it on an Internet website, I do not know.  I suspect it can’t be done, but no one is talking about that.  They are only talking about doing it, not whether it can be done, or if it should even be done.  In fact, I don’t think I have heard any opposition to this bill at all.

Biometrica reported, “For instance, there are differences in the data available on the FBI-run NCIC database, and NamUS… While both databases are operated by Department of Justice agencies, the accessibility and user-ability of the databases varies; therefore creating discrepancies in the way data is entered and validated. Additionally, there are classification issues. NamUS classifies an unidentified person as a deceased person whose body is as yet unidentified, while the FBI’s 2016 Missing Person and Unidentified Person report defines “unidentified persons” under two categories, EUL (living unable to be identified), and EUV (unidentified catastrophe victims). Over and above all this, states may code their missing persons entries differently, incomplete entries are often added, and there is a lack of hard data/research related to the issue.

STIPULATIONS TO THE BILL

There are all kinds of stipulations in the bill, too such as if a Director decides the information should not be on NamUs, they can disallow it:   “an update to the NCIC database online data entry format that States use in submitting missing persons and unidentified remains reports, including the addition of a new data field allowing States, on behalf of the authorized agency that originally submitted the data to select whether or not to have the NCIC report subject to rules promulgated under subsection (b) shared with the NamUs databases.”  So, in other words a person might not be put into NamUs, anyway.  And there is also going to be rule in place that states, if you are 21 or older and you don’t want to be on NamUs, you can opt out, after you are found the first time.

RESPONSIBILITY

Also, I do not understand why this responsibility is falling on law enforcement (LE) to implement.  Yes, LE is in control of NCIC, so you would have to pass a law to make them give that info to NamUs, but is that such a good idea?  NamUs was set up for public use, and NCIC is set up for law enforcement use.  And I believe nary the two should meet.

Dispatch/Radio Room/Communications

There already is a rule in place that when a missing person (MP) report is taken by a police officer it is mandated it must be put it into NCIC.  The minute it goes into the system, any LE agency will see that person is missing, so if the MP gets stopped for a traffic citation or loitering or anything else, LE will know if the person they have is missing or not.  It is efficient and it works.  They are not going to use NamUs to find this information.  They will likely only use it when they have an unidentified person they are trying to identify.

WHO BENEFITS?

So, that leads to who is really benefiting from this?  It is not LE, it is the public.  The public, specifically the public who have lost a loved one, wants to be able to have every bit of their loved ones personal information blasted not only through every LE office, but also through every citizens computer.  They can only take the police’s word for it that the info is on a database because they cannot get access to that database to check, so having it on a public domain database gives them assurance the information is out there.

The solution

So, let me tell you what I think would be a better solution.  We know that NamUs already has a category for law enforcement and medical examiners to sign into the website, so all that is needed is a law or a simple procedure handed down by Directors and Police Chief that stipulates all missing person must be entered into NamUs, just like it is procedural to do it for NCIC.  Although LE has enough to do, I don’t believe that added another step should not task them to badly.   If it did then LE could submit a duplicate missing person report that would be sent to the radio room or communications room that houses the NCIC database and that employee would have the  collateral duties to enter the report into NamUs during their shift.  Housing an computer hooked up to the internet in a classified environment is another safety measure that would help keep sensitive material safe.

The other part of the bill is the unidentified people.  I do agree that Jane and John Doe information should be comparable to a missing database, and just recently The Lost and the Found have created a website that streamlines searches of NamUs information and allows side-by-side comparisons.  With law enforcement being mandated to enter MPs into NamUs, then The Lost and the Found website will be a powerful tool that would begin to yield results that have not been obtained before.

This is a simple solution to use something that is already there, and to get the cooperation of law enforcement to use it, instead of trying to integrate sensitive classified database with a very open one.  There is too many ways it could be hacked into if NCIC was allowed to be on the internet.  I can see the hackers lining up to do just that.   NCIC has always been exclusive to law enforcement and it should stay that way.  NamUs has always exclusive to the public, and it should stay that way.  AND it can, by simple putting into place a procedure where LE not only enters a MP into NCIC, but also into NamUs.    

Oklahoma City Jane Doe

This way, no law is needed to pass congress, no waiting years for the House to decide and in the end it saves tax payers $2.4 million a year to implement and sustain this idea, and an additional $8 million a year to carry out matching non federal funding.

CONCLUSION

Bottom line, Help Find the Missing is understandable.  I do get why the family wants it, but not being in law enforcement, they don’t understand why it is not such a good idea to take a super sensitive database and combine it with a public one, and using millions of tax dollars to do that, when all that is needed to be done is to implement a procedure where law enforcement enters the missing persons information into NCIC AND NamUs.   It was mandated to LE to enter the information into NCIC, it would be just as easy to mandate the same for NamUs.
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I am all for the Help the Missing Law, but only part of it.  Instead of combining two databases, let’s use the money instead to make sure that NamUs is supported indefinitely.  Let’s use the money instead to make sure the public’s aware that NamUs exists, like a public service announce commercial.  Let’s use the money to create and sustain missing persons departments in every city and the training to keep them up to date, and let’s use the money to provide additional work force, if needed, to hire law enforcement people to put missing persons reports into NamUs and to compare missing cold cases to NamUs Unidentified and Unclaimed Persons database.

About Missing Persons Admin 4632 Articles

Jerrie Dean, who is retired from Federal Law Enforcement, is the Founder of Missing Persons of America.

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