The missing numbers would show an epidemic
WREG has stated they have uncovered issues with NAMUS, the National Unidentified and Missing Person System because the numbers of missing do not match NCIC, (National Crime Information Center) an intranet database only used by law enforcement.
Tennessee became one of four states where law enforcement officers are required to add missing persons cases to the database. Most citizens don’t realize that this is not already done. Most don’t realize that there is NO central database that lists all the missing in the United States.
It was the hopes of NAMUS to become that database and that everyone, law enforcement and citizens alike would use it, but law enforcement was not eager to adopt it into their regular duties, and there was no law or policy requiring them to do that, until recently and it only affects four states.
Yesterday, WREG pointed out that Mississippi has 1359 cases in NCIC, compared to 110 in NamUs. Arkansas has 513 cases in NCIC, and only 190 show up in NamUs.
In May 2018, NAMUS stated they had 26,000 open missing cases. So, imagine that every state by law had to put their missing into the NAMUS, instead of just the four states that all are required to do so. How would the numbers rise? There is approximately 15,000 law enforcement agencies, in the U.S. Times the average unreported missing on NAMUS, according to WREG by that. The total would be approximately 1.5 million people missing that would need to be put in NAMUS. So, if every police department in every state was required to put in all their cases the numbers would exponentially rise to epidemic portions, from 26,000 to a million cases.
But, there probably many more missing cases than that are not making it into any database. I have known of cold cases from family’s that are not in NAMUS, and the police show no public notice, like a missing flyer, that they are missing. I think most importantly the department has no current knowledge they are missing. Meaning they would probably have to dig around for a bit to find the missing report. For example, take Montgomery County. Law enforcement told the media they had few missing from their county, when there is approximately 40, going back to the 80’s according to my research. I believe their statement was less a denial than a department that hasn’t looked at their list of missing in their county for years.
Although most citizens believe that there is a database somewhere that law enforcement uses to list all the missing, there is not. Some believe that NCIC is that database, but NCIC is meant to be for criminals, as it blatantly states in its name, and law enforcement has never been required to put a missing person into NCIC. So, if there is no requirement to put a missing person in NCIC or in NAMUS, who is going to know they are even missing a few years from now, except for the officer that took the initial report. For example, if you have new patrol officer join the department and begin working, there is no way they would know about a missing cold case even a year old, unless they did the research on their own; and if it was not entered into NCIC nor NAMUS, how would they find that information? Take that same police officer and have him look for a missing person in another state, he is not going to find that information either if they have not been put into NCIC or NAMUS. This is one of the issues with Jane and John Does. Where they are found may not be where they were reported missing, so the two police departments may never meet with their information.
It would appear that all that needs to be done to rectify the situation is to put the cold case missing into the system, but, there is so much more to it than that. If you were to look at this issue closely you would see that it is unrealistic for law enforcement to ever have the time to put all the old cases into NAMUS. Factor in, that to really do the job correctly they need to contact family’s to see if the person ever came back, and if the family moved or doesn’t respond, the officer will need to track down the family some how. A simple entering into NAMUS turns into a month-long fact searching project. Multiply that by 10 cases and the officers regular duties, it will take a while. A temporary hire in the least would rectify that issue, although a permanent hire would be the best, as they would also be able to track and close cases when someone is found.
Also, NCIC needs to be looked at to see if it would help with the missing situation. If a missing person was put into NCIC immediately, it may mean the difference of finding someone dead or alive. But the timing is hindered by the law enforcements need to evaluation the urgency of the case, instead of treating each missing person as urgent.
Sergeant Chad Nelson told the Tribune that the circumstances of a case dictate how it is handled.
“It’s going to depend on what kind of information we have and how far behind we are. Whether they have been missing for hours, minutes, days or weeks will determine how quickly we need to find the person,” Nelson said.
A better system needs to be addressed to close the gap between reporting a missing person and law enforcement handling that information. For example, Kimberly Flint case would have more answers if the trooper who drove her car to get it off the road, knew that she was missing. It would have preserved evidence inside the car to bring answers as to what happened to her. If NCIC is going to be the way law enforcement communicates missing people, then the information needs to be put in immediately and not several days later. Streamlining the system would help save lives. It is heartbreaking to hear of a missing person found dead just miles from their home weeks later when a policy with quick responses and open communications would have likely brought them home alive.
Family’s who have cold missing cases can help bring NAMUS current by making sure their family member is in NAMUS and also to give DNA for identifications purposes in case a Jane or John Doe is found.