U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Using DNA Technology to Identify the Missing

Award Information

Award #
Funding Category
Congressional District
Funding First Awarded
Total funding (to date)

Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2015, $277,667)

The New York City Office of Chief Medical Examiner (OCME) investigates all sudden, violent, or unexpected deaths in New York City, performs pathologic examinations, identifies decedents, provides for the disposition of unclaimed human remains, and performs forensic anthropology and DNA analysis. The OCME houses the country’s largest public forensic DNA laboratory. The Department of Forensic Biology is staffed by more than 160 forensic scientists, utilizes STR, Y-STR, High Sensitivity, mitochondrial DNA testing and mass fatality identification techniques. The OCME is the only public forensic laboratory in the nation accredited to perform High Sensitivity DNA testing, and is one of the few public forensic laboratories that perform mitochondrial DNA testing. The laboratory is accredited by ASCLD/LAB, NYS Commission on Forensic Science, and is in compliance with the FBI’s DNA Quality Assurance Standards.
The OCME is a leader in missing persons investigations, body identifications and mass fatality management. We have a full time DNA missing person unit and staff in odontology, anthropology, fingerprinting and pathology to form a multi disciplined team. These specialists meet regularly as the OCME Identification Review Committee with the purpose of identifying challenging cases in which traditional protocol was not sufficient.
However, despite having these multidimensional, in-house resources to assist in identifying missing persons and human remains, the OCME believes that with some additional funding our present assets could still better serve the needs of the missing and the unidentified in the City of New York and beyond. The primary objective of this grant will be to build upon and improve the efficiency of our current approach, including expanding the collection of information and DNA reference samples from family members to ensure that all identifying information has been entered into the NamUs database. This objective will expand upon the work and experience gained from our first annual New York City Missing Persons Day which was held on November 8th, 2014. This event was created from the need to do more for families of missing persons and find loved ones. The OCME also hopes to assist other jurisdictions in New York with their unidentified skeletal remains. This will not only assist reuniting families in New York City but outside our borders as well. The secondary objective will be to identify innovative technologies with the goal of applying these methods to missing persons and body identification casework. The OCME specifically aims to focus on stable isotope analysis and facial reconstruction.


Date Created: September 16, 2015