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Identifying Missing Persons Through Legislation

New York state law requires county medical examiners to report identifying information on remains to NamUs.
Date Published
August 1, 2016

On any given day there are close to 100,000 active missing persons cases in the U.S., and an estimated 4,400 unidentified human remains are recovered every year. It can be an enormous challenge for law enforcement and medical examiners to identify these individuals and reunite them with their families.

To help address this challenge, New York State Governor Cuomo recently signed Bill A10278, which will amend the executive law, section 838, in relation to the identification of unknown dead and missing persons. Specifically it creates a requirement that, upon receipt of unidentified remains, all New York county medical examiners and coroners will be required to report identifying information of those remains to the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System, NamUs.

Created and supported by the National Institute of Justice — the research, development and evaluation agency of the United States Department of Justice — NamUs is a national centralized repository and resource center for missing persons and unidentified decedent records. NamUs is a free online system that can be searched by medical examiners, coroners, law enforcement officials, and the general public from all over the country in hopes of resolving these cases. By hosting unidentified remains and missing persons reports from any of the 17,000 U.S. law enforcement agencies in one place, NamUs allows the reports to be searched and more easily matched.

While California and Connecticut have also passed legislation, which directly or indirectly support the use of NamUs, New York is the first state to legislate a mandated use of the system. This legislation also furthers the mission of NamUs to continue to improve the quantity and quality of — and access to — data on missing persons and unidentified human remains. As more profiles are added to NamUs, the probability that remains will be identified will increase and more families will find closure.

Read the complete text of the law (pdf, 1 page).

Learn more about missing persons cases in the NIJ Journal article Solving Missing Persons Cases.

Visit NamUs.

Date Published: August 1, 2016