Over 600,000 individuals go missing in the United States every year. Fortunately, many missing children and adults are quickly found, alive and well. However, tens of thousands of individuals remain missing for more than one year – what many agencies consider “cold cases”.
It is estimated that 4,400 unidentified bodies are recovered each year, with approximately 1,000 of those bodies remaining unidentified after one year.
NamUs is a national information clearinghouse and resource center for missing, unidentified, and unclaimed person cases across the United States. Funded and administered by the National Institute of Justice and managed through a cooperative agreement with the UNT Health Science Center in Fort Worth, Texas, all NamUs resources are provided at no cost to law enforcement, medical examiners, coroners, allied forensic professionals, and family members of missing persons.
The NamUs database application fills the nation’s need for a unified, online, free, secure database for unidentified remains and missing persons records.
NamUs provides free forensic services, to include forensic odontology, fingerprint examination, forensic anthropology, and DNA analyses through the UNT Center for Human Identification. Family DNA collection kits are also provided at no cost.
NamUs’ seasoned staff consult on cases and support criminal justice efforts to drive resolution – all free of charge.
NamUs subject matter experts provide free training and perform direct outreach to families of the missing by coordinating Missing Person Day events with agencies across the country.
The Victim Services Division links families affected by the loss or disappearance of a loved one with service providers, support networks, and other resources to help them navigate the complex and difficult environment in which they find themselves.
The NamUs database fills an overwhelming need for a central repository of information related to missing, unidentified, and unclaimed person cases. The database is searchable by all, with biometric and other secure case information accessible only to appropriate, vetted criminal justice users.
Missing person records can be entered into NamUs by anyone, including the general public; however, all cases are verified with the appropriate law enforcement agency prior to publication in NamUs.
Unidentified and unclaimed person records are entered into the NamUs database by medical examiners, coroners, and other criminal justice designees.
Missing and unidentified person cases in NamUs are automatically compared to locate potential matches based on dates, geography, and core demographic information. Advanced searches can be performed to locate matches based on additional unique descriptors such as scars, marks, tattoos, clothing, jewelry, etc.
NamUs Regional Program Specialist (RPS) hold Department of Justice security clearances and are experienced professionals from the criminal justice and/or forensic science communities.
RPSs provide investigative support to missing, unidentified, and unclaimed persons by providing case consultations, assisting with the collection of biometric information, facilitating NamUs forensic services, and providing training and guidance on the effective use of the NamUs 2.0 database application.
The NamUs Analytical Division provides case support to the Regional Program Specialist team and criminal justice agencies across the country. The NamUs Analytical Division utilizes nongovernmental criminal justice databases and advanced search techniques to provide:
The UNT Center for Human Identification’s Missing Person’s Unit performs nuclear and mitochondrial DNA analyses to assist with the identification of missing and unidentified person cases.
In addition to nuclear DNA, UNTCHI is one of a small number of laboratories capable of developing and uploading mitochondrial DNA profiles to CODIS.
Fingerprints are a widely recognized and cost-effective biometric marker. They are a reliable means of personal identification that enable rapid comparisons – when submitted to NamUs, fingerprints are immediately available for comparisons that can result in positive identifications or exclusions.
The NamUs Fingerprint/AFIS Unit assists with scanning, classifying, uploading, analyzing, and comparing fingerprint information submitted to NamUs. All fingerprint images provided to NamUs are also digitized and uploaded to an internal AFIS database for searching and comparison, and all unidentified decedent prints are also submitted to the FBI’s Latent Print Unit for searching in the national Next Generation Identification (NGI) database.
Law enforcement, medical examiners, and coroners rely on dental records to establish legal and verifiable identifications of missing and unidentified persons. Dental records provide an opportunity to make rapid, cost-effective, detailed comparison between individuals for inclusions or exclusions of potential matches. Agencies can directly upload dental information for missing and unidentified person cases to NamUs, which is a secure, central repository.
NamUs forensic odontologists can also be contacted to digitally scan, code, and upload information to NamUs cases on behalf of investigating agencies. All dental information uploaded to NamUs is available for 24/7 professional comparisons. NamUs odontologists also complete NCIC dental worksheets that allow agencies to upload accurate and complete dental information to NCIC.
The UNTCHI’s Forensic Anthropology Laboratory provides the following analyses of skeletal remains to investigating agencies:
The Victim Services Division provides the following information and support to individuals and families impacted by the loss or disappearance of a loved one:
The NamUs Communications Division responds to media inquiries, performs outreach to media, coordinates social networking efforts, and collaborates with victim advocate groups across the country to increase awareness and use of the NamUs program to resolve cases.
NamUs offers a variety of free training and outreach services, to include:
NamUs provides technology and resources to resolve unidentified decedent cases across the country. The NamUs Analytical Division also assists with the location of family members for next of kin death notifications and DNA sample collections for comparison.
NamUs connects law enforcement with tools and resources to resolve missing person cases, including state-of-the-art technology to securely store, share, and compare case information with other criminal justice professionals.
NamUs provides tools that empower family members of missing persons to enter and search case information, and connects families with criminal justice professionals to assist in the search for their missing loved ones.
Register for a free account to enter a case or access any of the free resources available through NamUsRegister