Amidst the multitude of governmental acronyms sits NamUs. It is shorthand for one of the many agencies and programs that make up the leviathan that is the U.S. Government, and it is trying to get DNA samples of many citizens. For a change, I am in agreement with the creation of a database filled with the most private of information about innocent people… because it’s trying to help find their loved ones.
NamUs is the National Missing and Unidentified Person System, a three-tiered system that provides resources for, on the one hand, families and friends of people who go missing and, on the other hand, coroners and detectives who have unidentified remains. The third tier is reserved for medical professionals who have identified remains but cannot find a next of kin.
There are currently just over 14,000 Missing Persons cases open in the database, with roughly the same number now closed. Of the closed, more than 10% have been aided by the database.
For the Unidentified, the case numbers are about half those of the Missing Persons, with over 50% of the closed cases being aided by the system.
The database has been used to close cold case files and to positively identify victims of murderers which, in turn, aids in criminal prosecutions.
NamUs is limited by the participation of the missing person’s loved ones. Whereas resources like forms for “Missing” posters are available to all, the true value lies in the matching of bodies with provided data.
That data may be something as basic as pictures of the missing person, as specific as recent dental records, or as definitive as DNA samples (although the DNA sample information is kept in a distinct database, with more restrictions on access than the basic database.)
Because samples are rarely available from the missing themselves, samples from at least two close blood relatives can be used to identify distinguishing traits.
All of this data is being sought, now, after the system has recently been upgraded. And localities are getting involved.
This Sunday, there is an event called Missing In North Texas which is being held in Fort Worth, and will have people available to help those with loved ones who have disappeared.
In Maryland, a similar gathering is happening on May 5. Other states have attempted to expand their own database entries in recent months, and more are being encouraged to do so through contact with officials.
Anyone who knows of a disappearance is encouraged to inform family members about NamUs. At a time when it seems like government is intruding into every aspect of life, this seems to be a rare time when it might be welcome.