NamUs 2.0 has arrived and with it hope for families of missing persons. The National Missing and Unidentified Persons System, or NamUs for short, is the only database available that allows input from law enforcement, medical examiners and, the public. As the public becomes more consumed with crowdsourcing and cold cases, NamUs offers a unique database. The recent arrest of Joseph James DeAngelo as the Golden State Killer has spurred new interest in cold cases, especially serial murders.
There are three (3) databases that comprise NamUs:
1. Missing Persons
2. Unidentified Human Remains
3. Unclaimed Human Remains
Every time information is entered into NamUs, it is cross-referenced with the three databases looking for similarities and/or matches.
According to the NamUs 2.0 website, new features: a mapping feature, enhanced searching, updated search algorithms and, better overall security. It also mentions a stream-lined user registration that I’m sure should bring more users on board. Registration is free and there is no charge to use the database.
I reached out to Todd Matthews, the Director of Case Management and Communication for NamUs, about the update. He said, “2.0 is an important milestone for the continued growth of NamUs. Improved function and enhanced security. Now an even more powerful tool for missing and unidentifed persons cases.”
More Work to Do for the Victims and their Families
The potential of NamUs as an invaluable tool for helping to close missing persons cases has finally be recognized. A number of Governors have recently signed bills into law requiring the police and medical examiners to enter missing and unidentified information in NamUs. In July 2016, New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a bill requiring all coroners and medical examiners in the state to enter information into NamUs. Governor Rick Snyder of Michigan signed a bill into law requiring all law enforcement agencies in Michigan to start inputting data in NamUs as of July 2018.
I have been an advocate for NamUs since I discovered it as the Commanding Officer of the Bronx Cold Case Squad. It’s great that states are discovering its usefulness and potential, but it’s not spreading faster than it should. There are 86,000 open missing persons cases on average a year in the United States that remain open. Some of the answers to those cases may be waiting to be discovered in NamUs.
The Test Run
I took a test run of NamUs 2.0 this morning and I like it. It has a new sleek design to it and the parameters to search have been greatly expanded. Registration was a snap and you can see how much more secure the site is. If you aren’t already a user, the process only takes a few minutes. Once you are logged on, you will see your dashboard where you can save the case(s) you are working on. I conducted a search for all unidentified human remains on Long Island in the system, this is what the results look like:
The quick search feature is very robust. My favorite part of 2.0 is the Gallery, List and Map features of your query. It provides you a perspective to identify a pattern or other insight into the cases. This feature is located at the top right of the finished query.