Missing Persons Day

Thousands of people go missing in the U.S. each year and many have not been seen in months or years. As of May 30, 2019, there are 381 missing American Indian (AI) and Alaska Native (AN) missing person cases, 118 unidentified AI and AN person cases, and 14 AI and AN unclaimed person cases published in the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs). NamUs is a national centralized repository and resource center for missing persons and unidentified decedent records. The NamUs database is an 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 cases.

For the first time, a missing person day event will occur alongside the U.S. Department of Justice’s 14th Annual Government-to-Government Violence Against Women Tribal Consultation on Wednesday, August 21, 2019 from 9:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. EDT. at the Silver Creek Event Center at Four Winds Casino Resort in New Buffalo, Michigan. The event is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women and National Institute of Justice, in partnership with the University of North Texas Health Science Center. Also partnering on this event are several federal agencies as well as local, state, and tribal law enforcement.

At this event, family members can report a person missing to law enforcement, register their missing person case in NamUs, and provide DNA samples that will be used to search for possible associations between missing persons and unidentified decedents recovered across the United States. Family members will also be connected with support groups, have the opportunity to ask questions of NamUs staff and law enforcement officials, and will be encouraged to share their stories and even frustrations. Families and friends of long-term missing persons may participate in interviews with NamUs and law enforcement officials to provide case information that can help make identifications. Providing information is voluntary and used only for identification purposes.

Family members who have not reported a loved one’s disappearance are encouraged to bring photographs and detailed descriptions of their missing loved ones, to include scars, marks, tattoos, and other distinguishing characteristics. They also are encouraged to bring X-rays, dental or medical records, police reports, and other identifying documents (fingerprint cards) connected to the missing person. All images and documents will be immediately scanned and can be returned to family. Biologically-related family members can also submit voluntary DNA samples on site, which will be collected by NamUs staff using simple cheek swab collectors. DNA samples will be profiled at no cost by the University of North Texas (UNT) Health Science Center’s UNT Center for Human Identification, and the profiles will be loaded into the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) where they will be searched in an attempt to find an association to decedents in the system. Since 2007, over 17,000 missing person cases have been resolved since their report to NamUs. Many of these resolutions were made possible because of information and DNA samples provided by family members of the missing.

What should you expect?

One-on-one meetings with forensic professionals that will:

  • Review and update case file data (e.g., photographs of the missing)
  • Collect dental and medical reports of the missing
  • Collect voluntary DNA (cheek swab) of family members of the missing

Law enforcement will be on hand to:

  •  File missing person reports
  • Gather and update information on older missing person reports

By participating in this first missing person day event, families can ensure that every available resource is used in the search for their missing loved one.

For more information about this event, please email NamUs@unthsc.edu, or call NamUs toll-free at 1-855-626-7600. You may also visit the event page on Facebook for updates and other information: www.facebook.com/events/547913082280016/

For information about the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System go to www.namus.gov