Missing Persons Issues

National concerns over missing persons

The following excerpt is reprinted from the National Institute of Justice's Web site. It perfectly and expertly summarizes national concerns over missing person cases.


Missing Persons and Unidentified Remains: The Nation’s Silent Mass Disaster

Ritter, Nancy. Missing Persons and Unidentified Remains: The Nation’s Silent Mass Disaster. NIJ Journal No. 256, January 2007. Accessed August 24, 2012.
On any given day, there are as many as 100,000 active missing persons cases in the United States. Every year, tens of thousands of people vanish under suspicious circumstances. Viewed over a 20-year period, the number of missing persons can be estimated in the hundreds of thousands.

Due in part to sheer volume, missing persons and unidentified human remains cases are a tremendous challenge to State and local law enforcement agencies. The workload for these agencies is staggering: More than 40,000 sets of human remains that cannot be identified through conventional means are held in the evidence rooms of medical examiners throughout the country. But only 6,000 of these cases—15 percent—have been entered into the FBI’s National Crime Information Center (NCIC) database.

Efforts to solve missing persons cases are further hindered because many cities and counties continue to bury unidentified remains without attempting to collect DNA samples. And many labs that are willing to make the effort may not be equipped to perform DNA analysis of human remains, especially when the samples are old or degraded.

Compounding this problem is the fact that many of the Nation’s 17,000 law enforcement agencies don’t know about their State’s missing persons clearinghouse or the four Federal databases—NCIC, National Crime Information Center; CODIS(mp), Combined DNA Index System for Missing Persons; IAFIS, Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System; and ViCAP, Violent Criminal Apprehension Program—which can be invaluable tools in a missing person investigation...Even in jurisdictions that are familiar with the State and Federal databases, some officials say they have neither the time nor the resources to enter missing persons and unidentified human remains data into the systems.

What is it like to have a missing loved one?

"Then when tragedy becomes personal, someone you love disappears; police seem to be doing nothing. You find that you personally have no control. If you are lucky and find contacts in the world of the missing; if you have support of family and friends; if you have political contacts, then you may be able to find some solace. But the reality is you probably won't get help from those who know what happened to your loved one." (Ross, Donald. 2011, December. Where's Opie? Vanished in Chicago. iUniverse. Accessed March 24, 2012.) 


"Some days it may seem that your actions are not very effective. Even so, the best thing you can do is to keep doing all you can. Sometimes it may feel that although you care deeply about the world, the world does not care much about you. Even so, it is much better that you continue to care. There will be times when you give all you have, and end up with nothing to show for it. Keep giving though, for the rewards are surely there, even if they are too profound for you to see just yet. The disappointments may sometimes be so painful that you feel like giving up. Remember though, it is your caring that makes the disappointment possible, and that very same caring will pull you up and push you forward. Though you may be reluctant to admit it, you can make any situation into a valuable, successful experience. You can live with love, joy and fulfillment even when everything seems to be pushing against you. The circumstances of this moment may not feel particularly desirable. Even so, there is a beautiful treasure that's yours to give, and yours to live in this very place, on this very day." (Marston, Ralph (2010, November 29). The Daily Motivator. Accessed November 12, 2012.)


"Another common thing some people seem to say a lot is 'Time Heals All Wounds.' Not sure if that is true either because the loss of a loved one never heals completely…the wound is still there and the pain of your loss can fester anytime, sometimes when you least expect it." (Wendy Bosma. 2012, June 3. Wenswritings. Accessed June 3, 2012.)

"In a situation like this, you mourn every day because you don't have him with you," Veronica Frear says. "There's not that final reconciliation that he's not with us anymore. People have their reasons for saying that to you; they have your best interests at heart. But I find it aggravating as hell. I don't need closure. I need my son." (Iorizzo, Pete. October 19, 2013. Frear's family looks for answers. Times Union. Accessed November 26, 2013.)




Missing Persons' Legislation for Reform

I will continue to add to this section as I learn of new legislation or initiatives that serve the missing.

  • The National Institute of Justice (NIJ) has brought together some of the country’s top criminal justice and forensic science experts as part of a multi-faceted long-term initiative to maximize the use of forensic DNA in solving crime. It includes training programs for medical examiners, law enforcement officers and victims’ families on forensic DNA evidence, providing free DNA collection kits to any jurisdiction in the country, free testing of unidentified human remains and family reference samples, proposed legislation and federal missing and unidentified persons databases. [1]
  • Ohio - A state law signed in 2007 requires law-enforcement agencies to immediately enter information into a national database if a missing person is between 18 and 21 years old. They have different time limits when the cases meet other criteria. In July 2010, the Ohio Peace Officer Training Commission also revised their legal requirements and recommended new protocols in missing-persons cases. The change came, in part, to address criticism that police may be ignoring missing persons reports because they believed the missing adult just wanted some time alone or had chosen to disappear. At least in departments where adults had historically turned up on their own, there was a worry that there may be a complacency to investigate, especially if the unit's resources are already stretched. The Ohio attorney general’s office also met with families and victims advocates to discuss issues pertaining to missing persons cases. The prior year, the Ohio missing persons unit had received 5,726 reports--about 16 per day--and 95 percent resolved on their own within two days. Most were the result of adults that didn't come home at night but who turned up the following day, or a person looking for an estranged spouse. "It’s sometimes difficult to separate the reports that need immediate action from those that don’t," Sgt. Jerry Cupp of the Columbus police missing person's unit told The Columbus Dispatch. [2]
  • Minnesota - "Brandon's Law" (HF1242*/SF1146/CH38), which took effect July 1, 2009,  requires law enforcement to take a missing persons report without delay when someone is missing under dangerous circumstances, no matter the missing person’s age; immediately conduct a preliminary investigation to determine if the person is missing, and whether the person is endangered; and promptly notify all other law enforcement agencies of the situation. It clarifies that the agency taking the report be the lead agency in the investigation. Law enforcement is also required to seek additional information — including DNA samples, dental records, X-rays, photographs and fingerprints — if the missing person is not found within 30 days. The law is named after Brandon Swanson who disappeared in southwest Minnesota on May 14, 2008. [3]

How You Can Help
  • Spread the Word About Missing People. According to a Web site by Project Jason, 1 in 6 missing persons are found as the result of a visual aid, such as a billboard or a poster. It is crucial to disseminate pictures of missing people as soon as possible to a large number of people. Facebook and other online media sources can be helpful in this effort.
  • Promote Change. Help is needed to promote Billy's Law, to expand Brandon's Law throughout the U.S., and promote Lindsay's Law in Canada. Check your own area for other pending legislation. You can also help promote change urging bars to stop over-serving alcohol and to be more responsible for the safety of their patrons. Demand that law enforcement treat a drowning scene like a potential crime scene. Demand a fast and equal response in the search for ALL missing persons—any gender, any race, any age. Insist that that your child's college notify parents when a college student goes missing.
  • Help with Family Fundraising Efforts. Families are often in need of donations to help with search-related expenses or memorial funds. Click here to see a list of some of the ongoing fundraising efforts.
  • Donate to Missing Persons Organizations. For example, Project Jason offers free search assistance, online counseling and a retreat for families of the missing to help them stay mentally, physically, and spiritually strong. You can make a monetary donation or donate items on the retreat's wish list.
  • Send in News and Updates to This Site. You can best support this site by sending breaking news or updates about a case, including links to your source material. You may contact me at footprints.blogmail@yahoo.com or by leaving a comment below one of the posts.

Sources

[1] Ritter, Nancy. Missing Persons and Unidentified Remains: The Nation’s Silent Mass Disaster. NIJ Journal No. 256, January 2007. Accessed August 24, 2012 from http://www.nij.gov/journals/256/missing-persons.html.

[2] Phillips, Jeb. (2010, August 21). Missing adults getting more attention. The Columbus Dispatch. Retrieved July 7, 2012 from http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/local/2010/08/21/missing-adults-getting-more-attention.html
.

[3] Cook, Mike. (2009, May 8). Brandon's Law is now law. Minnesota House of Representatives Web site. Retrieved July 7, 2012 from http://www.house.leg.state.mn.us/sessionweekly/art.asp?ls_year=86&issueid_=43&storyid=1297&year_=2009.

7 comments:

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