Urge the United States House of Representatives, the United States Senate, and President Obama to pass the Help The Missing Act a.k.a. Billy’s Law.
What is the Help The Missing Act a.k.a. Billy’s Law?
The Help The Missing Act a.k.a. Billy's Law (H.R.3695/S.3019), sponsored by U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy (D-CT 5) and U.S. Senator Joe Liberman (I-CT), is a bill designed to aid families searching for missing loved ones. It will create incentives for all law enforcement agencies, medical examiners and coroners to be trained in how to properly process all missing persons cases, as well as enter the data into the NamUs system which was created by the Department of Justice.
Every year tens of thousands of Americans go missing, never to be seen by their loved ones again. As of 2004, there are an estimated 40,000 sets of unidentified remains that are being held by medical examiner or coroner offices or disposed of across the country.
The problem missing family members face face is there is no national protocol in play to assist investigators to bridge the gap between missing persons and unidentified persons cases.
The Problem with the National Crime Information Center (NCIC)
The estimated numbers of missing persons and unidentified human remains in the United States are not complete because reporting to National Crime Information Center (NCIC) by local law enforcement entities, medical examiner offices, and coroner offices of information on missing adults or unidentified decedents is voluntary.
According to the NCIC, only 6,000 of such cases of unidentified remains have been entered into the NCIC’s Unidentified Person File of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. As of December 31, 2008, there were 102,764 missing persons records active in the NCIC.
In addition, according to a Bureau of Justice and Statistics special report on its 2004 Census of Medical Examiner and Coroners' Offices, 80 percent of surveyed medical examiners offices and coroners offices reported using the NCIC rarely or never, with increased workload and cost of access as obstacles.
The Problem with the Law Enforcement Agencies
According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, over 4,000 unidentified remains are discovered each year. After one year, 1,000 of these bodies remain unidentified. With tens of thousands of people reported missing each year, it is likely that a family member, friend, or loved one is looking for that unidentified person and simply can’t find them due to the absence of a cooperative effort by law enforcement across the country.
Some law enforcement agencies have a lack adaisical attitude when they receive a report for the “voluntarily missing” and often there is very little effort to search for them. The problem is when the case goes long term. If there is any follow-up at all, often it is long after the initial report. Often those long term cases have not been resolved because the missing person has died and their remains lay unidentified in a county morgue or cemetery.
There are many Federal, State, local, and non-profit databases that can be used to help identify unidentified remains. However, such databases are not connected and most have little or no search capability and are not able to be viewed or searched by the public.
The Problem with the Gaps for Missing Persons
The January 2007 National Institute of Justice Journal publication, titled `Missing Persons and Unidentified Remains: The Nation's Silent Mass Disaster', identified major gaps in the Nation's missing persons system. Such identified gaps, which this legislation addresses, included the lack of;
- reporting of missing adults and unidentified remains by local law enforcement and medical examiners and coroners because of insufficient time and resources;
-information sharing among Federal missing persons and unidentified remains databases;
-policies to collect DNA samples from unidentified remains;
-resources to perform DNA analysis of human remains; and
-knowledge among law enforcement agencies about State missing persons clearinghouses or the Federal databases.
The Help Find the Missing Act will bridge the gap.
Law enforcement entities, medical examiners, and coroners need assistance to acquire the tools to report missing adults and unidentified remains and the purpose of this Act is to provide incentive grants to provide such entities with such assistance.
The National Child Search Assistance Act of 1990 (42 U.S.C. 5779), as amended by Suzanne's Law (section 204 of the Prosecutorial Remedies and Other Tools to End the Exploitation of Children Today Act of 2003 (PROTECT Act, Public Law108-21)) requires Federal, State, and local law enforcement agencies to report cases of missing children and individuals under the age of 21 to the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) Missing Person File. There is no similar Federal law requiring Federal, State, or local law enforcement agencies to report missing adults or unidentified decedents cases.
The National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs) was established in July 2007 by the Department of Justice under the President's DNA Initiative to provide a missing persons/unidentified remains database that the public could access and to which the public could contribute and search. NamUs is currently funded by the National Institute of Justice under the Department of Justice.
The NamUs is by far becoming one of the best ways for the public and law enforcement agencies across the country to work together to help bring missing loved ones home! Since its launch in June of last year, the database of unidentified decedents and missing persons has proved essential in solving 16 cases. With the passing of Billy’s Law, this number only stands to grow. Unfortunately, without the funding of Billy’s Law not all law enforcement agencies are able to allocate the resources necessary to use the NamUs system.
As of September 2009, 42 States, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico have medical examiners, coroners, or both entering cases into the NamUs unidentified persons system. Forty-five States have law enforcement officers registered and using the NamUs missing persons system. All 50 States have missing persons in the NamUs databases.
The passing of Billy’s Law would make it possible for agencies across the country to input information on their unidentified decedents, increasing the number of case resolutions and potentially bringing closure to families of missing persons all across our country.
What will Billy's Law do?
Billy's Law would authorize the sharing of information from the National Crime Information Center database to the NamUs database, therefore, increasing the number of case resolutions and potentially bringing answers to families of missing persons all across our country. Currently there are over 40,000 unidentified remains in our country and this database will aid in making matches to current missing persons, allowing families to know what happened to their loved one.
Under Billy's Law the Attorney General would be authorized to maintain the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System or NamUs, to contain missing persons records and unidentified remains cases to assist in identifying missing people and solve cases of unidentified human remains.
The Attorney General would also be directed to:
-(1) share information on missing persons and unidentified human remains contained in the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) Missing and Unidentified Person File database with the NamUs database;
-(2) update the online data entry format for such databases to allow states to report information to each database;
-(3) establish a grant program to assist in the reporting of missing persons and unidentified remains information to the NCIC and NamUs databases;
-(4) issue a report to the offices of medical examiners, offices of coroners, and federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies describing the best practices for collecting, reporting, and analyzing data and information on missing persons and unidentified human remains;
-(5) report to Congress on the status of the NCIC Missing and Unidentified Person File and NamUs databases.
What can you do to get the Billy's Law passed?
Please write to and/or call your U.S. Representatives and Senators and President Obama tell them to pass Billy's Law (H.R.3695/S.3019. Also ask your U.S. Representatives and Senators to co-sponsor the Billy's Law.
Also please sign the petition below.