Only a small fraction of U.S. law enforcement agencies are registered to use a new online database that promises to crack some of the nation’s 100,000 missing persons cases and provide answers to desperate families, reports the Associated Press. The clearinghouse, dubbed NamUs (Name Us), offers a quick way to check whether a missing loved one might be among the 40,000 sets of unidentified remains in the custody of medical examiners. NamUs is free, yet many law enforcement agencies still aren’t aware of it, and others aren’t convinced they should use their limited staff resources to participate. (The database was featured in a story last week in The Crime Report, “Gone Missing”: http://thecrimereport.org/2010/03/01/gone-missing.)
A bill pending in Congress would set aside more funding and make other changes to encourage wider use of NamUs. Only about 1,100 of the nearly 17,000 law enforcement agencies nationwide are registered to use the system, even though it already has been hailed for solving 16 cases since it became fully operational last year. So far, about 6,200 sets of remains and nearly 2,800 missing people have been entered in the database, said Kevin Lothridge of the Naational Forensic Science Technology Center in Largo, Fl., which runs NamUs for the Justice Department.