A better cold-case database

By Jeff Carlton

DNA group with missing posters
 
A UNT Health Science Center team has upgraded and enhanced a national database for cold cases involving missing people and unidentified remains to offer more powerful investigative tools for criminal justice agencies and families searching for their loved ones.

Called NamUs 2.0, the improved website:

  • allows users access to all cases types and tools from a single dashboard
  • increases the likelihood of resolving cases through an updated case matching algorithm
  • provides faster and more complex search capabilities
  • improves mapping capabilities through precise satellite imagery
  • enhances overall system performance and response speed.

NamUs, or the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System, is a clearinghouse and resource center for missing person cases, unidentified bodies, unidentified living individuals and unclaimed bodies. Based at UNT Health Science Center since 2011, it is managed by the UNT Center for Human Identification through a cooperative agreement with the National Institute of Justice.

NamUs 2.0 replaces the existing NamUs databases, which were launched in 2007 and 2008.  Since then, NamUs has received more than 15,000 unidentified person cases and over 32,000 missing person cases. More than 3,000 of those unidentified person cases and more than 14,000 missing person cases have been resolved.

What makes NamUs unique is it allows access to the general public in addition to criminal justice personnel. Families and Internet sleuths have assisted in solving cases that had long gone cold.

“It’s a one-of-a-kind system,” said B.J. Spamer, Director of Forensic and Analytical Services for NamUs. “We have had tips from the public that have helped us close cases. And the improvements to the software and website will make our databases more effective and user-friendly.”

In addition to the databases, NamUs provides access to forensic services, training, and analytical and investigative support to criminal justice agencies tasked with locating missing persons and identifying remains. All NamUs resources are provided at no cost to law enforcement, medical examiners, coroners, allied forensic professionals, and family members of missing persons.

The release of NamUs 2.0 is the culmination of a software upgrade project guided by the National Institute of Justice; Lynley Dungan, Chief Information Officer at UNTHSC; and NamUs program leadership at UNTHSC.

“While the hard work has taken place over the last two years, we began planning for this project in 2013,” Dungan said. “It’s been a true example of teamwork among UNTHSC, NamUs and the National Institute of Justice.”


NamUs in action

For 30 years, Francine Frost’s family searched for answers. Then the NamUs program helped find some answers. Read more…

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