NamUs: underutilized. Why?


NamUs is one of the most underutilized tools, not just from law enforcement, but also from the public,” said retired NYPD Det. Joseph Giacalone, a former cold case investigator.

It’s one of the greatest tools that can be used to solve some of these cases, but no one knows about it.” Joseph Giacalone is no stranger here at DCC. He has participated in many Twitter-based chats and guest blogged on various cold cases.

In the Long Island Press we read that “New York is now the second state to pass a NamUs requirement after Connecticut. Congress has failed to pass a national version of the legislation. With the majority of states having spotty voluntary usage of the database, NamUs officials have taken to urging state legislatures to pass such measures instead.”

According to that article, many police departments do not use the FBI’s Violent Criminal Apprehension Program (ViCAP) either. ViCAP was created in 1985 by the FBI. The system uses data from police departments and compares the newly entered facts to previous entries. This way police might find a matching modus operandi, gather more information, identify and track serial killers, etc. Cross-references of databases in cold cases are crucial. However, you cannot neglect data entry.

NamUs offers a quick way to see if a missing loved one is among the 40,000 sets of unidentified remains that languish at any given time with medical examiners across the country. NamUs is free, yet many law enforcement agencies still are not aware of it. Others are not convinced that they should use their limited staff resources to take part. But here is the rub: anyone can enter all the data they have on a missing person, including descriptions, photos, fingerprints, dental records and DNA. Medical examiners can enter the same data on unidentified bodies, and anyone can search the database for potential matches that call for further investigation. It might be time for police to start using more civilians/volunteers for data entry! 

The Long Island Press article is here. If you wish to take a look at the John and Jane Does for Nassau County, click here. For Suffolk, click here.