In the spring of 2005, the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) assembled Federal, State, and local law enforcement officials, medical examiners and coroners, forensic scientists, key policymakers, and victim advocates and families from around the country for a national strategy meeting in Philadelphia. The meeting, called the "Identifying the Missing Summit," defined major challenges in investigating and solving missing and unidentified persons cases. As a result of that summit, the Deputy Attorney General created the National Missing Persons Task Force and charged the U.S. Department of Justice with identifying every available tool--and creating others--to solve these cases. One of the most significant issues identified by the National Missing Persons Task Force was the need to improve access to database information by people who can help solve missing and unidentified persons cases.

As NIJ investigated the challenges of missing and unidentified persons cases, another problem was more fully revealed: the reporting of missing persons cases. Cases of missing persons 18 years old and younger must be reported, but reporting adult missing persons cases is voluntary. Only a handful of States have laws that require law enforcement agencies to prepare missing person reports on adults. Overall, there is a low rate of reporting these cases through NCIC.

The National Missing and Unidentified Persons System, NamUs, was created to meet these challenges. NamUs brings together two online, searchable databases: an unidentified persons database and a missing persons database.

The missing persons database will improve the quality and quantity of missing persons data and simplify the reporting and management of missing persons cases for the justice community and the general public. Law enforcement, medical examiners, coroners and other members of the justice community, as well as family members, will be able to log on to the database to enter data regarding missing persons. Information - including State clearinghouses, medical examiners and coroners, victim assistance resources and legislation - will continue to be added to this database.

Click the Resources link at the top of the Home page for examples of this information.

NamUs has the following milestones:

These major milestones marked the steps toward the now completed system at http://www.namus.gov.
  • Create the national database of unidentified persons records, which allowed searches based on characteristics such as demographics, anthropological analysis, dental information and distinct body features.
  • Functional and technical design of the national online missing persons database.
  • Finalized nationwide resources on missing persons, including a central access point for information on State clearinghouses, medical examiners' and coroners' offices, victims assistance resources and legislation.
  • Studied to examine the legal ramifications of privacy laws and their impact on public access to information on missing persons.
  • Developed a national online missing persons database to enhance the reporting, investigation and solving of missing persons cases.
  • Integrated the two NamUs databases to allow simultaneous searching of missing persons records against cases in the unidentified persons database to identify potential matches for further investigation.