The thought of losing a child is daunting. The responsibility assigned to law enforcement to find a missing child weighs heavily, with the citizens scrutinizing the safety of their community while providing assistance to a family that suffers the loss. At some point, these cases may seem like a dead-end. In such instances, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) extends their helping hand and supports law enforcement agencies in their investigation
To help understand the process and familiarize with the available resources and support that law enforcement can access in such cases, Carol Schweitzer joins Justice Clearinghouse on this course. With her Master’s degree in Forensic Psychology, Carol is the Supervisor of the Forensic Services Unit (FSU) for the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. The FSU assists law enforcement to resolve cases related to missing children, child homicide, and unidentified deceased child cases.
Carol takes some time off her busy day to talk to us about available resources, strategies, and advanced forensic techniques to develop valuable leads in missing children cases. Some of the specifics she discussed are:
- A summary of what the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) is and it’s mission.
- A brief background of NCMEC's Forensic Services Unit (FSU), the services they provide, the organizational structure, their operations, and case management workflow.
A drill down of the specific processes involved in cases that comprise of:
- Gathering information through the Project ALERT Consultants (PAC) who coordinate with investigating agencies and assist them in collecting and compiling case materials.
- Missing person searches through the NCMEC missing children database and two other major databases, the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs) and the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) Offlines.
- Facilitating biometric technical assistance from obtaining dentals, DNA, and fingerprints to exhumation technical assistance and coordinating with partner laboratories and service providers.
- The various procedures involved from age progression, forensic imaging through facial reconstruction (soft tissue and skull, 2D and 3D) to putting these information out for public exposure through poster/photo distribution and social media presence.
- Lead development where the Case Analysis Unit reviews all information gathered, highlights the most pertinent pieces of information, evidence and leads, and liaises with federal agencies when needed.
- The advanced forensic technologies like Phenotype testing, pollen analysis, and genetic genealogy performed through forensic partners.
- The important background task of providing family and victim support through trying times.
- Recovery identification showing the NCMEC's success in resolving such cases.
During the Q&A segment, Carol shed light on the attendee's inquiries on:
- The platform used to create a map database
- Working on cases across borders (US and Mexico)
- Review and validation of entries in missing persons databases
- The costs involved with the partner laboratories and service providers
- Common characteristics of the cases
- The leads management systems used by NCMEC
- Resources on best practices for missing persons cases