Promising Practices in Missing and Unidentified Person Case Investigations

Promising Practices in Missing and Unidentified Person Case Investigations
Duration: 60 Minutes
Module 1Module 1
Recorded on: 2020-09-16
Unit 1Slide Deck: Promising Practices in Missing and Unidentified Person Case Investigations
Unit 2Transcript: Promising Practices in Missing and Unidentified Person Case Investigations
Unit 3Workbook: Promising Practices in Missing and Unidentified Person Case Investigations
Unit 4Recording: Promising Practices in Missing and Unidentified Person Case Investigations

The Justice Clearinghouse has been covering topics surround missing persons and ambiguous loss, capturing the support needed by the families that are left behind, the challenges of the search, and the resources available to find the missing person. Fortunately, numerous initiatives on the federal and state level are being implemented to ease the difficulties of those involved in the search for missing persons.

This session unpacks promising practices in this area of investigations, led by B.J. Spammer, Executive Director of Operations for NamUs’ UNT Health Science Center. B.J. has been part of the University of North Texas (UNT) Health Science Center leadership since 2011 where she manages the NamUs program’s budget, reports, software development, and operations.

Specifics covered in this webinar are:

  • A backgrounder on the University of North Texas Center for Human Identification and the NamUs program.
  • The National Crime Information Center (NCIC): The information available in the database, the accessibility limits and challenges, and the statistics and insights captured through the system.
  • The National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs): Its objectives and accessibility, the facts and figures deduced from the database, its functions and improvements on capability, and their specialist team that assists law enforcement.
  • Federal legislation that mandates law enforcement response to missing child cases, and state laws that supplement perceived gaps on the federal standards.
  • Initiatives focused on missing indigenous persons to better serve this segment of the population.
  • Utilizing the broad reach of social media and notification systems to invoke a collaborative effort within the community to provide leads and find missing children as well as adults.
  • Forensics procedures being leveraged to resolve missing and unidentified persons cases.
    • A glimpse into the DNA capability required, the sources for DNA that may be analyzed to make matches, and the institutions that can provide the required DNA analysis.
    • The two repositories through the FBI and the DHS which NamUs collaborates with to make fingerprint matches.
  • Services made available through NamUs to provide victims and their families with services and support needed.
  • New technology being developed to address the niche of persons that go missing during critical incidents.

Questions from the audience were about:

  • Availability of NamUs outside the United States.
  • Updates on the NamUs for Critical Incidents.
  • Forensic odontology unit’s capability and turnaround time.
  • Whether non-US citizen missing persons may be entered on NamUs.
  • Legislation mandating entry of missing persons to NamUs.
  • Cross-checking information between NamUs and the Doe Network.



This is the first of a two-part series. Click here for Part 2, NamUs Victim Services for Families with a Missing Loved One, on Nov 17.


Audience Comments

  • “The sheer number of programs that are out there. Definitely discovered some new resources. I am incredibly excited about their next victim services related webinar!” — Aaron
  • “The info on missing indigenous people was fascinating! She just needed more time.” 🙂 — Angela
  • “Learned about the different agencies and databases that DNA, fingerprints and dental records can be submitted to, to try to match with unidentified cases. I was not aware about the different age groups and how that affects being reported missing. I was not aware of AI/AN as a separate group nationally. Since I work for a Medical Examiner Office, I would like to learn more about the Unclaimed cases section in NamUs.” — Alice
  • “It was very interesting to learn about a website that is open to anyone (especially family members) to help/assist in locating their loved ones. Great idea. Thanks!” — BARBARA
  • “It was absolutely one of the best presentations….so ALL OF IT. Very informative. As a victim advocate, I had no idea how much NAMUS has to help investigations and victims. I have experienced missing person cases in my professional life, as well personally, as a friend whose daughter is still missing. The different resources, the ease of accessing information, being able to subscribe (which I will do) as I am interested in the next presentation on victim services.” — Barbara E.
  • “As an author, I found this webinar to be a great overview of new developments in this area. It could easily have been a 90-minute webinar! Now I know where to go if I need more information. BJ Spamer was extremely knowledgeable and presented the information in a way that was easy to follow, even for non-professionals.” — Cynthia
  • “Good information on NamUs. I did not know anything or what it did for LE. Thank you, it will be a useful tool for the Department.” — Rodney



Additional Resources
1 year ago
After the Webinar: Promising Practices in Missing Person Cases. Q&A with BJ Spamer
Webinar presenter BJ Spamer answered a number of your questions after her presentation, Promising Pr […]
2 years ago
NCMEC Forensic Imaging Techniques and Services
The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children has been creating age progressions for long […]
3 years ago
Using NamUs to Resolve Missing and Unidentified Indigenous Person Cases
NamUs is a powerful tool designed to assist with missing and unidentified persons cases. Traditional […]
4 years ago
Federal Legislation Impacting Children Missing from Care and NCMEC Resources
Resources from the Presentation: Law Enforcement Investigative Checklist NCMEC FAON Flyer […]
6 years ago
Law Enforcement Response to Missing and Unidentified Persons
At any given time, there are over 100,000 missing and unidentified persons in the United States. Jus […]