On Victims of Unsuccessful People Searches and Better Ways to Find People

Every year, nearly a million people nationwide are reported missing. Most are eventually found in one piece; many did not want to be found to begin with. Still, thousands never return, having found a resting place under just another nameless rock far away from home.

The National Institute of Justice reports that most states don't have laws to govern police treatment of Missing Persons reports. Police departments are free to decide if and when they will even accept such a report, based on the number of available detectives. Federal law only requires them to accept reports of missing minors, but missing adults are still a gray area.

The FBI's National Crime Information Center (NCIC) database has been keeping records of missing people searches since 1975. By the end of 2008, 102,764 cases were "active" from previous years; the new reports filed that year totaled 778,161. No one knows for sure how many missing persons are there in all; it is impossible to tell if every record that should have been entered into NCIC, was. This probably means there are missing people no one is doing anything about; how can anyone find people like them, if no one knows to even look?

In 2007, the U.S. Justice Department implemented the final phase of the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System, or NAMUS. Its purpose is to compare information between two databases: one contains missing persons information, the other - information on unidentified human remains in morgues around the country. That certainly is the saddest end to a missing people search everyone hopes to avoid. Yet, often this technology allows the family to at least lay the remains to rest with proper respects, and the police - to close the case.

But what about those missing persons who don't want anyone to find them, but who may need to be brought to justice? Or those who don't even realize someone is looking for them? There are countless situations in which we often attempt to find people around the country: maybe a friend with whom we've lost touch, or a birth parent we've never met, but must. Luckily, NAMUS is not the only online database that contains information on how to find your loved ones. There are much more optimistic services that reconnect people anywhere in the United States, while they are still alive and well.