Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2022, $496,030)
The National Institute of Justice reports that the annual number of missing and unidentified people in the United States exceeds 600,000. The lack of an accurate inventory of Missing Persons (MP) and Unidentified Human Remains (UHR) cases, the underreporting of MP and UHR cases, and the lack of adequate resources dedicated to these cases has created a cold case crisis. The purpose of this project is to strengthen the current collaborative efforts across multiple Miami-Dade County entities and create a consistent process for the investigation of MP/UHR cases. This team will build on the existing procedures and improve the reporting, processing, information sharing, and identification of missing persons and unidentified remains, including migrants.
The Miami-Dade Police Department (MDPD) Special Victims and Forensic Services Bureaus and the Miami-Dade Medical Examiner Department (ME) will hire four personnel to support the different components of the missing persons and unidentified human remains investigation process at the ME, the MDPD Special Victims Bureau Missing Persons Unit, and the MDPD Forensic Services Bureau. The Missing Persons Unit and the ME will inventory all MP and UHR cases, respectively; digitize UHR records; consolidate case information; and enter the cases in National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUS), the National Crime Information Center (NCIC), and the Violent Criminal Apprehension Program (ViCAP), as appropriate. In addition, the digitization of files and records from cases that pre-date any computerized systems will create an electronic archive of case information that is easily accessible.
Delays in case processing produce delays in the final disposition for families. Further, such delays can also produce gaps in police investigations, ultimately affecting public safety. The Department of Justice has been sounding the alarm about missing and unidentified persons for decades. The responsibility lies with state and local jurisdictions to answer the call.