WREG uncovers issues with missing persons database

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The National Unidentified and Missing Persons System, or NamUs as it's called, is the nation's centralized database for all missing and unidentified persons cases.

Last year, Tennessee became one four states where law enforcement officers are required to add missing persons cases to the database.

J. Todd Matthews is the Case Management and Communications Director for NamUs.

He explained, "Missing and unidentified are automatically compared inside of NamUs, so a missing person could be flagged as a match to an unidentified and investigators can look at that."

However, Matthews says 15 months after the law went into affect, thousands of missing persons cases are still "missing" from NamUs.

WREG previously reported on the challenges, and numbers show it hasn't gotten much better.

According to Matthews, Tennessee has more than 1200 missing person cases in the FBI's database, the National Crime Information Center, but only 326 of those are in NamUs.

"A lot of these are older cases that are hard copy files that we can't easily access. So until somebody remembers them and brings them forward. They're not in NamUs."

Mississippi has 1359 cases in NCIC, compared to 110 in NamUs. Arkansas has 513 cases in NCIC, and only 190 show up in NamUs.

Matthews says law enforcement agencies do fairly well entering newer cases. The backlog mainly stems from older cases.

"I think a lot of it, these records are not digital, they're not easily transferred. It's going to take a lot work," Matthews said.

Arkansas is the latest state looking to possibly add requirements for law enforcement to add missing persons to NamUs.

"The attorney general's office and the governor's office have all considered passing a similar law in Arkansas. They do have a copy of Tennessee's legislation. And I hope it'll be something very similar to what we have in Tennessee," Matthews said.

In the meantime, Matthews says because NamUs is open to the public anyone can add their missing loved one to the database.

If you have a missing loved one that's not in NamUs click here or call I (855)-626-7600.