National missing persons database staying in Texas

Investigations

NamUs uses a combination of fingerprints, DNA profiles and dental records to gather and verify material that can be matched with unsolved cases. (KXAN Photo/Arezow Doost)

FORT WORTH, Texas (KXAN) — The University of North Texas Health Science Center (UNTHSC) will continue to manage a federal database created to help law enforcement and families of missing persons for now.

KXAN Investigators started asking questions about the database, after concerns were raised that the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs) was being defunded.

The National Institute of Justice (NIJ) has funded the program since 2011. 

“NIJ can continue the online system service without UNT, but would prefer to maintain the relationship in order to address the existing backlog of casework,” said NIJ spokesperson Sheila Jerusalem, in an email. “NIJ has no intention of discontinuing the NamUs program.”

The NamUs database uses fingerprints, DNA profiles and dental records to gather and verify material that can be matched with unsolved cases. 

It’s updated consistently with new information, and the public can search the website for a missing person. 

The database was featured on KXAN’s “Mayberry Texas” investigation in 2019.

The series found a handful of states have passed laws requiring police to report all missing persons cases to NamUs within a certain timeframe. But in Texas, it’s not a requirement despite NamUs being housed in Fort Worth. 

UNT posted recently on the Center for Human Identification’s website it would no longer be able to manage the program, “Due to funding limitations and significant program modifications.”

That posting has since been removed. 

Jerusalem said UNT accepted the award to manage the program on Tuesday, and “NIJ is looking forward to the continued partnership.”

She explained that the NIJ agreement with UNT will end on September 30th, 2021. It’s not clear if NamUs will remain in Texas after the agreement ends. 

KXAN investigators have asked UNTHSC multiple times why it posted the program would cease but later backtracked and removed the post. A university spokesperson said all comments have to come from NIJ.

“I’m not able to comment because talks are still ongoing,” said the university spokesperson. 

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