Legislation that would require medical examiners and coroners throughout New York to report identifying information on unidentified human remains to the National Missing and Unidentified Remains System (NamUs) has passed the State Legislature, according to its sponsors, Senator Diane Savino (D-IP-WP-Staten Island) and Assemblyman Steve Otis (D-Rye). The bill, A10278A/S7987A, which would promote more comprehensive sharing of fingerprints and other identifying data of unknown decedents, now moves on to the Governor for his consideration.
The United States Department of Justice created the NamUs database to address the staggering number of human remains that go unidentified each year in this country. Of the approximately 4,400 unidentified human decedent cases that are handled annually by medical examiners and coroners nationwide, nearly a quarter cannot be identified after one year. Many remains are buried without identification. NamUs provides a convenient mechanism for medical examiners and coroners to report identifying information that can then be accessed by law enforcement agencies and family members looking to find missing loved ones.
All county medical examiners in the state are required to report information about unidentified remains to the NYS Division of Criminal Justice. While some medical examiners also voluntarily convey this information to the NamUs system, there is currently no state law requirement to do so.
Assemblyman Otis stated, “By requiring all medical examiners in New York to report identifying information on unidentified remains to NamUs, the bill will increase the probability that human remains can be identified. This will not only assist law enforcement agencies in solving crimes, but most importantly, help to bring closure to families who are coping with the tragic disappearance of a loved one.”
Said Senator Savino, “When Medical Examiners and Coroners in New York State report unidentified human remains and other forensic data to NamUs, the entire country benefits. Law enforcement, families and all others involved in finding missing persons will have a greater possibility to solve one crime, a series of related crimes, and most importantly provide closure to grieving families who have lost loved ones with no explanation. I thank Assemblyman Steve Otis for sharing his concerns and sponsoring this bill with me.”