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Long Term Missing Cases

Just because a case remains unsolved for many years does not make it less important to families, law enforcement or the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children®. Missing children are never forgotten and NCMEC will work diligently to ensure these children are physically located and returned to their families.

In long term missing cases NCMEC can assist through the Forensic Services Unit, Project ALERT®, Biometrics Team and Forensic Imaging Team.

Forensic Services Unit

NCMEC offers forensic services to help law enforcement and families find long term missing children and provides resources to help solve child abduction homicides. The Forensic Services Unit calls upon subject matter experts from a wide array of disciplines to help develop comprehensive investigative strategies, including the latest technologies, ensuring all possible avenues have been considered.

Project ALERT

Project ALERT works closely with the Forensic Services Unit to provide on-site support to law enforcement agencies with long term missing child cases. They assist law enforcement with case review, comprehensive analysis, search and rescue, biometrics collection and integration of all other available NCMEC resources to help find the missing child.

Learn more about Project ALERT

Biometrics Team

The objective of the Biometrics Team is to aid in the identification of unknown children through the collection and sharing of enhanced data and biometrics. Once collected this information is uploaded into the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System, known as NamUs, and the FBI's National Crime Information Center database, known as NCIC. These databases are searched and the information submitted is compared to that of unknown victims believed to be children.

NCMEC works closely with the NamUs program to help ensure the most up-to-date and accurate information available is being used in this important initiative.

NCMEC's Biometrics Team can assist law enforcement, medical examiners and coroners by:

  • Ensuring DNA has been collected and profiled from both missing children and cases of unknown children and searching against missing children family DNA reference samples in the Combined DNA Index System, known as CODIS.
  • Facilitating collection of dental records for forensic odontology coding on missing unknown children for upload to national databases including NamUs and NCIC.
  • Facilitating the collection and coding of fingerprints for entry into national databases.
  • Documenting all personal belongings found with a deceased child, such as jewelry and clothing, for dissemination to the public and law enforcement via posters to help identify an unknown child.
  • Searching and analyzing data for possible matches in the NCMEC missing child database as well as NamUs and NCIC.

Forensic Imaging Team

NCMEC recognizes the importance of photos in the search for missing children. The appearance of a child, however, changes the longer he or she is missing.

The Forensic Imaging Team disseminates the most accurate representations of children as they may look now by working with law enforcement to create age-progressed images of children in long term missing cases.

NCMEC's Forensic Imaging Team can assist law enforcement by:

  • Progressing photos of missing children younger than 18 every two years. For children 18 or older the Forensic Imaging Team recommends age progressing photos every five years.
  • Developing an image or representation of a likely appearance for deceased children whose identities are unknown.
  • Enhancing post mortem photos by removing any facial trauma to make images suitable for public viewing.
  • Working closely with forensic anthropologists in cases of unidentified children discovered years after their death to develop facial reconstructions in an effort to produce a potentially recognizable face. These posters are then disseminated to law enforcement, social services, court probation officers, schools and other key audiences.

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