Voice Platform and Support Network for Families of Missing and Victims of Crime
A special team of state police investigators is being formed to focus on missing persons cases.
Sgt. James Thomas of the state police Central District Major Crime Squad, who will be leading the team, said it will include investigators from all major crime squads within the state police.
“There has been a (state police) missing persons unit, but this will be a new concept, which will encompass major crime detectives from all three districts,” Thomas said. “We are in the process now of putting it together.”
The team will be available to help municipal police departments with their missing persons cases too, according to Thomas.
“We would offer assistance to anybody, as we would do with any crime,” Thomas said. “The public should not waste time in reporting missing persons. Connecticut law enforcement and investigative units are and have been proactive in working on missing and unidentified person investigations. The missing person team is another example.”
Thomas said he can’t provide the numbers of investigators who are being assigned to the team, citing tactical and policy reasons.
“We are being proactive in the enhancement and prioritizing of missing person investigations,” Thomas said. “As an investigative unit within Major Crime, we will be working in collaboration with various state, local and federal agencies. We will be a resource available and will be an additional ‘tool in the tool box’ in an effort to successfully conclude missing person investigations.”
In December, State Victim Advocate Michelle Cruz told the New Haven Register that she planned to propose the creation of a statewide missing persons unit to the legislature, to try to solve the mysteries surrounding missing Connecticut residents’ disappearances.
Cruz has been meeting with Thomas in recent weeks, and Cruz said the team being developed may accomplish the same goal, as it would be available to help municipal police, too.
Cruz said she is waiting to see results of this team’s efforts before deciding whether she will still push for a statewide unit to the legislature.
“I want to see where this (state police missing person team) goes, and then I’ll make recommendations in the future,” Cruz said. “I plan to meet periodically with (Thomas). We are delighted that they are doing this, and are encouraged by the steps being taken.”
State police spokesman Lt. J. Paul Vance said of the team under Thomas, “We are putting more people into our missing persons operation. We feel we have a very good operation, and the additions will only enhance what we do.”
Cruz has also stressed the need for one continuously updated, accurate, centralized database or clearinghouse of all Connecticut missing persons, with both state and local police submitting their missing persons’ information to it.
Various databases show different information. The U.S. Department of Justice’s National Missing and Unidentified Persons System, or NamUs, listed 243 missing for Connecticut as of Wednesday. However, many cases listed on NamUs aren’t up to date, with found individuals still listed, and some missing not entered. The NamUs site lists 41 cases of unidentified remains.
Many more missing persons cases are listed with the National Crime Information Center, or NCIC. According to Vance, NCIC as of January had 516 missing persons cases listed for Connecticut, and of these, 38 are state police cases.
Out of the state’s 169 towns and cities, the state police are the primary law enforcement agency for 82 of them, with the remainder covered by local departments.
U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy, D-5, has proposed the federal “Help Find the Missing Act,” which seeks to create an organized system to match remains to missing people, and an incentive grants program for law enforcement and medical examiners to report information to various databases like NCIC and NamUs.
“It is my priority to come up with exactly how many (missing persons) there are,” said Thomas.
Reuben Bradford, commissioner of the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection, said the agency is “making sure we are on board with the victim advocate, and making sure we are doing everything we can on missing person cases.”
There is a clearinghouse for information on the missing within the DESPP.
“(Thomas) will oversee the updating of the clearinghouse, and make sure all information is in there and up to date,” Bradford said. “We will encourage the local departments to keep information up to date, so there is one place with all the information (on missing persons cases).”
A statewide training for law enforcement in the use of NamUs is planned for June, with all municipal and state police invited, according to Cruz.
Meanwhile, the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner has put information on the state’s unidentified remains on the NamUs website, in an effort to try to match remains to missing people. Cases have been entered over the past several months. The oldest state case listed on the site, a skull found in 1972, was entered on NamUs in September.
Dr. Adam Freeman, a Westport-based forensic dentist who has been helping with the effort, said Chief Medical Examiner Dr. H. Wayne Carver pushed for information about the state’s unidentified to be put on databases like NamUs, and for the latest technology, such as digital X-rays, to be used to try to identify people. The information is also being entered into NCIC, according to Freeman.
“Dr. Carver was ahead of the game and wanted us to go through the unidentified remains and apply the latest technology,” Freeman said. “We are passionate about trying to put a name to these people.”
So happy to see Ct joining hands and stepping up to the plate to help families find their loved ones. Thank you State police, Michelle Cruz and Michelle Tuccitto Sullo, Investigations Editor for writing the article.
This sounds like some serious steps in the right direction! yes Unified databases and accurate information are certainly critical in the painful process of searching for missing persons! I am a bit confused about the comment regarding the public should not waste time in reporting missing persons part???? Is this a misprint? The Colloboration and working together is definitely a big step in the right direction but of course the publicc needs to be a part of REPORTING missing persons and tips and be advocates for the improvements in the missing persons searches, if and when possible, needs to be aware of, educated and communicated with regarding missing persons situations and unsolved cases remember that someone somewhere knows something philosophy... recently as we all know a so sad and disturbing tradgey happened with Josh Powell and his two innocent, trusting sons- this was so very senseless and Susan Cox Powell is STILL MISSING that poor Cox family has suffered so much to begin with their missing daughter and now this.... So we must see how important the coordination, collaboration, communication and cooperation is in Missing person searches, databases, investigations and crimelabs really are...