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New law aims to lower number of missing persons in Michigan

Michigan State Police officer at computer
Michigan State Police

Police in Michigan hope the number of unsolved missing persons will drop thanks to a new law  signed by Governor Rick Snyder recently.

The legislation requires all law enforcement agencies to put missing persons’ information into the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System – or NamUs.

Law enforcement say Michigan is ranked 3rd in the nation for most missing persons. Experts say requiring law enforcement to put case information into NamUs could help lower the state’s number of missing persons.

Michigan State Police Detective-Sergeant Sarah Krebs is with the department’s Missing Persons Coordination Unit. She says this law will change the nature of how law enforcement investigates missing persons.

“You have photographs. You can look at people and immediately decide whether or not it’s the same person.”

Krebs says NamUs is also easier to use, cross-references with unidentified bodies, and includes photographs of the missing or unidentified.

And, she says the system is a free database that anyone can access – not just law enforcement.

“Back in the 1980s, you were seeing missing children on milk cartons. That’s how you found out somebody was missing. That was how we distributed information like that,” Krebs says. “In today’s world, with today’s technology, we have the internet. Why aren’t we using it?”

Tanya Baker is a spokesperson for the governor’s office.

She says, “The hope is that the bill will increase the ability to solve missing person cases and could help with solving cold cases faster or more frequently." 

The NamUs database currently includes more than 500 missing persons in Michigan.

Before becoming the newest Capitol reporter for the Michigan Public Radio Network, Cheyna Roth was an attorney. She spent her days fighting it out in court as an assistant prosecuting attorney for Ionia County. Eventually, Cheyna took her investigative and interview skills and moved on to journalism. She got her masters at Michigan State University and was a documentary filmmaker, podcaster, and freelance writer before finding her home with NPR. Very soon after joining MPRN, Cheyna started covering the 2016 presidential election, chasing after Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, and all their surrogates as they duked it out for Michigan. Cheyna also focuses on the Legislature and criminal justice issues for MPRN. Cheyna is obsessively curious, a passionate storyteller, and an occasional backpacker. Follow her on Twitter at @Cheyna_R
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