Government databases for the missing

The FBI and many states have some kind of Official State Missing Persons page with cases listed. Some of them (like my own Ohio) only list children, and some list both children and adults. Some of them are searchable, and others are not. I’m quite sure that none of them has EVERY missing person from the state listed, and most of them don’t even pretend they do. I’m not sure how some missing people wind up on the state page and some do not.

The FBI page frustrates and puzzles me. They have one page for “Kidnappings and Missing Persons” and another for family abduction cases. At one time they had a girl listed on the kidnappings page whom everyone knew had run away (and she turned up safe and sound eventually). I was a bit irritated by that. I’m not saying people should not have been looking for that girl, but she did, after all, run away, and it’s not like there is a shortage of actually kidnapped people to profile. Right now they have on their page an American guy who actually disappeared in Argentina and whom, it was concluded, most likely accidentally drowned. Even more bizarrely, for YEARS after Robert Edward Mayotte was located deceased, he was still listed as missing on the FBI kidnappings page. *rolls her eyes* That’s the feds for you. Of course, their 10 most wanted doesn’t make sense either. I mean, I want them to find Osama Bin Laden as much as anyone else, but he is definitely not in the United States, and it seems like, since this is a list meant to be viewed by Americans, they should concentrate on criminals who might be in America.

But getting back to the topic of state missing persons databases: when done right, they are awesome. Many, many cases are profiled only on the state databases (and on privately run sites like Charley and the Doe Network) and have no publicity at all, so no one would hear about these people otherwise. California’s is definitely the best one, and the biggest. Perhaps not coincidentally, I think it’s also the oldest. I think it dates back to like 1997 or something, ancient history for the Internet.

The ideal online database should be searchable by a broad number of criteria, not just the name and age but also things like height and race and hair color, for the benefit of making matches with Does. The database have as many missing people as it can get, and photos of all the missing, and as much vital information as possible. And of course, it should be updated frequently, like on a daily or near-daily basis, with new cases added and resolved ones promptly removed. (California has a significant problem with cases remaining in their system for a long time after the MP has been found.)

With Florida’s database (not talking about the missing children one, but the one for people of any age), most of the cases don’t have photographs, and you won’t get any results at all unless you put in the first two letters of the person’s last name. The Washington state database, which I think was modeled after the California one, has loads of criteria to search for, but hardly any photos at all. (Also, it’s really unreliable, in the sense that it seems to be down half the time.) I’d rather have a non-searchable database than one that you need a name to search for, or one without many photos or much info. Texas is a good example of a very good, though not highly searchable database. (You can only search there by surname or case number.)

For the record, here’s a list of states that, as far as I know, do NOT have some kind of centralized online collection of profiles of the missing:

North Carolina
Rhode Island
South Carolina

(Several of those states have a page for unsolved murders and other crimes that includes a few missing people as well, but I don’t count that.)

I see no reason why every state can’t have an online database, a nice one like the Texas or California ones. It wouldn’t cost that much. (Heck, if they would pay me a living wage I’d happily do it for them. I’m basically doing it anyway.) I feel confident that in the not-to-far-distant future, every state WILL have something. After all, Washington and Nebraska only created theirs in the last couple of years.

Upgrading Charley Part II

So I wrote to Pri (who, it turns out, is a guy) asking more details about what he had in mind for my upgrade. He says he can make it so I don’t have to copy and edit each casefile’s HTML by hand: I’ll just fill in the blanks on a form and the casefile will be automatically generated. Also, the MP’s name will be added to all the lists automatically too. That last one would be really great for me. I hate having to add all the names when I’m done writing the updates. It’s so boring.

So I am encouraged and I’m going to ask Pri if he has any references I can talk to.

This may yet come to nothing, but it looks promising so far. Fingers crossed!