Saturday, February 23, 2013

Solving Cold Cases

The Boston Globe today features in its G section a story on amateur web sleuths who help solve cold cases.  As soon as I saw the headline, I thought - Boy! would librarians be good at this sort of research.  But you also need to have the motivation.  Read the story if you think you might be interested.  There is some push-back from some police, who are uncomfortable at having amateurs involved in researching these cold cases.  Also, if you become serious about identifying unknown bodies from clues in the file, you will eventually end up looking at some gruesome images, and heartbreaking stories.

But I cannot help but think it would be a job where a librarian would excel, and would truly make a difference.  The folks involved have formed an online website and group, the Doe Network, where they communicate and share information that helps them solve cases, and just form a community.  The Doe Network website has lots of links, but notes on the home page that they are celebrating 11 years of work linking unidentified bodies to the missing persons in cold case files.

There is also a new National Institute of Justice database, apparently inspired by the Doe Network, the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System or NamUs.  There are 3 components to this database:

1)  the Missing Persons database, where anybody can enter information about someone they have lost;

2) the Unidentified Persons database, where coroners or medical examiners enter information about bodies they cannot identify;  and, a recently added

3) Unclaimed Persons database, for dead persons who have been identified but for whom no family member, or next of kin have been identified to claim the body.

 The Doe Network has links to the NamUs database, and they obviously work to match the persons in the first 2 databases to identify bodies, and help bring closure to the families.  They may also help close the 3rd sort of cases by locating family members as well.

I think it takes a certain sort of person. The Globe article notes that many folks  in the Doe Network burn out, so they have a rotating crew.  Some few hang in there for a longer time, though.  Kudos to them!  

1 comment:

waltc said...

For a couple of years now, my wife--a librarian, former library director at an academic library and head of cataloging at a public library--has been involved with Unclaimed Persons, a volunteer network that works with coroners to find living relatives of unclaimed persons. She's now one of the directors--and as with her genealogical work in general, yes, the library background helps.