Five months ago today, my 18-year-old cousin Marizela Perez vanished from the University District in Seattle near the campus of the University of Washington, where she was a freshman.
The police have made no new progress in her missing persons case. Since I last updated you in July, we’ve had no new leads or breaks — and there still has been no sign or word from Marizela.
We thank everyone around the country who continues to keep their eyes and ears open — and everyone who continues to keep Marizela and her parents in their thoughts and prayers.
I want to call attention again to the NAMUS database as an invaluable yet underutilized tool for families of the missing and law enforcement agencies:
Families with missing loved ones have had few places to turn in their quest for answers, until now. The National Institute of Justice (NIJ) in partnership with the National Forensic Science Technology Center (NFSTC) have developed the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs) — a searchable database that can provide families with hands-on access to a national database of records related to missing and unidentified persons.
Launched in January 2009, NamUs (www.namus.gov) serves as a national repository for information on missing persons and unidentified remains. It is designed to facilitate the work of the diverse community of individuals and organizations who investigate missing and unidentified persons and crosses borders of states, counties, municipalities and precincts. The system reaches between different law enforcement professions and allows the general public to become actively involved.
* Nationwide, there are an estimated 100,000 active missing persons cases and more than 40,000 sets of human remains that have not been identified.
* The National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs) is a free web-based tool — accessible to everyone, but geared to families of missing persons, law enforcement, medical examiners/coroners and victim advocates — to assist in solving of missing and unidentified persons cases in the United States.
* Data regarding missing persons can be entered in NamUs by law enforcement professionals, missing persons clearinghouses and the general public.
* Anyone can access the NamUs system to search or track cases, print missing persons posters, find resources and even map out travel routes in an effort to locate a missing person.
* The system searches for potential matches between missing and unidentified cases. Potential matches are presented to law enforcement case managers for closer review.
As this recent Washington Post piece on missing persons and their families spotlights, the agony of unsolved cases is shared by so, so many:
Despite a handful of high-profile cases, few of those who are desperately being searched for by police and despondent family members ever make headlines.
There are just so many of them — every year, hundreds of thousands simply disappear. According to the FBI’s National Crime Information Center, last year there were 692,944 new reports of individuals who were missing and not assumed to be gone by their own choice. These people, for instance, might have a mental or physical disability, or the circumstances under which they disappeared indicate that they were in physical danger, or there is a reasonable concern for their safety. Those younger than 21 are automatically counted as missing regardless of whether their absence is voluntary or not.
Approximately 51 percent of those reported missing in 2010 are female, 60 percent white or Hispanic and 33 percent African-American, roughly mirroring the U.S. population, though almost 80 percent of the missing are younger than 18.
If it seems like nearly 700,000 missing people in one year is a lot, it is. And these are just the cases that are reported to the federal clearinghouse.
They may be gone — but they are never, ever, ever forgotten by the loved ones who continue to search, hope, pray, and yearn for their return.
Emem: You are so loved. Dear Lord, bring her home.
Missing persons flyer and background information at www.findmarizela.com
Donations and tribute bracelet information here.
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