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OCME Hosts Missing Persons Day 2016

Dozens of families from New York City and the surrounding region attended New York City Missing Persons Day hosted by the Office of Chief Medical Examiner (OCME) and partner organizations on Saturday, April 16, 2016. Now marking its second year, this support event for families and friends of missing persons has so far led to seven identifications of missing persons in the New York metropolitan area since its launch in 2014.

New York City Missing Persons Day connects the families and friends of long-term missing persons (missing for 60 or more days) with expert resources and services to help find and identify their missing loved ones. Attendees have the opportunity to provide information, such as photos, histories and DNA reference samples, in interviews with professionals, and to access emotional support services. All information is provided voluntarily and used strictly for the purpose of helping to make identifications. Interpretation services are also available.

New York City Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Barbara Sampson said: “OCME hosts New York City Missing Persons Day in recognition of all families and friends coping with the experience of a missing loved one. This special day reminds all those affected that we stand with them, as we connect families with resources and support that can make all the difference for identifications.”

In addition to in-person attendance, the second New York City Missing Persons Day has generated nearly 100 phone calls to date from family members and friends seeking assistance. Those who could not attend the event may still call the event hotline at (212) 323-1201.

OCME hosted the first-ever New York City Missing Persons Day in November 2014. Nearly 100 families attended the event, while some 250 others shared information by phone. To date, seven identifications have resulted pertaining to missing and unidentified persons cases from New York City, Nassau and Suffolk counties, and New Jersey. Also, the loved ones of two long-term missing persons were routed to support services that helped connect them with their living loved ones.

More than 13,000 people were reported missing in New York City last year, with some, including at least 200 children, missing long term. Nationwide, there are more than 87,000 active missing persons cases, and thousands of unidentified persons in the custody of medical examiners’ offices. The National Institute of Justice (NIJ) has called the numbers of missing and unidentified persons in the United States “the nation’s silent mass disaster.”

Recent advances in technology such as DNA allow experts to collect and share more information about unidentified persons. However, identifications can only be made if adequate information about missing persons is available for comparison, such as DNA reference samples from blood relatives, or from personal items belonging to the missing person. OCME is home to one of the nation's few DNA Missing Persons Units, and a specialized forensic anthropology department.

OCME assistant director of Forensic Biology Mark Desire said: “Even with the most advanced techniques available, scientists still need information from family members and friends to solve cases. New York City Missing Persons Day provides that crucial link.”

This year, New York City Missing Persons Day also displayed forensic artwork created through a recent collaboration between OCME and the New York Academy of Art. The facial reconstructions of some of the coldest missing persons cases were made possible by a 3-D printer OCME obtained with grant funding from NIJ.

New York City Missing Persons Day is hosted by OCME, in partnership with the NYPD Missing Persons Unit, NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, American Red Cross, and Disaster Chaplaincy Services, with support from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, the Center for HOPE, and the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs), and assistance from the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs, NYC Administration for Children’s Services, NYC Office of Emergency Management, and the NYC Department of Citywide Administrative Services.