U.S. Senators Thom Tillis (R-NC), Chris Murphy (D-CT), John Cornyn (R-TX), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), and John Hoeven (R-ND) recently introduced the bipartisan Help Find the Missing Act or "Billy's Law."
This legislation would close loopholes in America's missing persons systems by streamlining the missing persons reporting process and ensuring that law enforcement and medical examiners have the funding to update the missing persons databases.
"Every day people go missing in the United States, sometimes without a trace,"
said Senator Tillis. "This legislation fixes the missing persons system creating a more efficient reporting process and a more accessible database for law enforcement. We must fix our system to have better chances of finding the missing person or giving the family the answers they deserve."
Billy's Law was originally introduced in 2009. The bill was inspired by Janice Smolinski of Cheshire, Connecticut, after her 31-year-old son Billy went missing from Waterbury, Connecticut. While working with law enforcement to locate her missing son, Smolinski faced countless systemic challenges. Billy's Law was introduced to address those challenges and help ensure that the tens of thousands of American families whose loved ones go missing each year do not experience the same hurdles faced by the Smolinskis.
Specifically, the Help Find the Missing Act would:
- Authorize and ensure funding for the National Missing Persons and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs), created in 2007 by the Department of Justice (DOJ) to provide a missing persons/unidentified database to which the public can contribute and access;
- Connect NamUs with the FBI's National Crime Information Center (NCIC) in order to create more comprehensive missing persons and unidentified remains databases and streamlining the reporting process for local law enforcement;
- Expand current law by requiring missing children be reported to NamUs (they already must be reported to NCIC);
- Create an incentive grants program to help states, local law enforcement, medical examiners, and coroners report missing persons and unidentified remains to NCIC and NamUs;
- Require DOJ to issue guidelines and best practices on handling missing persons and unidentified remains cases in order to empower law enforcement, medical examiners and coroners to help find the missing.
This legislation is endorsed by the Consortium of Forensic Science Organizations, American Academy of Forensic Sciences, American Society of Crime Lab Directors, National Association of Medical Examiners, International Association of Identification, Society of Forensic Toxicologists, American Board of Forensic Toxicologists, Fraternal Order of Police, National Association of Medical Examiners, Doe Network, Families of Homicide Victims and Missing Persons, and LostNMissing.