Online database helps sheriff locate missing people

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Law enforcement agencies at the federal, state and local levels are using online databases to help find people who have gone missing from their homes and may need assistance.

In Oregon, a sheriff’s office recently launched a custom online database designed to help locate the elderly and people with disabilities who have wandered away from home and may have trouble communicating vital information about themselves to strangers.

The online database is part of the Help Me Home voluntary enrollment program run by the Washington County Sheriff’s Office. For a $20 fee, the sheriff’s office places a picture of the registrant, contact information and any identifying information in a custom online database to be used by police, according to a sheriff’s office brochure. Any officer in the county can access the information. If police find the lost individual and he or she needs help, officers can check whether the person is in the online database and contact caregivers. The information remains confidential and is available only to law enforcement.

Online database use increases

The trend toward using online database applications to find people who vanish has picked up in recent years. The U.S. Department of Justice operates the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System, which includes an online database that lets users enter identifying information about anyone who has disappeared. Anyone can search that part of the system and a section that includes data about unidentified remains, and the government often gets help from the public, regional director Dr. Emily Craig told WLKY.

“We have volunteer sleuths out there who are constantly looking for matches,” Craig said.