Thursday, June 23, 2011

Missing in America: A Savive Report

Indiana University sophomore, Lauren Spierer, has been missing back on 3 June 2011. Lauren’s story has received national attention—on CNN, America’s Most Wanted TV Show, etc—while others, such as the May 18 disappearance of 27-year-old Plainfield, Indiana resident, Morgan Johnson, go virtually unnoticed by the national media. Like Johnson, Spierer has a life-threatening heart condition that requires medication, but the pretty blonde woman’s case has attracted far more attention than that of the young African-American man.

An astonishing 2,300 Americans are reported missing every day, a number which includes both adults and children. According to the FBI, 692,944 people were reported missing last year, and fewer than 20,000 of those were cited as “involuntary.” That is still a big jump up from the approximately 150,000 people who were reported missing in 1980. Social scientists and criminologist say that of this dramatic increase in the past 25 years is due in part to the growing population. Yet, a big part of this increase is attributed to law enforcement and the fact that they take these cases more seriously now, particularly those of marginalized citizens.

Of those who went missing last year, 50,000 were above the age of eighteen—40 percent of missing adults were white, 30 percent were black, 20 percent were Latino, and the remaining 10 percent were of other races. While these numbers seem staggering, a large portion of missing persons are suspected runaways and another large percentage are family abductions. There are, however, a percentage of those who are abducted by complete strangers. Only a fraction (.3%) of those are considered to be stereotypical abductions or kidnappings by a stranger. Approximately 10 percent of missing persons in the United States never return. According to a Justice Department study, nearly 90 percent of the abductors are men, and they sexually assault their victims in half of the cases.

In 2007, the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Justice Programs (OJP) developed the National Missing and Unidentified Persons Initiative (NamUs), which provides national access to clearinghouse capabilities for reporting, locating, and matching missing person’s records to unidentified remains records. NamUs is made up of two databases: one contains records on unidentified human remains; the other contains missing person’s reports.

Before NamUs, the problem with keeping records of unidentified human remains was abysmal, referred to by some as the Nation’s Silent Mass Disaster. According to the first survey of the nation’s medical examiners (ME) and coroners—conducted by The Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS)—there were 13,486 unidentified human remains on record at the end of 2004. That same report also revealed that only half of the ME and coroner offices surveyed had a policy for retaining records on unidentified human remains

The true scope of the problem is also hampered by the fact that many law enforcement agencies consider an adult missing person to be a low priority, because adults can have many reasons to disappear; and although all cases of missing children 18 and under must be reported to the FBI’s National Crime Information Center (NCIC), only a handful of states require law enforcement agencies to submit adult missing-person reports to NCIC. The result of this is inconsistent reporting.

College campuses are some of the safest places in the country. A recent government report—compiled by the U.S. Secret Service, the Department of Education and the FBI— says that 17 million students attend 4,200 colleges and universities in the United States. Between 2005 and 2008, there were 174 murders on campuses and 46 negligent homicides. Yet, despite these encouraging numbers, losing one person is one too many.

Anyone with information about Morgan Johnson should call the Plainfield Police Department at 1-317-838-3562. He drives a 1995 white Grand Am.

Anyone with information about Lauren Spierer should call the Bloomington Police Department of 1-812-339-4477 or 1-800-CRIME-TV. You can also email your tip to

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