NationalStacy M. Brown

Organization Provides Hope for the Missing

Shurrell Caldwell is 12 years old and missing.

The 5-feet-8-inch African American girl was reported missing from her home in the 2300 block of Good Hope Court SE in Washington on Tuesday, Feb. 18.

Shurrell, whom authorities said weighs 180 pounds and has brown hair and brown eyes, was last seen wearing a black shirt, green coat with fur on the hood, tan pants and black and white sneakers.

Anyone with information is asked to call D.C. police at 202-576-6768 or 202-727-9099.

The stunning number of missing girls hits particularly hard in the nation’s capital where six years after her disappearance, authorities and family members are still looking for Relisha Rudd. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children this week released a new age-progression image for what she may look like now at 14.

Last seen on March 1, 2014, Relisha lived in a homeless shelter with her mother and brothers. Natalie Wilson, the co-founder of the Black and Missing Foundation, said Relisha remains in “the hearts and the minds of the D.C. area.”

Three years ago, Metropolitan Police named July 11 as National Relisha Rudd Remembrance Day, and Wilson said she believes Relisha may be a victim of sex trafficking.

Another expert said the number of those who’ve disappeared overall in the United States is alarming.

“Over 600,000 people are reported missing to the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) every single year. So, on any given day, we have more in the neighborhood of 85,000 active missing person cases on file with law enforcement,” said B.J. Spamer, the executive director of the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NAMUS), a nationwide information clearinghouse that offers free, secure, and easy-to-use technology to help expedite case associations and resolutions.

NAMUS also provides free forensic services, investigative support, victim services, and training and outreach.

According to the NCIC, of the 609,275 individuals who were reported missing in the United States last year, 205,802 were Black — 164,769 younger than 21.

“The good news is that more than 90 percent of the NCIC entries are resolved each year,” Spamer said.

NCIC noted that of the 609,275 missing person records entered in 2019, a total of 607,104 were purged during that same period.

Reasons for the purge include the individual returning home or being located by a law enforcement agency, or that the record had to be removed by a reporting authority after they determined it is invalid.

NCIC categorized 95.23 percent of entries as runaways; 0.84 percent as abducted by a non-custodial parent; 0.11 percent as abducted by a stranger; and 3.82 percent as missing adults.

“One of the first things we look for is for the family to file a police report,” Spamer said. “The sooner they get a report on file with law enforcement, the sooner the family can get their loved one in the NCIC database, which is used by law enforcement across the country. If they come into contact with law enforcement, as soon as the authorities run their name and their date of birth, they’re going to locate that missing person.”

Also, once the report is filed, NAMUS can publish the case in its system and offer forensic and analytical resources.

“We can help the family get their DNA profiles, get fingerprints, dental records, and all of the vital metrics that are available,” she said. “Then we can get into a system where the results are actively compared and identified just in case the worst-case scenario has happened.”

Spamer said that it’s mostly a myth that you can’t report a missing person for 24 hours.

“You hear that especially on television programs, but that’s not an across-the-board policy,” she said. “When it’s a case involving a child, it’s mandated that every missing child case be entered into NCIC within two hours of receiving that report from law enforcement. So I would encourage families to immediately report a missing person, especially if they fear that something has happened to their loved one.”

Spamer said that awareness is a significant component of getting a missing person home safely.

“The media uses certain cases to highlight, and so many other cases don’t get the same amount of attention,” she said. “The media plays a huge role in making sure that we raise awareness for all missing persons and also be able to raise awareness of the tools that families have available to them that they may not know are available. We have had families sit down at the keyboard to search the database and find their loved one, essentially resolving their own case.

“It’s an empowering thing to have families to be able to participate in the search using certain tools that we make publicly available,” Spamer said. “There are so many resources available today that didn’t exist 20 or 30 years ago when their loved one may have gone missing.

“We would love to see those families come forward today and provide whatever information they still have on their loved one because we are routinely seeing identifications on cases that are 20, 30 or 40 years old,” she said. “And so as long as there’s a searching family member, it is never too late to file a report, get that case in NAMUS and potentially find a match and bring resolution to that family.”

Stacy M. Brown

I’ve worked for the Daily News of Los Angeles, the L.A. Times, Gannet and the Times-Tribune and have contributed to the Pocono Record, the New York Post and the New York Times. Television news opportunities have included: NBC, MSNBC, Scarborough Country, the Abrams Report, Today, Good Morning America, NBC Nightly News, Imus in the Morning and Anderson Cooper 360. Radio programs like the Wendy Williams Experience, Tom Joyner Morning Show and the Howard Stern Show have also provided me the chance to share my views.

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