Albany, NY - September 3, 2014 - Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today signed a bill that will enhance law enforcement efforts to identify previously unknown deceased persons. The bill (A9006, S6750) will require that the state Division of Criminal Justice Services provide local law enforcement agencies with personal descriptions and other identifying information of unidentified deceased persons. This legislation allows this information to be accessed by all New York law enforcement agencies and also to agencies outside of the State by request.
“This new law strengthens the State’s partnership with local law enforcement agencies as they seek to identify unknown deceased persons, ultimately helping to bring closure to families and friends who have lost someone they love,” Governor Cuomo said. “I am proud to sign this bill into law today, and I thank Senator Squadron and Assemblyman Lentol for their work on this issue.”
Whenever DCJS receives fingerprints of an unidentified deceased individual, those prints are routinely searched against its database of fingerprints to see whether a match can be made. Identifying information about those individuals, such as gender, race, height and weight, also is compared to records of missing persons.
If a match occurs to a fingerprint or a missing persons record, DCJS will notify the agency that submitted the fingerprints of the individual’s identity. Even if no match occurs, the bill signed today requires DCJS to promptly make available key identifiers, such as personal information, descriptions and fingerprints, to all law enforcement agencies in the State through a secure, online portal and to non-New York State agencies upon request.
Upon accessing that information, law enforcement agencies then can compare the identification information to their own files of missing persons, reducing the time it takes to make a proper identification and ultimately bringing important closure to the grieving family and community of the deceased.
Senator Daniel Squadron said, "Prompt notification can't undo a tragedy, but it can help families find closure and streamline the investigation. This bill is an important step in making the system work better for both families and law enforcement. I thank Governor Cuomo for signing it into law."
Assemblyman Joseph R. Lentol said, “When I was alerted by affected members of my community to delays in the identification of the remains of missing persons, I knew that a remedy could not be delayed. Within weeks we built a coalition of legislative and community support around a concise and targeted piece of legislation. With his signature today, Governor Cuomo will implement a law that not only will increase the speed of investigations, but will also bring closure to families who have lost their loved ones in tragedies.”
Michael C. Green, executive deputy commissioner of the Division of Criminal Justice Services said, “The pain and uncertainty of not knowing what may have happened to a missing loved one are something I witnessed when I served as a District Attorney. This legislation will help to improve the process of identifying a deceased person, potentially assisting law enforcement in solving crime and helping a family be able to know for sure what became of their missing family member and to find some measure of closure.”
There are currently a total of 681 active cases of unidentified individuals who have died in New York State, with the oldest active record on file dating back to 1969. There also are a total of 4,483 active missing persons records in the State, with the oldest of those being from 1977.