Missing persons database to be implemented in North Dakota

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North Dakota passed a law in 2019 to create a statewide missing persons database, but it didn’t receive funding until recently.

The special session that finished Nov. 12 approved $300,000 for the Attorney General’s Office to implement the tool.

“We do have an epidemic of missing and murdered Indigenous women and men, people, so this database is for everyone but it will also include tribal affiliation,” Rep. Ruth Buffalo said.

The bill passed both houses unanimously in 2019. Now more than two years later, it has the money to become a reality.

The special session approved $300,000 out of its $571 million spending bill for the attorney general to establish the database.

The funds are from the federal American Rescue Plan Act.

“It will greatly enhance our chance of finding people who may be missing or have been murdered,” Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem said.

Stenehjem says the new system will enable all law enforcement, including tribal, to upload information into a shared system.

“The problem with missing persons is amplified many times on our Indian reservations, and it is something that is of crucial and critical importance to the families who may be missing these people,” Stenehjem said.

The new system will also give the public access so they can assist in searches.

“Very happy, very excited, but also a heavy heart when we think of the families and the victims who are still out there and who have not been found,” Buffalo said.

Stenehjem expects the roll-out of the database to take six to eight months.

Stenehjem said since the state only recently got funding approval, they haven’t yet chosen the software to be used.

But when they do, the Attorney General’s Office plans to offer training to all law enforcement on how to use it.

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