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03 April 2013 - Media release

INTERPOL and European partners develop global system to link missing persons and disaster victims

LYON, France – INTERPOL and a consortium of five European partners have created a prototype system to assist with the quick identification of victims or missing persons following a natural or man-made disaster or in daily policing.

The FAST and efficient international disaster victim IDentification (FASTID) project was developed with experts from the German Federal Criminal Police Bundeskriminalamt (BKA), the IOSB and IGD Institutes of the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft in Germany, Danish company PlassData, the University of Dundee and Crabbe Consulting Ltd, with co-funding from the European Union’s Seventh framework programme (FP7).

When fully implemented, the results of the FASTID project will serve as the first centralized, global. database of information that can be used to quickly identify and link missing persons and unidentified bodies (MPUB). This future database  is designed to be used by teams in the field responding to a disaster, or by national police trying to identify missing persons, persons unable to identify themselves, or unidentified bodies.

Based on INTERPOL’s tools – in particular its globally recognized disaster victim identification (DVI) protocols, combined with its Yellow Notices for missing persons – the MPUB system includes search capabilities for DNA and dental records and interfaces with other databases, such as fingerprints.

The FASTID partners, as well as 21 volunteer INTERPOL member countries, recently completed a testing phase to assess the ease of submitting data, querying the system and the accuracy of the results. An online DVI manual has also been developed to ensure a uniform approach to recording victims’ physical characteristics by international DVI teams. The research also led to the creation of image catalogues integrated in the system to assist in describing personal effects and physical characteristics.

As part of the FASTID project, research was also conducted into image retrieval methods, including a matching system for tattoos and other body modifications, as well as facial recognition techniques such as craniofacial reconstruction and superimposition. These could be integrated into the system in the future.

“It is vital that law enforcement and first responders to major disasters have access to a global repository of data that will ensure the fast and efficient identification of victims or missing persons,” said Peter Ambs, INTERPOL’s FASTID project leader. “By making this system available via INTERPOL’s global network, police and those responding to disasters worldwide will be able to access the system whenever and wherever it is needed.”

Following the Asian tsunami in 2004, the INTERPOL General Assembly passed a resolution recognizing the need to establish a global database of information to improve victim identification efforts.