The NSW Police Force has announced the establishment of a new unit to investigate and coordinate long-term missing persons cases.
Project Aletheia, a State Crime Command-led initiative, is being formed and will take over the Missing Persons Unit.
The new structure, which is still being established, will draw on the expertise of specialist detectives and analysts.
A number of South Coast missing person cases, including Gordon Andrews and teenager Kathleen Harris in the Shoalhaven, Elizabeth Hallahan at Tuross Head, Peter Jeacle of Tomakin, Raymond Speechley of Dalmeny and Renee Aitken and Garry Verrall both from Narooma, could well be cases on the new unit's workload.
The unit was announced in 2017 as part of re-engineering after NSW Police Commissioner Michael Fuller initiated a comprehensive review and analysis of the Missing Persons Unit (MPU) functions, is still being established.
The review identified various areas for improvement and recommended significant structural and procedural changes to meet current and future demands.
"It is clear that change is needed, and I have delegated responsibility to the State Crime Command to ensure we can do everything we can to put policies, procedures, and checkpoints in place to rectify past problems and create solutions for now and into the future," Commissioner Fuller said.
"To have a loved one go missing has a devastating impact on the person's family and friends and while police do an outstanding job in providing support for the families, we are committed to providing outcomes.
"It needs to be acknowledged that families of missing persons have not been given the answers they have been seeking, and this is not acceptable.
"We owe it to the people of NSW to deliver better outcomes for families of missing persons and vulnerable people who are most at risk of going missing - those living with a mental illness, young people, and older people with dementia or memory loss - to ensure every opportunity is explored to find loved ones - wherever they may be."
Project Aletheia will involve the formation of the Missing Persons Registry (MPR) within State Crime Command in a new state-of-the-art facility, which is currently under development.
A team of seven detectives and four analysts - including those with qualifications and expertise in psychology and data matching - will work to resolve current long-term missing person cases and provide assistance to frontline police to improve the initial response to missing persons reports.
State Crime Commander, Acting Assistant Commissioner Stuart Smith, said the MPR will utilise cutting edge technology and leverage techniques used in the investigations of serious and organised crime.
"Project Aletheia - meaning seeker of truth - is the largest missing persons data matching project in Australia and will revolutionise the way missing persons cases are managed and investigated," Acting Assistant Commissioner Smith said.
"The first process - which is expected to take months - is to digitise existing records and implement new systems.
"We are going to use every technological advancement available to us - whether that be ancestral mapping or biometric photos - that are capable of generating matches - to locate people and provide answers in cases which date back more than 60 years.
"With technology advancing every day, we will be innovative in the way we pursue investigations and continue to seek new developments in the future to solve cases."
In recent months - and through the implementation of new systems under Project Aletheia - more than 30 cases have been resolved, with 13 people located offshore or interstate.
In addition, a joint-agency project between officers from the NSW Police Force and forensic and scientific experts from NSW Health Pathology, which was established in March 2018, will continue to progress the resolution of unidentified human remains cases.
"This is a complex project, which begins with the reconciliation of records - many of which are historic and in hard copy - followed by various forensic processes and inquiries to find a match," Acting Assistant Commissioner Smith said.
"We are committed to ensuring the most effective and efficient allocation of resources in order the maximise our capability and provide answers to families of missing persons."
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The MPR will be a stand-alone investigative unit, reporting directly to the Director of Crime Operations, and will draw upon the expertise of specialist investigators across the NSW Police Force and law enforcement and intelligence partners both here and abroad.
National Missing Persons Week is an annual event which takes place during the first week of August and is coordinated by the National Missing Persons Coordination Centre through the Australian Federal Police with the support of state and territory police.
A missing person is defined as, anyone who is reported missing to police, whose whereabouts are unknown, and there are fears for the safety or concern for the welfare of that person.
A long-term missing person is someone who has been missing for more than three months. In Australia there are more than 2,600 people listed as a long term missing person.
If you have information that may assist police to locate Mr Andrews, Ms Harris, Ms Hallahan, Mr Jeacle, Mr Speechley, Ms Aitken or Mr Verrall or any missing person call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333000 or use the Crime Stoppers online reporting page: https://www1.police.nsw.gov.au/.
Information you provide will be treated in the strictest of confidence.
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