Crime Trackers: ASU working on computer program to find missing - KVOA | KVOA.com | Tucson, Arizona

Crime Trackers: ASU working on computer program to find missing people

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TEMPE- Every day 4,000 people go missing in the United States, according to research from Arizona State University.

Missing persons have been on the rise for the past 20 years.

And, while three-fourths of the cases are solved, another 500 victims are never found.

A former federal agent who started an organization called "Find Me" in 2002, has teamed up with ASU to come up with a computer software that helps find missing persons.

One of the cases they're looking at is Isabel Celis.

“Definitely Isabel Celis case was part of my motivation, but ultimately it’s to help everyone find their missing loved one," said Kelly Snyder.

Snyder is private investigator and was involved in the search for the missing 6-year-old in 2012.

He’s also a retired DEA agent and founder of the "Find Me" organization.

Last year, he brought the idea of “MIST” or "Missing-Person Intelligence Syntheses Toolkit" to ASU.

“Children obviously is something that motivates me even more because of the mere fact that it is a child,” he added.

Once a week, Snyder meets with Dr. Paulo Shakarian and his team of graduate students to discuss software development.

The Celis case brought Tucson Police more than 1,000 tips and interviews with about 500 sex offenders.

Shakarian is with the School of Computing, Informatics, and Decision Systems Engineering. He said, “Our goal is to how do we best prioritize these leads so we can locate the missing individual faster.”

They do this by putting all the information about the missing person into the system. Then a mathematical equation kicks in.

So far, they've looked at 24 cases provided by the "Find Me" organization.

“We have found in cases that we're reducing the amount of areas searched by somewhere in the neighborhood of 7 to 20 square miles, in some of the toughest missing persons cases and this is based on historical data, “ added Shakarian.

That translates to big savings in precious time that could save lives.

Shakarian previously designed a similar software program when he served in the Army, that helped identify locations where insurgents would store munitions used in road side bomb attacks in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The program uses good old fashion police work, combined with technology to solve the scientific problem.

“Now we just need to use it in more cases and then hopefully, that's when we will start finding more people,” Snyder said.

MIST is a passion project for it’s ASU team, added Shakarian, "because it's such an important problem we've been quite motivated to put a lot of effort into this.”

The next step for the team is securing the patent and then expanding into human trafficking and homicides.  

If you would information and contribute contact www.findmegroup.org 

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