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Senate Bill Would Boost Resources for Missing, Murdered Indigenous Persons Cases

Karen Ducey/Getty Images/via NPR

Native communities experience very high rates of missing and murdered people, especially women and girls. KNAU’s Ryan Heinsius reports, a bipartisan bill in the U.S. Senate would enhance law enforcement coordination and resources in Indian Country.

In 2016, only about 2%of the more than 5,700 cases of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls were logged with the U.S. Justice Department. That’s hobbled efforts to find many tribal members who are often victims of sex trafficking and domestic violence.

The Bridging Agency Data Gaps and Ensuring Safety for Native Communities, or BADGES Act, would give tribes more access to acquire and enter information into federal missing persons databases. It would also force the U.S. attorney general to ensure that missing tribal members and anonymous remains are entered into the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System.

"It’s a long time coming for the families and loved ones who are wondering what happened to their family members … It’s time to shine a light on it and to remove those barriers and provide the resources needed to address the issue," says Arizona Republican Senator Martha McSally, one of the bill's cosponsors. 

According to officials, poor coordination between state, county, municipal, tribal and federal law enforcement is a major obstacle. Supporters of the bill hope increased datasharing and communication will help solving cases of missing and murdered Indigenous people.

Ryan Heinsius joined the KNAU newsroom as executive producer in 2013 and was named news director and managing editor in 2024. As a reporter, he has covered a broad range of stories from local, state and tribal politics to education, economy, energy and public lands issues, and frequently interviews internationally known and regional musicians. Ryan is an Edward R. Murrow Award winner and a Public Media Journalists Association Award winner, and a frequent contributor to NPR's Morning Edition, All Things Considered and national newscast.
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