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Swansons lean on new law

March 3, 2009
By Rae Kruger

Their son is still missing, but Brian and Annette Swanson of Marshall hope a bill named for their son Brandon will make it easier in Minnesota to find missing adults.

Rep. Marty Seifert, R-Marshall, was expected to introduce Brandon's Law on Monday in St. Paul. The law amends the state's Missing Children's regulations to include adults and, if passed, would be in effect July 1. The law calls for data to be released on missing adults; the Missing Children's program would be for all missing persons as well as the clearinghouse of information on missing persons. The rules that apply to missing children would apply to missing adults.

"Families shouldn't be left alone in this strange country with a strange language they don't speak," Annette Swanson said. "This is not going to help us but it will help somebody else."

More needs to be done when an adult is missing, the Swansons said. The proposed bill will help.

"There is a lack of coordination in the ability to identify missing persons," Seifert said.

"This policy change will not be enough, but we will start with it," Annette Swanson said.

Brandon Swanson, 19, has been missing since May after his parents lost cell phone contact with him. Brandon Swanson called his parents about running his car into a ditch but apparently, did not give the correct location. His parents maintained cell phone contact while they went to find him near Lynd but the last call ended abruptly. Brandon Swanson's call was traced to a cell phone tower near Taunton and law enforcement have searched portions of Lyon, Lincoln and Yellow Medicine counties near the Yellow Medicine River since May.

While law enforcement and area emergency rescue workers responded to search for their son, the Swansons are thankful for the effort and said the source of their frustration is what they see as a lack of coordination in state resources in place and a lack of resources dedicated to search and rescue, and search and recovery training.

The Swansons said they were naive, but have learned during the long months they have searched for their son.

"What we are asking to do, to me, doesn't make sense because it's already being done in other states. I don't understand why it's not being done here," Brian Swanson said.

States are required to submit DNA and dental records of missing persons to the National Crime Information Center and enter information into CODIS, the National Missing and Unidentified Persons database.

"Every state has to have a missing persons clearinghouse and Minnesota's is with the (Minnesota) Bureau of Criminal Apprehension," Annette Swanson said. "Unfortunately, a lot of people don't know it, including law enforcement."

Lyon County Sheriff Mark Mather said his department submitted DNA and dental records to the BCA soon after Swanson was reported missing.

But, data cited by the Swansons said, that isn't happening with every missing person in Minnesota.

The Swansons cited an August 2007 report by the BCA which cited an FBI audit of the NCIC and found of the more than 800 active missing persons cases in Minnesota - only five had DNA collected and 27 had dental records.

"That's pretty damning," Annette Swanson said.

So, if a person reported missing in Minnesota did not have DNA or dental records recorded in the NCIC and died in another state, that person could not be identified, the Swansons said.

"That's astounding to me," Seifert said of the study.

As of 5 p.m. Monday, Swanson was not listed on the BCA's clearinghouse for Missing Persons Web site.

Swanson was listed on the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children Web site with a photo, an update to age 20, and a poster link. However, the Lyon County Sheriff's Department is listed as the contact and the Lincoln County Sheriff's Department telephone number is listed on the site.

The Swansons are using the Project Jason campaign as a model for their efforts.

Project Jason seeks to provide a framework to improve law enforcement's response, improve the collection of critical information to other law enforcement agencies and the public and help to prioritize high-risk missing person cases.

The Swansons contend there are more resources and time dedicated to missing children than missing adults. The same resources and time must be dedicated to adults and to children, they said.

They were baffled when they learned there was no state list of search and rescue or search and recover teams in Minnesota or the Upper Midwest. Law enforcement had to find their own sources for that information, Annette Swanson said.

Lincoln County Sheriff Jack Vizecky said there is no such list, but one problem is there is no license or requirement to help determine who is qualified and well-trained in search and rescue, and search and recovery.

"There is not a professional search team out there that I know of," Mather said.

Law enforcement rely on others in the field to recommend good and successful search, and rescue and search and recover teams, they said.

 
 

 

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