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Missing Persons Day in NYC hopes to solve mysteries

In an effort to put names to some of the more than 1,000 unidentified persons in its records, the New York City medical examiner’s office will be hosting Missing Persons Day on Saturday.

Past outreach efforts have so far led to the identification of seven missing people from around the metropolitan area, including some from Long Island, said Julie Bolcer, spokeswoman for the Office of Chief Medical Examiner.

Saturday’s event will be held from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the medical examiner’s offices in the Hirsch Building, 421 E. 26th St., in Kips Bay. Members of nearly 100 families have appeared at past events, with about 250 others providing information by telephone, Bolcer said.

A couple of years ago, two sisters who were seeking their brother attended and provided DNA swabs which led to a genetic match with an unidentified man found in Nassau County, she said. In another case, a 37-year-old woman found in Manhattan in 1995 was belatedly identified as a missing person from Long Island.

While advances in DNA technology have helped in the identification process, experts still need additional information from family members, including reference blood samples or personal items of the missing persons that can yield additional clues.

“Even with the most advance techniques available, scientists still need information from family members and friends to solve cases,” Mark Desire, the agency’s head of forensic biology, said in a statement.

Family members and friends of the missing who wish to attend the event, held in conjunction with the NYPD, are asked to call a special hotline in advance — 212-323-1201 — to speak to experts.

“Our experts will advise them on what information to bring, depending on their circumstances,” Bolcer said. “For example, blood relatives will have the option of providing a DNA swab Saturday … It might be a good idea to bring a photograph of the missing loved one or a personal item that belonged to the person, like a tooth brush which would have the missing person’s DNA on it.”

The taking of a DNA swab simply involves swabbing a person’s inner check, Bolcer said.

The DNA is also important because it can be shared with other medical examiner offices. In 2014, DNA matches were made to unidentified persons found in New Jersey and on Long Island, Bolcer said.

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