Michigan’s House of Representatives passed a bill that would require law enforcement to enter the state’s missing and unidentified bodies into the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System, or NamUs.

If passed by the state senate and signed into law by Gov. Rick Snyder, Michigan’s would be the fifth such law in the nation. Previous laws were passed in New Jersey, Tennessee, New York and Connecticut.

However, Michigan’s law would be more stringent in one way. While New York agencies must enter cases into the database within 180 days, and the other states have 30 days, Michigan would require immediate entry after a preliminary police investigation, according to the bill.

Sgt. Sarah Krebs, a detective with the Michigan State Police, testified to legislators about the value of such a law last month, before the bill was passed.

The detective said having a broader database of the state’s cases right in NamUs will solve cases, cold and new alike. It will take more time and resources to update the database—which means there could be some opposition to the bill as it proceeds into the state senate, she added.

“I expect we will get some pushback from law enforcement,” said Krebs. “But it takes something aggressive, like this law, to solve some of these cases … Any database isn’t any good without any information in it.”

The National Crime Information Center is currently in use in Michigan, as it is across the nation. But its text-based search functions have made exclusions and inclusions between missing and unidentified cases particularly challenging, said Krebs. NamUs, on the other hand, allows detectives to do quicker and more accurate work, right online, she said.

A gap between the number of Michigan’s cases in NCIC and NamUs shows how the database is being used—or not used—in the Midwestern state. The current NCIC missing persons caseload is reported as 4,494 as of today. But in NamUs there are just 530 such cases, Krebs added. (The opposite is true with unidentified cases: they number 81 in NCIC, and 300 in NamUs, Krebs said. That is partly because the state’s medical examiners do not have access to NCIC—and instead enter their caseload directly into NamUs, which is available online.)

The opportunity for breaks in major cases extending back decades is possible, the sergeant added.

“There’s no doubt we’ll solve more cases,” said Krebs. “We already solve cases with the limited information available.”

NamUs began in 2005. Unlike the NCIC, it is open to the public for searching and data input.

As of New York’s passage of their NamUs law in November, a handful of others states were considering legislation, including Kentucky, Oklahoma, Illinois, California and Pennsylvania, according to officials.

J. Todd Matthews, the director of case management and communications for NamUs, said Illinois has since introduced its version of the bill. But each bill has a different process - and needs, he added.

"Each state has to tailor it to its own needs," he said. "But other states need to consider it."