A new, searchable mapping system will be unveiled Monday, May 6, and will serve as an important tool in helping the office do its work, while providing information and raising awareness about the ongoing problem of migrant deaths along the U.S.-Mexico border.
The new tool consists of websites that allow users to interact with the data that has been collected since 2001 on migrant deaths.
The grant-funded system, supported in partnership through the Office of the Medical Examiner and Humane Borders, Inc., allows users to pinpoint migrant deaths by name, if known, or cause of death, as well as search by gender, travel corridor and land management jurisdiction. Users also can use the system to determine how many other deaths have occurred within a specified distance, or can search a specific geographic area by zooming in and out of the map.
Archaeologist John Chamblee, Ph.D., the research chair for Humane Borders, will lead a demonstration of the system at 11 a.m. at the Pima County Medical Examiners’ Office, 2825 E. District St., behind the Abrams Public Health Center at Ajo Way and Country Club Boulevard.
Dr. Gregory Hess, Pima County’s Chief Medical Examiner, said his staff members will use the mapping system as they go about the painstaking work of identifying the deceased, often with little to go on because of the severely degraded state of the remains. If his staff finds a single human bone or small collection of bones, for example, they can use the search radius function as a starting point to see if the bone may belong with another set of previously recovered remains. Along with heightened public awareness, law or border enforcement officials will be better able to determine trafficking or death patterns from the map, while groups such as Humane Borders can use the site in determining where to best locate water stations, for example.
Chamblee said while the partners in the effort have distinct missions, “both are committed to the common vision of raising awareness about migrant deaths and lessening the suffering of families by helping to provide closure through the identification of the deceased and the return of remains.”