The first step in protecting your child from potential abductors is to know what you're dealing with. Here are some important and potentially surprising facts from Parents.com about child abductions in the United States:
Ÿ Every 40 seconds in the United States, a child becomes missing or is abducted.
Ÿ In 2001, 840,279 people (adults and children) were reported missing to the FBI's National Crime Information Center (NCIC). The FBI estimates that 85 to 90 percent of those (roughly 750,000 people or 2,000 per day) reported missing were children. The vast majority of these cases are resolved within hours.
Ÿ Based on the identity of the perpetrator, there are three distinct types of kidnapping: kidnapping by a relative of the victim or "family kidnapping" (49 percent), kidnapping by an acquaintance of the victim or "acquaintance kidnapping" (27 percent), and kidnapping by a stranger to the victim or "stranger kidnapping" (24 percent).
Ÿ Family kidnapping is committed primarily by parents, involves a larger percentage of female perpetrators (43 percent) than other types of kidnapping offenses, occurs more frequently to children under 6, equally victimizes juveniles of both sexes, and most often originates in the home.
Ÿ Acquaintance kidnapping involves a comparatively high percentage of juvenile perpetrators, has the largest percentage of female and teenage victims, is more often associated with other crimes (especially sexual and physical assault), occurs at homes and residences, and has the highest percentage of injured victims.
Ÿ Stranger kidnapping victimizes more females than males, occurs primarily at outdoor locations, victimizes both teenagers and school-age children, is associated with sexual assaults in the case of girl victims and robberies in the case of boy victims (although not exclusively so), and is the type of kidnapping most likely to involve the use of a firearm.
Ÿ Only about one child out of each 10,000 missing children reported to the local police is not found alive. However, about 20 percent of the children reported to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in nonfamily abductions are not found alive.
Ÿ In 80 percent of abductions by strangers, the first contact between the child and the abductor occurs within a quarter mile of the child's home.
Ÿ Most potential abductors grab their victims on the street or try to lure them into their vehicles.
Ÿ About 74 percent of the victims of nonfamily child abduction are girls.
Ÿ Acting quickly is critical. Seventy-four percent of abducted children who are ultimately murdered are dead within three hours of the abduction.
Ÿ One in five children 10 to 17 years old receive unwanted sexual solicitations online.
Ÿ In a 1998 study of parents' worries by pediatricians at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, nearly three-quarters of parents said they feared their children might be abducted. One-third of parents said this was a frequent worry a degree of fear greater than that held for any other concern, including car accidents, sports injuries, or drug addiction.
Sources: Karin A. Bilich, Parents Magazine: Federal Bureau of Investigation; National Crime Information Center; U.S. Justice Dept.; Vanished Children's Alliance; Redbook, February 1998; State of Washington's Office of the Attorney General; United States Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice Delinquency Prevention Juvenile Justice Bulletin, June 2000.