Child Abduction Facts
- There are three types of kidnapping:
- Kidnapping by a relative of the victim or “family kidnapping” (49%)
- Kidnapping by someone familiar with the victim or “acquaintance kidnapping” (27%)
- Kidnapping by a stranger to the victim or “stranger kidnapping” (24%)
NOTE: The majority of abductions are by people that a child already knows.
- Family kidnapping is committed mainly by parents, involves a larger percentage of female kidnappers (43%) than other types of kidnapping, and happens more frequently to children under 6.
- Acquaintance kidnapping has the largest percentage of female and teenage victims and has the highest percentage of injured victims.
- Stranger kidnapping occurs to more females than males, occurs mostly at outdoor locations, and is the type of kidnapping that is most likely to use a firearm.
- Only about one child out of 10,000 missing children reported to the local police is not found alive.
- About 20% of children reported to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in non-family abductions are not found alive.
- In about 80% of stranger abductions, the first contact between the child and the kidnapper occurs within 1/4 mile of the child’s home.
- Every 40 seconds, a child becomes missing or abducted in the United States.
- Most abductors grab their victims on the street or try to lure them into cars.
- Acting quickly is critical; 74% of abducted children who are ultimately murdered are killed within 3 hours of the abduction.
(Sources: Parents magazine, FBI, U.S. Justice Department, National Crime Information Center)
Child Abduction Prevention Tips
- Have ID-like photos taken of your child every six months and keep information about your child’s height, weight, hair color, eye color and most recent dental and health records in a file.
- Have your child’s fingerprints and footprints taken. Many local police departments offer programs for this.
- Make sure your child knows his/her name, address, phone number, and whom to call in case of an emergency (full-name, not Grandpa).
- Set boundaries about the places your child can and can’t go alone.
- Check the references of any babysitters, day-care providers, or other people who will be taking care of your child.
- Make sure your child’s clothing doesn’t have his/her name on it-children are more likely to trust adults who know their name.
- If you’ve arranged for someone else to pick your child up from school or child-care, make sure your child is aware of this, as well as the child-care provider.
- Encourage your child to talk to you about the people that he/she meets and how he/she feels about them.
- Make sure any custody documents are in order-parental abductions affect more than 350,000 families every year.
- Talk to your children regularly about safety rules, as they will continue to change as your child has more access to the world.
- Many abductors look just like everyone else, and they purposely dress nicely so as not to make anyone suspicious. Thus, it is important to teach children to be aware of all people around them, not just those people that may be stereotypically “dangerous” looking.
- Make sure to lock all doors and windows before leaving the house or going to bed.
- Read books about safety with your child.
- Teach your child how to dial 911.
- Do not leave kids alone in the stroller or car seat, even for a minute.
(Parents magazine, The Nemours Foundation, City of San Diego Police Dept., Kidshealth.org, PollyKlaas.org)
Talking To Your Kids About Strangers
- Usually kids are not ready to talk about or understand the concept of “strangers” until about age 4. Explain that a stranger is not a good or a bad person, simply someone that he or she doesn’t know– like the clerk at the grocery store or the man walking his dog on the street. Even if a stranger knows their name, if the child has not been introduced to that person by mommy or daddy, that person is still a stranger, since many strangers have ways to find out a child’s name.
- Throw out the old lesson “Never talk to strangers!” If your child becomes lost or needs help, he/she will most likely have to talk to a stranger (security guard, manager at a store, etc.) in order to get assistance. You can say, “Check with me or your dad or your babysitter before talking to another grown up.”
- Also, teach your child who is a safe “stranger” in case he/she needs help. You can teach children to go to the people with name tags or uniforms that work in stores or restaurants, go to the cashier area, find a police-person or security guard, etc. This gives your child power and an action they can take to keep themselves safe in an otherwise scary situation. When you go out in public, show your child where to find the “safe adults”, in case he/she gets separated from you or needs help.
- Make sure your child knows not to go anywhere with a stranger, or a relative or friend, unless his/her parents or caregiver says it is ok. This rule is unbreakable. It is helpful for young kids to role play different situations to ensure that there is nothing a stranger can say that would convince your child to go with him/her (i.e. asking for help, saying a parent said it was ok, offering them treats, etc.) Young children are easily tempted, so it is important to practice this rule.
- When your child is old enough to go out alone, always demand to know the three Ws: who he/she is going with, where he/she will be, and when he/she will be home. Any changes to plans need to be checked with a parent or caregiver.
- If your child answers the phone, make sure that he or she knows not to give out personal information such as address or who is home with them, age, name, etc.
- Teach your child to not go where they can’t see you. Kids often think their parents can see them when they cannot. Set clear boundaries when out in public, “You can play on the jungle gym, but if you want to go to the swings, come and let me know so I can come with you.”
- Explain to your child that a surprise is the only secret that it is ok to keep. It is important to distinguish between a surprise, such as a party or a present, and a secret. No child should be asked to keep a secret from his/her mom or dad or caregiver. Children need to know that if another person asks them to keep a secret, it is ok to tell that secret to a parent or caregiver so they can be kept safe.
- It is important for children to have a course of action if someone ever does try and take them and it is not a parent or caregiver. Teach your child to shout loudly, “NO!” “You are not my mommy” or “You are not my daddy”. Shouting “help” could be confusing to bystanders who might think the child is just being disobedient.
- Also, children need to know to run to their parents, caregivers, or teachers and tell if a stranger does approach them and try and talk to them. They do not have to be polite or helpful to someone they have not been introduced to.
(Sources: Parents.com, scholastic.com, babycenter.com, familyeducation.com, tooter4kids.com)
- The Berenstain Bears Learn About Strangers - by Stan and Jan Berenstain
- Who is a Stranger and What Should I Do? - by Helen Cogancherry (Ages 6+)
- Not Everyone is Nice: Helping Children Learn Caution with Strangers - by Frederick Alimonti
- I Can Play it Safe - by Alison Feigh
- Are You a Good Stranger? - by Susan Nicholas (4+)
- I Can Be Safe: A First Look at Safety - by Pat Thomas
- Be Careful and Stay Safe - by Cheri Meiners