Statistics – from the National Center for Victims of Crime
In the 21 years since Child Watch was established we have seen a lot
of changes in the search for missing children. Law enforcement has a lot
more experience, improved their training, respond quicker and more
effectively than ten years ago.
Technology has had a significant effect. Parents are more alert and aware. The issue of missing children is on the top
of mind with the American public and yet there are still thousands of
children who do not make it home each year, and even more who fall
victim to sexual exploitation.
An estimated 800,000 children are reported missing each year – more
than 2,000 children every day. An estimated 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 10
boys will be sexually victimized before age 18. Yet, only 1 in 3 will
Clearly much more needs to be done.
According to the United States Department of Justice;
- Less than 2 percent of all violent crimes against juveniles reported to police involve kidnapping.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
The U.S. Department of Justice reports
- 797,500 children (younger than 18) were
reported missing in a one-year period of time studied resulting in an
average of 2,185 children being reported missing each day.
- 203,900 children were the victims of family abductions.
- 58,200 children were the victims of non-family abductions.
- 115 children were the victims of
“stereotypical” kidnapping. (These crimes involve someone the child does
not know or someone of slight acquaintance, who holds the child
overnight, transports the child 50 miles or more, kills the child,
demands ransom, or intends to keep the child permanently.)
According to the latest online victimization research,
- Approximately one in seven youth online (10 to 17-years-old) received a sexual solicitation or approach over the Internet.
- Four percent (4%) received an aggressive sexual
solicitation – a solicitor who asked to meet them somewhere; called
them on the telephone; or sent them offline mail, money, or gifts.
- Thirty-four percent (34%) had an unwanted exposure to sexual material — pictures of naked people or people having sex.
- Twenty-seven percent (27%) of the youth who
encountered unwanted sexual material told a parent or guardian. If
the encounter was defined as distressing – episodes that made them
feel very or extremely upset or afraid – forty-two percent (42%)
told a parent or guardian.
Research indicates that 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 10 boys will be sexually victimized before adulthood.
Safety and Prevention
State’s 1990 Community Protection Act included America’s first law
authorizing public notification when dangerous sex offenders are
released into the community. However, it was the brutal 1994 rape and
murder of seven-year-old Megan Kanka that prompted the public demand for
broad based community notification. On May 17, 1996, President Clinton
signed Megan’s Law. Megan’s Law requires the following two components:
Sex Offender Registration – The 1994 Jacob
Wetterling Act requires the States to register individuals convicted of
sex crimes against children. Sex offender registration laws are
- Sex offenders pose a high risk of re-offending after release from custody;
- Protecting the public from sex offenders is a primary governmental interest;
- The privacy interests of persons convicted of sex offenses are
less important than the government’s interest in public safety;
- Release of certain information about sex offenders to public
agencies and the general public will assist in protecting the
Community Notification – Megan’s Law allows
the States discretion to establish criteria for disclosure, but compels
them to make private and personal information on registered sex
offenders available to the public. Community notification:
- Assists law enforcement in investigations;
- Establishes legal grounds to hold known offenders;
- Deters sex offenders from committing new offenses;
- Offers citizens information they can use to protect children from victimization.
Aren’t most missing kids a result of custodial disagreements?
The largest number of missing children are, from most frequent to least frequent:
- Family abductions
- Lost, injured or otherwise missing children
- Nonfamily abductions (in these cases, the child is at greatest risk of injury or death).
How serious are family abductions?
All cases of child abduction must be taken very seriously. In most
family-related cases, children are told that the left-behind parent
doesn’t want or love them. These children may live the life of a
fugitive, always on the run with the noncustodial parent, isolated from
family, friends, home, and school.
How can I prepare myself in case my child becomes missing?
- Keep a complete description of your child on hand.
- Take color photographs of your child every six months.
- Have your dentist prepare and maintain dental charts for your
child, and be sure they are updated each time an examination or
dental work is performed.
- Know where your child’s medical records are located.
- Arrange with your local law-enforcement agency to have your
child fingerprinted and keep the fingerprints in a safe and easily
- Keep a DNA sample from your child, like an old toothbrush in a
brown envelope licked closed by your child, at room temperature in a
dry, easily accessible place that is far away from heat.
What should I do if my child is missing?
- Act immediately.
- Search your home and check with relatives, neighbors, and friends to try and locate your child.
- If you cannot find your child, immediately report your child missing to your local law-enforcement officers.
- Limit access to your home until law-enforcement officers arrive and are able to collect evidence.
- Give law-enforcement officers all the information they request
about your child, and be sure to give them any information that
could help in the search.
- Request that your child’s name and identifying information be
immediately entered into the National Crime Information Center
(NCIC) Missing Person File.