Statistics & Information
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 tell anyone.

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 a 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

Washington 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 necessary because:

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;
The release of certain information about sex offenders to public agencies and the general public will assist in protecting public safety.

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:

  • Runaways
  • Family abductions
  • Lost, injured, or otherwise missing children
  • Nonfamily abductions (in these cases, the child is at the 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 accessible place.
  • 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.
Provides any and all information on missing children as well as Resources.
Provides information on the proper installation of child safety seats, safety sports gear, baby proofing your home,

 and not leaving children unattended.
Provides a wealth of information on obesity and other health issues.
Information on bullying prevention and statistics.
Child Abuse information and reporting.
Child Abuse prevention and information.
Information for economic and social wellbeing of family and children.
Provides child seat belt information, defects and recalls.
Provides plenty of health information.
Provides a wealth of mental health information as well as government trials.

Missing-Child Clearinghouse Program

Each of the 50 states, plus the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, Canada, and the Netherlands, provides resources for missing children, their families, and the professionals who serve them. These resources are referred to as missing-child clearinghouses.

The missing-child clearinghouses are diverse in their delivery of services because of state and territorial mandates and

the variety of agencies in which they exist. The primary areas of focus for missing-child clearinghouses are networking, information dissemination, training development and delivery, data collection, and provision of technical assistance in cases of missing and sexually exploited children.

Click here to see a list of missing-child clearinghouses

U.S. Justice Department Sexual Predator DatabaseThe Dru Sjodin National Sex Offender Public Website (NSOPW), coordinated by the U.S. Department of Justice, is a cooperative effort between Jurisdictions hosting public sex offender registries (“Jurisdictions”) and the federal government. These Jurisdictions include the 50 states, Puerto Rico, Guam, the District of Columbia, and participating tribes.

This Website is a search tool allowing a user to submit a single national query to obtain information about sex offenders through a number of search options.

Click here to view the Sexual Predator Search database

Missing Kids Map uses the Google Maps API together with information from the National Center for Missing and

Exploited Children (NCMEC) to display a current map of the origins of missing children in the United StatesCanada, and the United Kingdom (New!). If you roll over the name of the missing child or click on a marker on the map an information balloon appears with case details on the missing child. We hope that by presenting the NCMEC information in this manner this site will contribute to enhancing awareness of missing children cases in the United States, Canada, and The United Kingdom.

Click here to view the map