Child abduction remains a problem in America although technological advances are helping police to recover children more quickly, experts say.
According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, 460,699 entries for missing children were logged into the FBI’s National Crime Information Center in 2015. The number represents reports of all missing children in the U.S. and was slightly lower than the 2014 data.
In June 2016, the Office of Justice Programs’ Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) reported in its monthly bulletin that the number of children kidnapped by strangers, or slight acquaintances, has remained constant, but that the number killed has declined. The research reviewed and compared data from 1997 and 2011.
Kidnappings involving 92 percent of child victims in 2011 ended in the recovery of the child alive, compared with 57 percent of victims in 1997, according to the OJJDP bulletin, which cited a report done by a team at the University of New Hampshire.
The research team from the University of New Hampshire’s Crimes Against Children Research Center and the Rockville Institute compared 2011 findings on stereotypical kidnappings to 1997 numbers and used data from a national sample of law enforcement agencies.
Stereotypical kidnappings of children remained the same between the two surveys, 115 in 1997 and 105 in 2011, the bulletin said. In 2011, eight percent ended in homicide compared to 40 percent in 1997.
Success rates in recovering children have increased with the advancement of technology, experts say. Smart phones now have GPS that allows for locations to be tracked. It isn’t a surprise that police officials are using it to their advantage to solve crimes.
“It has to do with the technologies that allow us to interrupt episodes more quickly,” said David Finkelhor, director of the New Hampshire research center.
The OJJDP says that technologies such as cell phones and the Internet helped law enforcement agencies to solve two-thirds of stranger kidnapping crimes in 2011.
The Amber Alert System, established in 1996, also has had an impact on the number of children being returned home safely, Finkelhor said. He suggested the number of reported kidnappings went up due to the introduction of the system.
“They increased for a period of time while the program was starting up,” he said.
Teenagers are one of the groups most often targeted by kidnappers. A study from NISMART (National Incidence Studies of Missing, Abducted, Runaway, and Thrownaway Children) says that teenagers are the most frequent victims of both family and non-family kidnappings.
Educating people on ways to prevent child abduction can aid in lowering the number of incidents, experts say. A report by the Illinois State Police says children are most vulnerable when they are by themselves.
According to the Parent’s Guide to Preventing Child Abduction, individuals who prey on children wait for an opportunity when the child is alone. Children should not be outside their homes by themselves, even for short periods of time, experts advise.
Abductors prey on teens using the Internet, as well. FBI Special Agent Peter A. Gulotta Jr. told Educationworld.com, “We do a rotten job of telling kids what they should do on the Internet. We tell our children never to talk to strangers in person, but we don’t do a good job of telling them not to talk to strangers on the Internet.
Cyncere Preston is a student at the Journalism & Media Academy in Hartford.