Recently, reports have come in from both Cuyahoga County (Euclid) and Stark County (Canton) that school-age children have been approached by strangers, with the apparent motive of abduction. In Canton, dogs and puppies have been used to lure children to a waiting vehicle. According to a report by WKYC, children in Euclid have reportedly been told to “get into the van” or asked if they wanted a ride. Three attempted abductions have been reported in September resulting in a school district response, although it should be noted that none of the attempts occurred on school property or during school hours. Fortunately, none of the children who were approached were harmed and all had refused to get into the car or van.
What is known about child abductions? First of all, a child abduction is the unauthorized removal of a child (under the age of majority, normally defined as 18) from their natural parent(s) or legal guardian. Information from the Center of Missing and Exploited Children claims that 800,000 children are reported missing each year. Two categories of missing children are described: parental child abduction and abduction or kidnapping by strangers. Most child theft, or child abduction, is parental abduction. Statistically speaking, stranger abduction is relatively infrequent. The reports coming from Euclid and Canton are those of attempted stranger abduction.
The most recent comprehensive study available was conducted in 1999 (http://www.missingkids.com/KeyFacts). The recovery rate for missing children is approximately 97% representing a significant improvement since 1990 when the percentage was 64%. Many children who were reported as “missing” were not actually abducted but rather, their whereabouts were unknown. Other children reported as missing had run away from home. The majority of children who were abducted were taken by family members (i.e. more than 200,000). Stranger abductions (e.g. nonfamily members) accounted for approximately 58,000.
A number of possible motives have been described as to why a stranger would abduct a child. One motive amounts to an “illegal adoption” whereby the abductor raises the child as their own or will sell the child to an adoptive parent, who may or may not be aware of the circumstances surrounding the manner in which an infant or young child was obtained. Children may also be abducted as a way to collect a ransom from a family. A third motive for abducting children may be for the purposes of human trafficking, which may include sex slavery or sexual abuse and for forced labor such as domestic servitude.
Although the murder of an abducted child is statistically rare, it is not unheard. A 2006 study (Brown K., Keppel R., McKenna R., Skeen M., Weis J. Case Management for Missing Children Homicides: Report II, National Center for Missing & Exploited Children and U.S. Department of Justice, 2006) indicated that an estimated 100 children are murdered every year following an abduction and that the majority of them were killed within three hours of abduction (76.2%). Parents need to communicate openly with their children about potential dangers and how to contact the appropriate people in the event of an emergency. A variety of safety programs and suggested plans are available and parents are encouraged to take examine these programs.
For additional information, the reader may wish to go to the website: National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at www.Missingkids.com.