Child Kidnapping: It’s Rare when Compared to the Many Other Dangers to Children

by John Edward Gill

lost child
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Media coverage of missing or kidnapped children may have scared parents into thinking such horrible events are commonplace.

They are not. Federal studies have shown about 150 to 200 cases annually of “stranger” abductions.

Yet most of those cases involve people who either knew the children or who lived nearby, while others were babysitters or family friends.

Actual numbers of children suddenly taken by complete strangers range between 20 to 50 children a year.

And since there are approximately 4.1 million babies born in America each year, this means there are presently more than 40 million children age ten and below living in this country right now.

But, still, parents and caretakers can learn from such tragedies by knowing how to prevent them.

A few, simple common sense tips, which most parents realize, can help: don’t leave children unattended; know about people who live in local neighborhoods; recognize individuals who might threaten children (and don’t let them into your home); always know where children are and who is caring for them; and remember to give as many details about a child’s age and clothing and the last whereabouts of any children who suddenly vanish when calling 911.

However, parents must realize ALL dangers to children.

Accidents, mainly with cars, bicycles, and walking or playing near streets take far more children than kidnappers—about 6,000 children a year, according to the Washington, D. C.-based National Safe Kids Campaign.

Approximately 4,000 children age 18 and under lose their lives annually because of guns, reports the Children’s Defense Fund; also in Washington, D.C. Most of these children are victims of accidental handling of guns in the home.

Officials of the Center for Disease Control (CDC) report that about the same number of children perish each year from disease.

Slightly more than 1,000 children die annually from child abuse, reports the National Clearinghouse on Child Abuse and Neglect. This agency is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

And a new, neglected danger to children, is just now getting public attention: Leaving children locked in overheated cars during hot summer months.

KIDS’N CARS, a program of the Trauma Foundation at San Francisco Hospital, estimates that between July, 2000, and June, 2001, there were 78 child deaths due to children either being left unattended inside overheated cars or being left unattended in or around motor vehicles. That group reported that about 35 percent of those children perished because of being left alone in overheated cars, and that such cars were parked near their homes.

The CDC confirmed these figures.

In addition, KIDS’N CARS reported that thus far in 2002 there have been 55 cases of children losing their lives because of being left unattended in or around vehicles.

Since there has been much media attention given to missing children, many questionable private, non-law enforcement groups have seized upon unwarranted fear of child abduction by promoting fingerprinting, DNA fingerprinting, child identification kits, etc.

Parents must realize that such programs don’t find children. Local law enforcement always tracks and finds missing children, as with a recent case in Philadelphia.

Another federal government study, conducted in 1997 with the State of Washington, recommended such local searching by police at and around the last sighting of a missing child.

Child safety must be realistic and practical and should not rely on gimmicks like posters, flyers, postcards, fingerprinting, etc.

Just remember where your children are, especially if they’re outside; be sure they know about crossing streets and intersections; make certain that youngsters have periodic medical check-ups; keep any guns locked away from all family members; do not strike children and seek help in handling difficult situations with them.

And, please, take a look in the back seat before leaving your car!

More info on missing children.