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Abduction of Children by Strangers and Nonfamily Members: Estimating the Incidence Using Multiple Methods

NCJ Number
Journal of Interpersonal Violence Volume: 7 Issue: 2 Dated: (June 1992) Pages: 226-243
D Finkelhor; G T Hotaling; A J Sedlak
Date Published
18 pages
This study used three approaches to estimate the incidence of nonfamily child abductions for 1988: a national survey of households with children, a national survey of police records, and an analysis of FBI homicide data.
Estimates were made for three types of kidnapping: stereotypical kidnappings in which a stranger took a child overnight, or a distance of 50 miles or more, or killed, ransomed or evidenced an intent to keep the child permanently; legal-definition nonfamily abductions in which a stranger or other nonfamily member took, detained, or lured a child, often in conjunction with another crime such as sexual assault; and attempted abduction in which an unsuccessful attempt was made to take, detain, or lure a child. From police records, this study estimated that between 3,200 and 4,600 legal-definition nonfamily abductions were known to law enforcement in 1988. Of these, between 200 and 300 met the criteria for stereotypical kidnapping. In addition there were between 370 and 430 attempted leg-definition abductions known to police, but not included in the full count. The limitations of the household survey did not permit a national estimate of legal-definition abductions; although it was possible to estimate attempted abductions (114,600). An estimate from the FBI data of the number of children murdered in the course of a stranger abduction was between 43 and 147 children. One policy implication for the statistics on attempted abduction is the importance of teaching children about the danger of enticements from strangers. 2 tables, 9 notes, and 21 references