Office of Justice Programs News

MONDAY, JULY 24, 2000


WASHINGTON, D.C. ? Children are more likely to be kidnaped by acquaintances ? people they know but who are not family members ? than by complete strangers, according to a new bulletin from the Justice Department's Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP). Although kidnaping by a family member is more prevalent than either acquaintance or family abduction, it is kidnaping by an acquaintance that is the most likely to result in violence.

Young people abducted by acquaintances are predominantly female (72 percent). When abducted by acquaintances rather than by either strangers or family members, the victims are more likely to be teenagers. Thirty percent of acquaintance kidnapers are juveniles themselves.

"In the past, when we have tracked child abduction data, kidnapings by acquaintances had always been combined with those by strangers as non-family abductions," said OJJDP Acting Administrator John J. Wilson. "This data shows that acquaintance kidnaping has unique and distinctive features that warrant further examination by law enforcement and researchers."

The bulletin, Kidnaping of Juveniles: Patterns From NIBRS (National Incident-Based Reporting System), shows that 49 percent of child abductions were committed by family members, 27 percent by acquaintances and 24 percent by strangers. Seventy-one percent of acquaintance youth kidnaping victims were ages 12 to 17. Twenty-four percent of the acquaintance kidnapings led to a victim injury, compared with 16 percent of the stranger kidnapings and 4 percent of the family abductions.

The bulletin presents some common acquaintance kidnaping scenarios. One example is boyfriends or ex-boyfriends kidnaping their teenage girlfriends. Other instances are gang-related ? members abducting other teenagers for intimidation, retaliation or recruiting. Still others are family friends or employees who abduct children in their care.

The bulletin also points out:

  • Kidnaping makes up less than 2 percent of all violent crimes against juveniles known to the police.
  • Relatively few kidnapings of juveniles involve weapons.
  • Child victims of family abductions are most frequently under age 6 and are equally likely to be boys or girls.

The new findings are from 1997 data submitted by law enforcement agencies in 12 states as part of the FBI's NIBRS, which collects detailed information on crimes known to the police, including kidnaping. The bulletin was prepared for OJJDP by Drs. David Finkelhor and Richard Omrod of the University of New Hampshire's Crimes Against Children Research Center.

Kidnaping of Juveniles: Patterns From NIBRS, as well as information about OJJDP publications, programs and conferences are available through the OJJDP Website at and from OJJDP's Juvenile Justice Clearinghouse, Box 6000, Rockville, Maryland 20857. The toll-free number is 1-800/638-8736.

Information about other Office of Justice Programs (OJP) bureaus and program offices is available at Media should contact OJP's Office of Congressional and Public Affairs at 202/307-0703.

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