Key Findings

  • During the study year, there were an estimated 115 stereotypical kidnappings, defined as abductions perpetrated by a stranger or slight acquaintance and involving a child who was transported 50 or more miles, detained overnight, held for ransom or with the intent to keep the child permanently, or killed.

  • In 40 percent of stereotypical kidnappings, the child was killed, and in another 4 percent, the child was not recovered.

  • There were an estimated 58,200 child victims of nonfamily abduction, defined more broadly to include all nonfamily perpetrators (friends and acquaintances as well as strangers) and crimes involving lesser amounts of forced movement or detention in addition to the more serious crimes entailed in stereotypical kidnappings.

  • Fifty-seven percent of children abducted by a nonfamily perpetrator were missing from caretakers for at least 1 hour, and police were contacted to help locate 21 percent of the abducted children.

  • Teenagers were by far the most frequent victims of both stereotypical kidnappings and nonfamily abductions.

  • Nearly half of all child victims of stereotypical kidnappings and nonfamily abductions were sexually assaulted by the perpetrator.

Defining Nonfamily Abduction and Related Terms

  • Nonfamily abduction: (1) An episode in which a nonfamily perpetrator takes a child by the use of physical force or threat of bodily harm or detains the child for a substantial period of time (at least 1 hour) in an isolated place by the use of physical force or threat of bodily harm without lawful authority or parental permission, or (2) an episode in which a child younger than 15 or mentally incompetent, and without lawful authority or parental permission, is taken or detained or voluntarily accompanies a nonfamily perpetrator who conceals the child’s whereabouts, demands ransom, or expresses the intention to keep the child permanently.

  • Stereotypical kidnapping: A nonfamily abduction perpetrated by a slight acquaintance or stranger in which a child is detained overnight, transported at least 50 miles, held for ransom or abducted with intent to keep the child permanently, or killed.

  • Stranger: A perpetrator whom the child or family do not know, or a perpetrator of unknown identity.

  • Slight acquaintance: A nonfamily perpetrator whose name is unknown to the child or family prior to the abduction and whom the child or family did not know well enough to speak to, or a recent acquaintance who the child or family have known for less than 6 months, or someone the family or child have known for longer than 6 months but seen less than once a month.

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Nonfamily Abducted Children: National Estimates and Characteristics
NISMART Bulletin
October 2002