12 facts on child abductions

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Sometimes kids are never found, as in the case of Etan Patz who was abducted in New York in 1979. His father spoke of "the crime that had a beginning, but no end."

Here are some facts on kidnapping and abductions. And also some hints on what parents can do to prevent these from happening.

1. There are 3 types of abductions

  • When a stranger takes a child away for criminal purposes (such as sexual assault or ransom – the latter would be classified as a kidnapping in South Africa);
  • When a child is stolen to be brought up by the abductor;
  • When a parent removes a child from the other parent's care.

2. What makes it kidnapping?

The following things classify an abduction as a kidnapping: the child is detained, taken away some distance from where it was abducted, and is held for ransom money. Or the child is taken in order to keep it permanently.

3. Kidnapping or abduction?

According to the law in South Africa, kidnapping is a separate crime from abduction. Abduction is defined as the unlawful taking of a minor from the control of their parent or guardian for the purpose of marriage or sexual intercourse.

4. Ransom

Kidnapping for ransom (of both children and adults) is most common in countries with a high crime and corruption level, a poorly resourced police force, a weak judicial system, and a history of social or political instability, according to a study conducted in South Africa for the Institute for Security Studies.

5. Dozens of kidnappings

The Gauteng police deal with over a dozen kidnappings for ransom each month, according to the study mentioned above. Most of these kidnappings involve children.

6. Parental abductions

In the case of parental abductions, the parents are usually involved in a custody battle. Children are almost never harmed in these abductions, and according to studies, the vast majority of them are returned to the rightful parent within a week.

7. The outcome

When children are kidnapped, statistics reveal that over 40% of the incidents end with the death of the child.

8. Who is the kidnapper?

53% of non-family abductions are committed by people known to the victim, according to NISMART (National Incidence Studies of Missing, Abducted, Runaway and Throwaway Children – an American organisation). A study of theirs also found that three-quarters of non-family abductions are committed by men. These men often had brief contact with the child, such as delivering something to the house, or doing minor repairs.

9. Locations

71% of non-family abductions occurred in outside areas, such as a wood, a park or in the street, according to NISMART. Very few abductions take place from school grounds or shopping centres.

10. The usual suspect

The average age of a male abductor is 27, and he is usually unemployed, working in a low-skilled job, living alone, or with his parents, according to a study conducted by OJJDP (the American Justice Department's Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention).

11. Run-away or abducted?

The vast majority of children who are reported missing have run away, or there has been miscommunication with the parents about where they should be.

12. Girls more than boys

About two-thirds of stranger abductions involve female children with an average age of 11.

Are you cautious when your kids are not with you? What are your safety measures?

Protect your family from abduction


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