Our Greatest Fear – Missing Children

800,000 children, 2160 a day or one child every 40 seconds goes missing in the United States each year. More than 200,000 children are abducted by family members and 58,000 were abducted by non-family members.

“Imagine you are a new mother, just learning how to care for your 6 week-old son who is utterly dependent on you for his every need. Your love for him knows no boundaries. Then one day, tragically, your baby is kidnapped, unbeknownst to you, by his father. You are panic-stricken, distraught. The grief you feel is overwhelming and you don’t know what to do, where to turn.” This is an excerpt from the South East Conference on Missing and Exploited Children.

800,000 children go missing in the United States each year. Of that number 115 children were the victims of “stereotypical” kidnapping. These crimes involve someone the child does not know or have slight acquaintance to, who holds the child overnight, transports the child 50 miles or more, kills the child, demands ransom, or intends to keep the child permanently.

A missing child is defined by the 1982 Missing child’s Act, as any person younger than 18 whose whereabouts are unknown to his or her legal custodian. Under the act, the circumstances surrounding the disappearance must indicate that the child was removed from the control of his or her legal custodian without the custodian’s consent, or the circumstances of the case must strongly indicate that the child is likely to have been abused or sexually exploited. In 1932 the United States Congress gave the FBI jurisdiction under the “Lindberg Law” to immediately investigate any reported mysterious disappearance or kidnapping involving a child “of tender age”, usually meaning a child of 12 years or younger. The FBI’s does not need to have a ransom demand, the child does not have to cross state lines and the child does not have to be missing for more than 24 hours. The FBI can extend the age up to age 17 if they feel it is warranted.

With 800,000 missing we have only talked about 258,000 children. Here is a breakdown on all 800,000 children missing:

· 45% ran away or were thrown out (approx.360,000)

· 43% mis-communicated or misunderstood plans (approx.344,000)

· 8% were lost or injured (approx.64,000)

· 7% abducted by family members (approx.56,000)

· 2% abducted by non-family (approx.16,000)

A stereotypical kidnapping, or stranger abduction in which a child is kept overnight, transported more than 50 miles and held for ransom or killed are relatively rare. When these figures were compiled there were only 115 “stereotypical kidnappings that year. Of these 115 children 40 percent were killed and 4 percent were never recovered. For these stereotypical kidnappings the “AMBER ALERT” has been nationalized by the President of the United States and has been effective in recovering some of our children that probably would not have been found if we didn’t have a national “AMBER ALERT” program.

Now let’s look at some good news about missing children. Out of approximately 800,000 missing children each year 799,885 children are not stereotypical kidnappings. These are children that were not taken for ransom or transported more than 50 miles from home by an unknown, non-family member. Understandably there are some of the runaways that end up more than 50 miles from home and sadly some end up in sex trafficking. What can we do about these 799, 885 missing children to protect of find them in a timely fashion?

Today we have short-range and long-range locators we can attach to our children or they can carry in their pocket or bag.

· A short-range locator has of two-parts: a key chain device the parent holds onto and a pin or wristband device on the child. When the child gets out of a pre-determined range set by the parent, an alarm goes off. A good example is the Child Guard Panda sold at Sharper Safety. These devices are easy to operate and very affordable.

· A long-range locator is a GPS device that a child can carry in a bag or have strapped to their leg or chest. It is small, light weight and has a battery with a long life. The GPS device is always being tracked by the GPS or Global Positioning Satellites. If your child is going on a trip or out with a new friend, you can monitor the location of your child via computer or your smart phone over the internet. If the child is fearing for their safety, they can press a button that will send an alarm to your cell phone and a location to your computer tracking software. A device such as the Mini GPS Tracker at Sharper Safety can also monitor the child’s conversation once the “panic button” is pressed. This detector makes no noise and can be placed in a secret pocket in the clothing to be virtually undetectable.

We have a problem as their are people that want our children to be somewhere else than where they should be. With a little preparation we can locate our children before the situation escalates. We also get separated from our children at theme parks, camping or other events away from home. Sure we can rely on the police to search, but wouldn’t be a better situation if you could tell the police where your child is located or you could go and locate your child yourself? There are some missing children cases that will require police intervention, even if we know where the child is located, as in a separated parent abducting the child. The goal is to get the child home and safe as quickly as possible. If you have no children, these devices can be used for your pets.

Doug Harper is a former Marine, Drug and Prisoner Transport Officer and Airline Pilot. Doug retired from the airlines in 2011 and opened Sharper Safety to sell video surveillance equipment and non-lethal defense products. http://www.sharpersafety.com