What We Can Learn From A Ten Year Study of Attempted Abductions

Updated: Aug 5

To protect ourselves from abductors, we have to know their tactics. The National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children conducted a ten year analyses of abduction cases based on 9,872 children and 9,027 offenders involved in 8,015 unique incidents. The study discovered very important patterns regarding the incident timing and location, offenders’ methods, and how children got away from attempted abductions.

Offenders used a variety of methods against children, ranging from manipulative verbal ploys like offers, questions or demands, to the use of overt force like weapons, breaking and entering and threats of violence. Here are the most important findings from the study, followed by what to teach children to improve their safety.

Eight Key Findings From The 10 Year Review

1. Attempted abductions happen most often when a child is going to or from school.

2. The highest risk demographic for abduction are girls between ages 10-14. 67% of children were female and 21 percent were male. Gender was unknown for 12%.

3. Most abductions involve an offender using a vehicle.

4. The street is by far the most common incident location.

5. Offenders primarily used forceful methods against the youngest and oldest children while verbal ploys were the primary approach used against elementary and middle school-age children.

  • When only verbal ploys were used, children were most likely to get away by ignoring or refusing the offender, using their cell phones to threaten possible adult intervention and/or by actual adult intervention.

  • When forceful methods were used against children, children most commonly got away from offenders by fighting, screaming/making noise and/or by adult intervention.

6. Of all the things children did to escape, screaming/making noise was the only behavior that increased the likelihood of an offender’s arrest because it specifically increased the chances of adult intervention.

7. 97% of offenders were male, and 3% were female. Children are most commonly victimized by male offenders working alone (87%), followed distantly by males working in same-sex pairs (7%).

  • When male offenders are involved, older children are most often targeted rather than children that are before school age.

  • Female offenders are more likely to victimize younger children including infants, toddlers, and elementary school age children.

8. 83% of children who escaped their would-be abductors did something proactive. They walked/ran away, yelled, kicked, or pulled away. This means the best thing a child can do if someone tries to abduct them is take action instead of being passive or polite.

most common lures used by abductors and attackers
The walk to and from school is the most common site of abduction.

The Most Common Lures Used By Abductors

Children and adults should all be trained in the most common lures used by attackers. Review the following tricks with your children and go over how they should respond to each one. Walk to school with them and point out safe places they can go for help along the way in case of emergency. You can also test your kids once in a while, and ask what they would do in a certain situation.

1. The Offer Trick

The child is offered money, toys, pets, food, or a ride.

2. The Help Trick

The child is asked to help with something such as directions, looking for a lost pet, or carrying something. Most of the time these require the child to get close to the car. This is also a very common lure used on adult women.

3. The Emergency Trick

Someone fakes an emergency and offers to take the child to another location. (E.g. an adult tells the child that their parents have been in a car crash and they to go to the hospital immediately).

4. The Friend Trick