Missing Person Statistics

The Attorney General of Washington published a case management on May 13, 1997 for Missing Children and Homicide Investigations with these findings:

The study examined more than 600 child abduction-murder cases from 44 states.

Summary of Findings:

In 53% of the cases the victim and abductor were strangers. This relationship, where the murderer is a stranger to the victim, “defines” this particular type of murder. The data also suggest there may be a grater predisposition to serial offending among child abduction killers.

The typical victims were white females, about 11 years old, often described as “normal kids” from middle class neighborhoods with stable family relationships.

9% of the victims were 5 years of age or younger.

In 58% of the cases, the initial contact site between victim and abductor was within a quarter mile of the victim’s home. In 33% of the cases, first contact was less than 200 feet from the victim’s home.

The typical abductors were white males, about 27 years old, unmarried, with prior arrests for violence in 60% of the cases, and, in 53% of the cases, with prior crimes against children.

Contrary to popular belief, child abduction killers are not truly “loners.” Only 17% lived alone, while 83% lived with someone else and 34% lived with parents.

The primary motivation for these murders was sexual assault. 60% of the killers had prior arrests for violent crimes. The majority, 53%, had committed prior crimes against children, the most common being sexual assault.

57% were simply “victims of opportunity.” The most common basic elements in these crimes are: a motivated offender, the opportunity to commit the crime, and ineffective guardians.

In almost 2/3 of the cases the abductions were “snatch and grab” confrontations where the predators saw an available victim then quickly assaulted and subdued them.

Timing in reporting missing children is critical. It should be done immediately. In 60% of the cases there were delays of over 2 hours between the time the victim was known to be missing and a report was made to law enforcement authorities. In 74% of the cases the victims were dead within 3 hours after abduction.

Police response upon receiving such a report should also be immediate. Police need to concentrate as many investigative resources as quickly as possible on these cases. This may enhance the odds that a child is recovered alive and will certainly improve the probability that the predator is caught.

Since the victims’ last known locations were usually very close to the site of initial contact with their abductors, the need for a neighborhood canvass may be among the biggest issues uncovered in this research. When police did not know the initial contact site, the solvability rate dropped 40% below average. When the initial contact site was known, the solvability rate increased by 13% above average.

The neighborhood canvass should not only ask the question, “What did you see that was unusual?”, but should also ask, “What did you see that was usual?” In the cases examined by this study, the killer was in the area on initial contact two-thirds of the time because he belonged there. He lived in the area 29% of the time; 19% were there for some normal social activity, and 18% either worked in the area or were there on other business.

After the crime, key behaviors by the killer are most common and most telling. 21% left town, 18% confided in someone about their involvement, and 10% actually interjected themselves into the murder investigation in some way.