The missing children issue is quite complex and complicated. Children become missing as a result of running away from home, due to abduction by nonfamily members or abduction by family members. Children may also become missing involuntarily for reasons other than abduction such as becoming lost, injured or under other circumstances.
The National Crime Information Center’s (NCIC) Missing Person File was implemented in 1975. Records in the Missing Person File are retained indefinitely, until the individual is located, or the record is canceled by the entering agency. The Missing Person File contains records for individuals reported missing who:
- have a proven physical or mental disability (Disability – EMD),
- are missing under circumstances indicating that they may be in physical danger (Endangered – EME),
- are missing after a catastrophe (Catastrophe Victim – EMV),
- are missing under circumstances indicating their disappearance may not have been voluntary
- (Involuntary – EMI),
- are under the age of 21 and do not meet the above criteria (Juvenile – EMJ), or
- are 21 and older and do not meet any of the above criteria but for whom there is a reasonable concern for their safety (Other – EMO).
In one of the more recent national estimates of missing children, which are available in the National Incidence Studies of Missing, Abducted, Runaway, and Thrownaway Children, it is estimated that:
- Approximately 800,000 children younger than 18 were reported missing.
- More than 200,000 children were abducted by family members.
- More than 58,000 children were abducted by nonfamily members.
- An estimated 115 children were the victims of "stereotypical" kidnapping.
These "stereotypical" kidnappings involved someone the child did not know or who was an acquaintance. The child was held overnight, transported 50 miles or more, killed, ransomed or held with the intent to keep the child permanently.
The FBI also maintains exhaustive statistics regarding the number of children and adults entered by law enforcement agencies into the National Crime Information Center’s Missing Person File each year. In 2011 more than 550,000 entries were made by law enforcement for those younger than 21.
If your child has been kidnapped or harmed, immediately contact your local field office or the closest international office.
Other key contacts:
- To report a missing child or the sighting of a missing child, you can also contact the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children by calling 1-800-THE-LOST or by visiting its website.
- To report child sexual exploitation, use the electronic Cyber Tip Line or call 1-800-843-5678. The Cyber Tip Line is operated by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in partnership with the FBI and other law enforcement agencies.
- If your child is being abducted internationally by a family member and is not yet abroad, contact the U.S. Department of State.
Child abductions by strangers are often complex and high-profile cases. And time is of the essence. That’s why the FBI has added another tool in their Violent Crimes Against Children program that helps local field offices in these cases: our Child Abduction Rapid Deployment, or CARD, teams. For more information visit their CARD info page.
If you think you have seen a missing child, contact the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children 24-hours a day, 7 days a week.
Report Child Sexual Exploitation
Use the Congressionally-authorized CyberTipline to report crimes against children.