Monday, November 29, 2010

Child Abductions Fall, Fear Continues to Climb

According to the Denver Post, reports of missing children have plummeted — both in Colorado and nationally. Efforts to more accurately classify the cases have made some progress, but organizations from law enforcement to advocacy groups still put the largest, though sometimes misleading, numbers front and center. As abductions dip fear continues to rise.

"Emphasizing missing children is a holdover from that (1980s) period and not the best way to approach these problems," says David Finkelhor, director of the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire.

"The largest portion of the so-called missing children issue is runaway kids. To lump them into a problem that's largely a police problem has always been a question of whether you're mixing apples and oranges. They got lumped together in part because they gave heft to the numbers."

In the '80s, those weighty numbers gave political clout to an emerging issue. Even in decline, they remain attention-grabbers. The media, particularly 24 hour cable news networks, run with the exceedingly rare stories of abducted children. A child is abducted in San Diego and parents in New Hampshire ran and lock their doors.

The Denver Post's stories by reporters Louis Kilzer and Diana Griego in 1985 debunked the "national paranoia" surrounding missing kids, won a Pulitzer Prize and led to changes in the way organizations approached the issue.

A quarter-century later, authorities have a more clearly defined, technologically equipped and well-organized response to such cases. And yet, some experts say, parental anxiety over child safety has only intensified.

Stranger danger has resulted in an onslaught of legislation aimed at the imaginary predator who snatches up children for sexual gratification and torture. THe incidence of stranger abduction is rare. In Colorado for instance, since the establishment of the Amber Alert system in 2002, there have been only four alerts of stranger abductions. A 1999 nationwide survey found out of 800,000 children reported missing only 115 were considered stranger abductions.

The greatest danger for children comes from within the confines of their very homes or from extended family and friends who are responsible for most sex offenses against children.

To read more: Dispelled kidnap myths do little to allay parents' fears - The Denver Post

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