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Attempted Abductions

The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children® collects information about attempted abductions, short term "abduct and release" incidents and other types of suspicious incidents involving children. NCMEC analysts proactively track and collect data concerning attempted abductions in an effort to identify possible patterns and provide technical assistance and resources to law enforcement.

Technical assistance resources for law enforcement

Law enforcement can request the technical assistance resources listed below or report an incident occurring in their jurisdiction by emailing

  • Distribution of a regionalized biweekly report summarizing the attempted abduction incidents confirmed in the previous 14 days.
  • Identification and analysis of regional trends and patterns among cases using NCMEC databases, external data sources and geographic information databases.
  • Analysis of similar incidents of attempted abductions occurring within a certain mile radius.
  • Review of past crimes and unresolved long-term cases for similarities in an effort to develop investigative links.
  • Preparation and dissemination of special bulletins, when necessary, to alert NCMEC staff members and law enforcement of emerging attempted abduction patterns.
  • Confirmation of incident details for use in developing data driven safety tips.

Incident collection and event types

There is no standard definition for attempted abductions. An attempted abduction may consist of:

  • Nonverbal actions and/or behavior s demonstrated by the perpetrator.
  • A verbal exchange between the perpetrator and child.
  • Physical contact, sexual or otherwise.
  • A physical struggle; or
  • A short term/short distance abduction from which the child is able to escape or the perpetrator releases the child.

NCMEC’s Case Analysis Unit analysts use these parameters and rely on the investigating agency’s classification of the incident for the purposes of collecting data.

The attempted online enticement of a child is not considered an attempted abduction for the purposes of this data collection and analysis. Anyone with information about an incident involving online enticement of children for sexual acts should contact law enforcement directly and make a report to the CyberTipline® at

Trends identified in attempted abductions

Case Analysis Unit analysts recorded more than 9,900 confirmed attempted child abductions by someone unknown to the child from February 2005 through December 2014. Of the recorded attempted abductions:

  • 73 percent involved the suspect driving a vehicle.
  • 34 percent occurred between 2 p.m. - 7 p.m.
  • 32 percent happened when the child was going to or from school or a school related activity.
  • 18 percent involved sexual assault or indecent exposure.
  • 68 percent involved a female child.
  • 39 percent involved children between 10 and 14 years old.

Of the attempted abductions that had a known outcome of how the child escaped the suspect:

  • 52 percent involved children walking or running away from the suspect with no physical contact.
  • 31 percent involved children reporting some type of reaction such as yelling, kicking, pulling away or attracting attention.
  • 17 percent involved either a parent or another individual rescuing the child.

For incidents in which a perpetrator was identified or arrested:

  • 15 percent of perpetrators were registered sex offenders at the time of the incident.

There were more than 100 different methods used in the more than 9,000 attempted abduction reports reviewed since 2005. For the incidents in which the perpetrator used a known method to entice the child, the five used most often were:

  • 33 percent offered the child a ride.
  • 12 percent offered the child candy or sweets.
  • 11 percent asked the child questions.
  • 8 percent offered the child money.
  • 8 percent used an animal (offering, looking for or showing).

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