Attempted Abductions - NCMEC

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.

NCMEC analyzed data from 10 years of attempted abductions and related incidents. To view the full analysis, click here.

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

We’ve recently completed an analysis of 14,500+ incidents known to NCMEC and confirmed with law enforcement spanning a period from January 1, 2005 – December 31, 2017, that indicates attempted abductions happen more often when a child is going to and from school or school-related activities, more often involve children between the ages of 10 to 14, happen to more female children than male, and involve a suspect using a vehicle. 

A common pattern with the children who escaped their would-be abductors is that the child did something proactive (screaming/yelling to draw attention; running/physically pulling away) as opposed to being passive or polite.

  • 70 percent of attempted abductions involved the suspect driving a vehicle.
  • 34 percent occurred between 2:00-7:00 pm; the time frame when children are out of school and are least likely to be supervised.
  • APPROXIMATELY 31 percent of attempted abductions happened when the child was going to and from school or school related activity.
  • 65 percent of attempted abductions involve a female child.
  • 36 percent of the children are between the age of 10-14 years old.

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

  • 53 percent of the children walked or ran away from the suspect (no physical contact).
  • 26 percent of the children reported some type of reaction (yelling, kicking, pulling away, or attracting attention).
  • 20 percent of the incidents involved either a Good Samaritan or a parent becoming involved in rescuing the child.

For incidents in which a perpetrator was identified or arrested:

  • 13 percent of perpetrators were registered sex offenders at the time of the incident.
  • 21 percent of confirmed incidetns involved a sex crime of either sexual assault or indecent exposure.

For the incidents in which the suspect used a known lure (There were over 100 different lures used in the over 14,500 Attempted Abduction reports analyzed since 2005), the five most utilized lures were:

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


• If your child walks to school, walk the route with him/her to identify landmarks and safe places to go if he/she is being followed or needs help. Create a map with your child showing acceptable routes to and from school using main roads and avoiding shortcuts and isolated areas.

• Determine the policy for releasing students both after school and at other times. Does the school require visitors to register in the front office, and have you provided a list of people who may remove your child from school?

• Check with the school to see what policy they have regarding posting names and photos online. Identifying/personal information should not be posted in a public forum. If photos are posted, they should be group photos not identifying individual children. The start of the school year is also a great time to update your children’s photo ID kits.

• Find opportunities or “teachable moments” to practice safety skills with your child. Create “what if” scenarios for your child to make sure he/she understands safety messages and how to use them in a real situation.

• If anyone tries to grab your child, tell him/her to loudly yell, "This person is trying to take me" or "This person is not my father/mother." Instruct your child to make every effort to escape by walking, running, or pulling away: yelling, kicking, attracting attention and/or otherwise resisting.


• There is no requirement or mandate for law enforcement to report Attempted Abductions to NCMEC.

• The data includes confirmed attempted abduction incidents NCMEC Analysts were able to locate through the media and confirm with law enforcement and those reports received directly from law enforcement.

• Trends are based on the analysis of more than 14,500 attempted‐abduction incidents known to NCMEC and confirmed with law enforcement, spanning a period from January 1, 2005, through December 31, 2017.

• NCMEC identified a crucial need to understand how and when attempted abductions take place.

• By analyzing attempted abduction trends and results, we may begin to uncover patterns and work with law enforcement and the public to help prevent future abductions.

• We developed the Attempted Abduction Program within our Case Analysis Unit to analyze attempted abduction trends and patterns and collect information to assist law enforcement during investigations.


Q. Can you tell us more about the analysis you conducted?
A. First and foremost, this is not a scientific research study. Given timing and relevancy, we believe it’s important to share the trends and patterns seen within this analysis with parents/guardians as their children head back‐to‐school. This analysis includes thirteen years of data compiled from January 1, 2005 through December 31, 2017.

Q. How do you collect attempted abduction information?
A. NCMEC’s Case Analysis Unit works with local law enforcement and the media to secure information on attempted abductions. The data includes information from confirmed incidents NCMEC analysts are able to locate through media and voluntarily reports from law enforcement.

Q. What is a nonfamily abduction?
A. Nonfamily abductions are typically defined as including any suspect who is not related to the child through blood or marriage, but who may be known to the child/family. For purposes of this analysis, that definition is narrowed to include only those suspects who are not related and not known to the child or the family.

Attempted Abduction Trends 2017.pdf