By Dr. Jarrod Sadulski
Faculty Member, Criminal Justice
A missing or kidnapped child is one of the worst nightmares for parents. In the United States, around 2,300 children go missing every day, according to Child Find of America. While runaways account for a good number of these missing children, kidnappings are partly responsible as well.
The vast majority of kidnappings involve family-related abductions, but there have been random kidnappings on a rarer basis. For instance, children may be kidnapped for human trafficking or other forms of sexual abuse.
In 2021, there were 1,527 abductions, according to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. The vast majority of these abductions were family-related.
Texas Counter-Trafficking Initiative Helps to Find a Texas Girl
In April of 2022, a 15-year-old girl went to use the restroom while she was attending a Dallas Mavericks game at the American Airlines Center and disappeared. She was forced into sex trafficking by a registered sex offender and was discovered 10 days later in an Oklahoma City hotel room after her nude photos surfaced in an ad for commercial sex acts. The case led to eight arrests.
What is remarkable about this case is that the sex trafficking victim was located on a prostitution website not by the police, but by the Texas Counter-Trafficking Initiative, a non-profit organization that her family utilized to help locate their daughter. This organization assists families and law enforcement agencies in recovering the juvenile victims of sex trafficking and likely saved this girl’s life.
This sex trafficking case in Dallas reflects the importance of using all of the resources available. In this case, the Texas Counter-Trafficking Initiative had an essential role in locating images of the girl on a sex solicitation website that ultimately led to her recovery.
The F3 Missing Children’s Intelligence Agency: Another Organization to Find Missing Children
There are also other non-governmental organizations that can aid law enforcement in tracking down missing children. One of those organizations is the F3 Missing Children’s Intelligence Agency, a non-profit organization led by University alumnus Richard Ring.
[Podcast: Intel Analyst Skills Help Police Find Missing Children]
This organization utilizes investigators who have experience hunting “most wanted” terrorists and international criminals around the world. They apply their expertise to aid law enforcement in searching for and recovering missing or endangered children.
Steps to Take When Your Child Goes Missing and a Kidnapping Is Suspected
No parent wants to think about what they would do if their children went missing and foul play is suspected. However, the first step every parent should take is to immediately contact the police.
The parents should relay every detail they can remember to law enforcement, such as:
- The location where the child was last seen
- His or her clothing around the time of the disappearance
- Any information on a child’s new associates, especially if those people are adults
Providing the child’s computer and cell phone to law enforcement is also useful. If the child has been groomed for sex trafficking, there is likely to be evidence on a computer or phone that can aid in the investigation of the child’s whereabouts.
Parents Should Educate Their Children and Encourage Them to Speak Up to Trusted Adults
Parents can minimize the risk of kidnappings by sex traffickers or other criminals by educating their children about the dangers in our society. Children should be warned about the hazards of communicating with unknown people online and encouraged to speak to parents, teachers, or other trusted adults if someone does or says things that make them uncomfortable.
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