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"About 115 children are kidnapped by strangers each year, according to federal statistics; 250,000 are injured in auto accidents."

The single most effective sentence in the entire story; in fact, it could probably stand for the entire story.

A number of other numbers, that puts this into even more perspective, are missing:

1) How many children walk or bike to school every day? ~10 million?

2) How many of those 115 were kidnapped while on their way to or from school? Half?

3) How many of the answer to 2) were kidnapped while they were on their way to or from school alone? Half again?

Also: How many children were kidnapped by a non-custodial parent who grabbed them by picking them up from school?

Your point does not change the numbers in question. "About 115 children are kidnapped by strangers." A non-custodial parent would not be a stranger.

No, but it does put the number in perspective. The amount of kidnappings by non-custodial parents is in the 100000's a year.

I have no idea whether non-custodial parents are primarily to blame -- these stats cited by ABC News just say family members or parents.

"203,900 kids were abducted in 1999 by family members or parents. Approximately, 58,200 were 'non-family' abductions — only 115 were defined as the frightening kidnappings by strangers." -- http://abcnews.go.com/US/story?id=91365&page=1

Unless almost all of the family cases are non-custodial parents, your claim of hundreds of thousands seems a bit exaggerated. Some of these must be custodial parents, uncles, grandparents, siblings, and so on.

I think 'non-family' means acquaintances, minus the 115 cases of abduction by a stranger.

One non-profit that works in this space estimates that 78% of the "family member or parent" abductions are due to a non-custodial parent. That would put the total around 159k, which puts the parent poster in the right order of magnitude.


Citation needed.

BTW, in addition to wikipedia's contribution to society of a free encyclopedia, I think this phrase is a great contribution. As Gerry Sussman says, "once you can name a spirit, you have power over it."

Citation not needed, because this is a conversation, not an encyclopedia article, and he gave a rough order of magnitude estimate which happens to be reasonably correct.



And millions of them will end up dying of obesity-related diseases exacerbated by the fact that they don't go outside and move their bodies.

I'd like to see a list showing each kidnapping, the motive of the kidnapper, and the result of the situation.

Is it mostly for sexual abuse? Child labor? What percentage occur in middle class suburbia compared to a poor inner city area?

Are you talking about the 115 abductions by strangers? Can you even get statistically significant results out of that small sample?

It's not really a small sample, is it? You're sampling (allegedly) 100% of the stranger abductions in the United States, so your sample is perfectly representative of stranger abductions in the United States.

But yeah, I would expect the numbers to change quite a bit from year to year.

It's a sufficiently small sample that we could study each case, figure out how it may have been prevented, and maybe get the metric up from four nines to five.

Also, I wonder what the historic measures are. Back in the eighties, we weren't coddled nearly this much, but there was a reasonable amount of crime. How many children were abducted then?

When you're already at 115 out of all of the children in the United States, there's not much else you can do that a free society would accept. (There are things that, unfortunately, a free society does accept, but I doubt those have an actual impact.)

It's similar to school buses and child fatalities. On the face of it, making school buses safer sounds like a noble goal and something we should do. But when you consider that less than a dozen children die each year in school bus accidents out of, again, all children in the United States, there's probably not much that can be done. (Source: http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/1289/why-are-there-...)

I agree that there probably aren't any top-down things at a societal level that can be done, but I'm not convinced that this information wouldn't be useful for parents who want their kids to be independent, but to take the proper precautions. For example, were the children lured or were they forcibly taken? Were they alone? How old were they? If there is info on failed attempts, how did the child get away?

If I had children, I wouldn't want them to live a sheltered life and, obviously, there are a lot of common-sense precautions, but I still think that analysis of this information could be useful to the public.

Only if the circumstances of the abductions were random, which seems doubtful. If, say, a significant number of those kids were taken by strangers in cars who lured them over verbally, simply informing parents to push the "Don't talk to strangers" bit might alone prevent some future occurrences. Just because the number is small relative to the overall population size doesn't mean that there isn't some correlation between many of the incidents, on which some acceptable measures could be taken.

A good chunk of the time, it's the result of a divorced/estranged parent trying "get" their child back.

Don't you think it would have been more honest to say:

* …115 kidnapped… 2,000 are killed in auto accidents… *

(Presumably that number is correct. I got from some ambulance chasing lawyer's site, but he suggested it was a real number.)

It depends on the point you want to make. 250,000 is presumably the number of kids injured in all automobile accidents, 2000 sounds reasonable for the 2-block drive to school. But it goes to show that parents will willingly and without a thought of the risk involved subject their kids to an activity that hurts 250,000 kids per year (and presumably also without any risk of being charged with child endangerment.)

Actually, the point I failed to make was that the original statistics compare the serious event of kidnapping to all injuries, however minor. They should compare to the serious injuries, like death, which is less than 1% of the larger number.

I wonder how many get hit by cars careening onto the sidewalk, while walking to school alone, while evading would-be kidnappers?

This is just another reflection about how people will avoid doing things they think are "dangerous" when they will without a thought spend enormous time driving, which considering the time spent doing it is quite close to the top in risk of fatality or serious injury.

According to the US Census Bureau's statistics[1], an annual average of 43,800 people have died within thirty days of a car accident in the years surveyed between 1980-2006. To put this in perspective, 58,228 Americans were killed during the entire Vietnam War.[2]

Likewise, for injuries, an average of 3.1 million were injured per year in car crashes[3], and 153,452 Americans were wounded during the Vietnam War.[2]

   [1]: http://www.census.gov/compendia/statab/tables/09s1063.pdf
   [2]: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vietnam_War_casualties#United_States_Armed_Forces
   [3]: http://www.census.gov/compendia/statab/tables/09s1066.pdf Covers 1990-2006.

But also "How can you argue against ‘just in case’"

Will society really forgive the responsible person if really something happens? I hope I would let my kids walk to school, but I think there is some kind of "tragedy of the commons" at work here. It's also why there will always be more and more stupid laws (like security cameras everywhere, privacy on the internet and so on) - because if you reject a law that is supposed to enhance security, you could be blamed if something happens.

FWIW, I haven't seen any security cameras near schools (in the US), let alone inside. I've also become pretty adept at spotting them in places like stores. Also, its unlikely that the school district will do anything like that in the near future since they're basically broke.

People will always make mistakes. Two years ago a single school computer had it's configuration messed up so that it mounted the school office's storage for everyone. That meant anyone who entered the school could potentially download a database containing the home address, phone number, full name, and other information on every single student there (over 1500). After thinking long and hard I decided not to report it. The reason? I'd most likely be expelled for stumbling across it since they could term it attempted hacking. I only share this here because this alias has rock-solid anonymity (or is that just hubris?).

I know that there have been cameras in the schools where I live(a 4,000 people town in Tennessee) at least since I was in sixth grade(six years ago) and in the buses since elementary school. Our school district is quite short on funds as well.

> "About 115 children are kidnapped by strangers each year, according to federal statistics; 250,000 are injured in auto accidents."

Maybe. My question is that how many of those children that are in auto-accidents are pedestrians? The problem is that a lot of motorists do not drive carefully around pedestrians (since there is no risk to you by a pedestrian).

I have driven with people who do not even attempt to slow down when there is a group of kids walking along the side of the road. I would rather have my child in a vehicle than on a bicycle when he is in an accident. A guy in an SUV will not even notice that he drove over a ten year old.

Only 13.5% of the traffic deaths were pedestrians and bicyclists in this study http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Car_crash#Common_types_of_colli... whereas the main causes of death are stroke and heart attack http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Causes_of_death_by_age_gro... both of which are to some extent prevented by exercise. So it seems probable that parents who stop their children walking to school are more likely to kill them than save their lives.

That's for the full population. It would be more relevant to know the breakdown of in-vehicle vs pedestrian / bicyclist deaths for children.

That's a good question, and goes to show that sensible parents who worry about letting their children walk alone should be worried about traffic. And yet, in the article, so many of the quotes are from parents worried about paedophiles.

Much of that traffic seems to be the parents. Every year when school starts, there are articles in the papers where the police and school officials remind parents to PLEASE obey speed limits and traffic laws when dropping their kids off.

Yes, this.

Our school also requests parents driving their kids to school to consider parking a couple blocks away and walking the remaining distance. A few people seem to do this, but it seems that the majority still can't fathom doing anything but dropping their kid off at the curb in front of the school.

For such accidents within the US, check the census bureau statistics:


Not really. The quarter million kids injured in car accidents are most of the reason kids get escorted to school.

How do you figure?

I figure that the kidnappers are a red herring. Parents do think about them, and do mention them in conversations about their kids walking to school. But i figure that the "closer" in the discussion is the idea that our little kids are walking across busy streets unsupervised.

We're not totally irrational. We know our kids aren't going to get stolen off the street. But it's hard to dispel the idea that they could get hit by a car. Because they totally can.

A 9-year-old crossing a street implicates two very scary variables: the fucking morons driving down our residential streets at 40mph to get around traffic on the main drags, and the fucking morons we've kept alive for 9 years who will still occasionally run out into the street without looking.

I suspect you are incorrect. I think a lot of parents focus in on the sensational media reports of kidnappings and don't think about that street crossing. After all, a child hit crossing the street probably will not make national news, and very few people have any real understanding of statistics or probability. They worry about the sensation rather than the real risk.

Some parents I have spoken with prefer the death due to head trauma over sexual torture.

There's also the guilt factor. If something common happens to your kid, it's an 'accident'. If your kid gets kidnapped, people put more of the blame on you. I mean, I have lots of designs for safer transit, but it's a lot easier to keep the kid on a leash than change people to focus on the safety of automotive travel above the need for a status symbol. Why do only pros wear helmets?

Well, consider me a data point in the other direction, Tim. And everyone else on my block (it was block party night) --- we're all worried about cars. Sex maniacs not so much.

I am a data point in the other direction myself, but while I have no statistics I strongly suspect we are in the minority, and people's behaviors tend to support that.

Instead of doing things that would help reduce cars hitting pedestrians and traffic accidents in general(more sidewalks, longer yellow lights, more crosswalks, more traffic enforcement, more required training which includes focusing on sharing the road with non-cars....) many communities spend more time on things to prevent kidnappings which are already incredibly rare (the article goes into many examples.)

And mattmcknight has an excellent point.

All good points, thanks. I guess I don't have a good handle on how much it's kidnappers vs cars in a typical parent's mind. I have some intuitions, and they seem to differ from yours, but I can't back that up with anything. And I probably did underestimate cars as a factor, being used to living in a large city with orderly traffic lights all the way.

Well, I might let my 7 year old walk the 3 blocks to school on her own (or with the neighbor kids) except for the last street crossing onto the school grounds, which I'm not comfortable letting her cross on her own because of the crazy scene from all the other parents dropping their kids off in cars. (Ironic, isn't it?) So, I walk with her to make sure she gets across that street safely.

(Before you ask: there are 6 potential street crossings onto the school grounds. The school can only afford to staff one of them with a crossing guard.)

Where I grew up it was common to have the school organize a rotation of somewhat senior kids to act as (unpaid) crossing guards (standing in small groups) on the major crossings within a few blocks of the school. They'd stand there in the mornings and sometimes right after school. Does this sort of thing ever happen in the US?

Yeah, it does. And having seen those kids blindly step into the road without looking, as if their reflective vests would magically stop the cars, I'm not sure that it makes me feel that much better. :-(

That number is such a lie. The true number is exponentially higher. Most cases go unreported by the authorities so as not to terrify the communities in which they occur. My friend, whose son was about 30 seconds away from being abducted in grocery store parking lot here in San Diego, was told by the police that approximately 30 children a year go missing in San Diego alone (many of which are taken over the border and sold.) You think all those children on milk cartons are living in hiding with their "non-custodial" parents? This problem is so much larger than anyone wants to accept.

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