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Missing Children — What to Know

Nationally the FBI’s National Crime Information Center database indicated that there were more than 85,000 active missing-person records by the end of 2011. In Pennsylvania, that number was just over 3,350 as of February 1, 2013.

We have many misconceptions about why and how children go missing. Here are some facts you should know:

  • Only a tiny fraction of children are abducted by strangers. Most children have run away, gotten lost or injured, have gone with a family member in a custody dispute, or just weren’t where they were supposed to be.
  • Fewer children are being reported missing. Overall, the number of missing persons has dropped 31 percent between 1997 and 2011, along with the numbers of homicides, sexual assaults and almost all crimes against children. Cellphones might be playing a big role in allowing parents to better supervise their children.
  • The Internet has made life safer for children. Children, especially teens, take risks on the Web, but mostly from home. They might socialize online with strangers, but it is at a safe distance geographically, allowing for more time to prevent lapses in judgment. Such communications also leave electronic tracks to make any schemes discoverable before they happen.
  • Since most abductions involve family members or acquaintances, we need to teach our children how to take care of themselves with people they know. They need to learn how to recognize inappropriate advances, practice refusal skills and learn how to summon help before something bad happens.
  • There is a strong correlation between protracted conflict at home and a runaway child. That conflict could include sexual abuse or exploitation, neglect or prolonged marital discord.

If your child is missing in Reading or Berks County, consult with experienced attorneys who are compassionate and understand the law.

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