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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.

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

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

We’ve recently completed an analysis of 12,900+ incidents known to NCMEC and confirmed with law enforcement spanning a period from January 1, 2005 – December 31, 2016, 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 32 percent of attempted abductions happened when the child was going to and from school or school related activity.
  • 20 percent of confirmed incidents involved a sex crime of either sexual assault or indecent exposure.
  • 65 percent of attempted abductions involve a female child.
  • 37 percent of the children are between the age of 10-14 years old.

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

  • 51 percent of the children walked or ran away from the suspect (no physical contact).
  • 30 percent of the children reported some type of reaction (yelling, kicking, pulling away, or attracting attention).
  • 19 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.

For the incidents in which the suspect used a known lure (There were over 100 different lures used in the over 12,900 Attempted Abduction reports analyzed since 2005), the five most utilized lures were:

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

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