Missing Persons – Part 2: Children
Welcome to the second issue of my missing persons reports. In the first issue, I touched on some of the main topics of discussion and defined what it means to be ‘missing’. In this second issue, I’m looking into cases of vulnerable children, trafficking and runaways.
Research by Missingpersons.org charity, aims to shed some light on the causes and intentions behind missing children – their findings report some frightening statistics. 1 in every 200 children will go missing for a period of time, due to a variety of circumstances, as outlined below.
The Children’s Society reports that a child runs away every five minutes – some as young as eight years old.
Their report details the groups of children who are most likely to runaway at some point. These groups include children who are:
• in care
• absent or excluded from school
• involved with drug and alcohol abuse or are in trouble with the police
• disabled or children who have difficulties with learning
• from homes with separated parents
Often running away is to escape some kind of abuse or violence in the home, but in reality, turning to the streets is often just as dangerous and damaging. One in six runaways end up sleeping rough, one in eight resort to theft or begging and one in 12 are hurt as a result. Sexual exploitation, substance abuse and exposure to the elements are just some of the dangers vulnerable runaways face.
Child abduction is broken down into two main categories – parent child abduction or stranger child abduction. The former is where a parent takes the child for a prolonged period of time, without the permission of the other parent/carer. Often this is in cases of separation, custody battles or safeguarding. Action Against Abduction states:
• Nearly three-quarters of children abducted abroad by a parent are aged between 0 and 6 years-old.
• Roughly equal numbers are boys and girls.
• Two-thirds of children are from minority ethnic groups.
• 70% of abductors are mothers. The vast majority have primary care or joint primary care for the child abducted.
• Many abductions occur during school holidays when a child is not returned following a visit to the parent’s home country (so-called ‘wrongful retentions’).
The other main category of child abduction is stranger child abduction. This, as the name states, is when a child is abducted by a stranger. This type of abduction is more common, and more frightening. Action Against Abduction reports:
• Three-quarters of stranger child abductions are perpetrated against girls.
• Victims of attempted stranger abduction have an average age of 11 years.
• Victims of completed abduction (with a clear sexual motive) have an average age of 14 years.
• Roughly two-thirds of abductions by a stranger involve a perpetrator in a car.
• Nearly half of attempted abductions by a stranger involve physical contact, usually grabbing or dragging.
Child trafficking, exploitation and grooming
Some of the more sinister cases of missing children is related to trafficking, exploitation and grooming. Research by Action Against Abduction suggests that over a fifth of child abduction/kidnapping offences involve trafficking, exploitation or grooming – however more recent figures may in fact be significantly higher.
While they can be individual offences, trafficking, exploitation and grooming often go hand in hand. Grooming is where a person builds an emotional relationship or bond with a child for their own personal gain. This often leads to some kind of physical, emotional or sexual abuse (exploitation), which may lead to trafficking (the transfer of children into the sex trade, into slavery, or for other reasons.)
In the news
A lot of the most shocking cases of missing children make the headlines, but because a child going missing ever few minutes, many won’t make it into the news. Some of the most high-profile cases can be categorised into one of the reasons explained above, but unfortunately a lot remain a mystery and therefore cannot be classified. There are too many cases to even know where to begin telling their stories.
How can a Private Investigator help?
A private investigator’s job is to find the truth; meaning a PI can help in even some of the most hopeless missing person’s cases. Cases involving children are that little bit more complicated as any interaction involving a minor can itself raise questions. Whilst the Police and Social Services do their utmost to both protect the vulnerable, locate this missing and prosecute those responsible, it is often in conjunction with a PI.
This issue looked at the most common or criminal reasons why children go missing. Reasons for missing children aren’t exclusive to those listed above; there are many other factors that could influence them. The sad truth is, the instances of missing children will continue to increase with the rise in poverty, social media combined with limited safeguarding and resources to help combat the tragic situation.