Kidnapping of Children
Kidnapping is among the most common organized crimes that happen and children are the most affected. Kidnapping can be defined as unauthorized removal of a child often at an underage from the custody of their legal guardians or from their parents. Kidnapping is also known as child abduction or child theft. It is approximated that every 40 seconds in the United States, one child gets kidnapped or rather goes missing. According to the Bureaus National Crime Information Center Missing Person Files, by the end of 2017 there were 32000 cases of missing children. Parental kidnapping which involves a parent taking a child away from the legal parent without permission. The other form is abduction whereby the kidnapper is a stranger for purposes of extortion, human trafficking or illegal adoption. This paper will look at the issues surrounding kidnapping from its historical background to measures being taken to deal with the issue.
Over the past twenty-five years, kidnapping cases have increased from 150,000 to 900,000. The most prevalent cases of kidnapping are parental kidnapping and as of 2010 according to the US Department of Justice, there were 200,000 cases of parental kidnapping. According to State Department, between the year 2008-2017 an average of 1100 children were abducted from the U.S and taken to foreign country (Dabbagh, 2011). Men were found to be the highest perpetrators when it came to kidnapping as compared to women. There are several reasons as to why people kidnap children. For parental abduction, most do so probably because they have been denied legal guardianship of their children and they cannot see their children. For most, they feel that the only way they can get access to their children is to kidnap them. Another reason for parental kidnapping is to exert revenge on the legal guardian. For certain parents who are denied access to their children, they often may feel the need to punish the parents by taking the children away from them just as it was done to them. For some parents especially if the spouses are completely estranged or they had a really hard divorce battle, some see abduction of their children as the only way they can get to spend the rest of their lives with their children. Largely most parental abductions do not have malicious intent or no harm is often caused to the child although in some cases harm may be inflicted on the child including injuries or even in worse scenarios sexual assault.
Child abduction by strangers has often been seen to be more of economic reasons. There are several reasons strangers kidnap children and in most cases for extortion of money from the parents. Often you will find at times these strangers are not really strangers in the life of a child they may be nannies, butlers, family friends among other people who want to extort a family especially if the family is rich (Detotto, 2014). Abduction for extortion often involves making calls to the child’s parent on the demands that need to be met before the child is released including sending out money. Another reason for abduction is for illegal adoption. There are notorious illegal adoption rings that run by giving parents who would love to adopt children. In Kenya for example, there have been cases of children kidnapping who are then sold to parents at times in the United States under the guise that these children are being adopted. Lastly, human trafficking is another reason for children kidnapping. It is a sad situation that young children as little as 12 years old are trafficked and sold to prostitution rigs where they get to work (Waltes, 2011).
The first case of kidnapping can be traced back to the year 1758 whereby Mary Jemison a 12-year-old Caucasian child was taken from her family. The perpetrators of the act were Seneca Falls warriors and she was the only one who had not been massacred, she lived with the Seneca tribe for the rest of her years. Charley Ross who was four years old was the first child to be kidnapped in exchange for ransom. This was one case that received a lot of public attention this was because the individuals that had been suspected to be the kidnappers were killed and Ross was never found. Most people though that by the law enforcers killing the kidnappers, they had also been responsible because they had killed the only people that may have known where he was.
June 13 1932, Congress passed The Federal Kidnapping Act. This was a law also referred to as Lindbergh Law because of the kidnapping case that resulted in this law. Charles Augustus Lindbergh Junior was kidnapped on 1st March, 1932 when he was just 20 months old. The negotiations with the kidnapper failed and the remains of the child were found a few days later. The Lindbergh Law gave power to the federal law enforcers to pursue the kidnappers immediately they had information that they may have crossed state lines with their victims (Cushman, 2010). This law was dimmed to be necessary because local as well as state law enforcers may be unable to pursue kidnappers effectively especially if they get to cross into states that they did not have jurisdiction in. Federal law enforcers who include the FBI have national authority and thus congress thought they would be more effective and better equipped in tracking kidnappings. The exception to this law is whereby parents abduct their children (parental abduction). Different states have tried implementing their law often referred to as “Little Lindbergh” laws which covers kidnapping that do not cross to other states.
Several cases brought to the supreme court have also had an effect on the Federal Kidnapping Act. In 1968, the United States v. Jackson, 390 U.S. 570 (1968) ruled that certain parts of the Federal Kidnapping law were unconstitutional. The act had a provision that if a kidnapped person is not liberated unharmed, then the kidnapper shall be punished by death. The court felt that only the jury would recommend the punishment they deemed fit to the kidnapper. The decision of the court was that kidnapping alone should not be seen as a capital punishment. There have been convictions that have been obtained from this law including Luis Jones who was found guilty of kidnapping Tracie McBride which resulted in her death.
AMBER Alert (American Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response) may be one of the greatest invention in trying to deal with missing children and kidnapping. An amber alert is an alert that is sent out by the child abduction system when law enforcers have reasonable information to determine if a child has been abducted or is in danger. This alert helps other people including the community to be on high alert and report incase they have any information that may lead to information of the missing child. These alerts are broadcasted on data-enabled devices, radio, TV, cell phones as well as road signs (Griffin, 2008). This alert was created after the abduction of Amber Hagerman who was a 9-year-old girl who was abducted and murdered in 1996 in Arlington, Texas. Different states have stipulated down different reasons on when to issue an alert. The vital step is to determine if the child has been really abducted. In some missing child cases, a parents often decide to take a child and if they have custody or are legal parents this is not case of abduction.
Amber alerts are a great way of helping rescue babies who have been kidnapped. Once an alert is made, calls will keep streaming in on people giving useful information or leads. More states thus need to use amber alerts to help them search for missing children. However, at times issuing of amber alert is not always immediate as investigators often have to establish that the children have been kidnapped. Time is always of the essence in an abduction case and even a single minute could make a difference. This is one of the reasons why investigators need to conduct speedy investigation then issue an Amber alert. When there is delayed issue of the Amber alert, harm may at times come on the child for example being killed or a kidnapper getting enough time to escape with the child or cross States making it even harder to track the kidnapper.
One of the ethical issue you have raised is gathering of accurate information. There will be a lot of calls coming in and it is important to decipher between true and false information. At times Amber alerts have been raised only later to realize that the child is not missing. The vital step is to determine if the child has been really abducted. In some missing child cases, a parents often decide to take a child and if they have custody or are legal parents this is not case of abduction. Often investigators will conduct investigations first and determine if a child is really abducted. Other measures that have helped in ensuring rescue of kidnapped children including having sanctions on states that do not cooperate in helping returned children who were kidnapped from America and found in other nations.
In conclusion, it is for a fact that kidnapping is quite a huge issue in the organized crimes. There has been several increase in kidnapping cases although with improvement in technology, recovery of kidnapped victims has become easier. In the 21st century CCTV surveillance, cell phone tracking, use of trackers, AMBER alerts are some of the technological advancements that have been put in place to ensure that missing children are recued.
Cushman, B. (2010). Headline Kidnappings and the Origins of the Lindbergh Law. . Louis ULJ, 55, 1293.
Dabbagh, M. (2011). Parental kidnapping in America: An historical and cultural analysis. McFarland.
Detotto, C., McCannon, B. C., & Vannini, M. (2014). Understanding ransom kidnappings and their duration. The BE Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, 14(3), 849-871.
Griffin, T., & Miller, M. K. (2008). Child abduction, AMBER alert, and crime control theater. Criminal Justice Review, 33(2), 159-176.
Walters, J., & Davis, P. H. (2011). Human trafficking, sex tourism, and child exploitation on the southern border. Journal of Applied Research on Children, 2(1), 6.