Missing Children Statistics

Key-Facts-about-the-National-Center-for-Missing-Exploited-ChildrenNational Center for Missing & Exploited Children® (NCMEC)

  • From 1984 through December 2012, NCMEC has assisted law enforcement with more than 195,300 missing-child cases resulting in the recovery of more than 183,100 children.
  • In that same time frame, NCMEC’s toll-free, national Hotline 1-800-THE-LOST® (1-800-843-5678) has received more than 3.7 million telephone calls.

The U.S. Department of Justice reports

  • 797,500 children younger than 18 were reported missing in a one-year period of time, resulting in an average of 2,185 children being reported missing each day.
  • 203,900 children were the victims of family abductions.
  • 58,200 children were the victims of nonfamily abductions.
  • 115 children were the victims of “stereotypical” kidnapping. These crimes involve someone the child does not know or a slight acquaintance who holds the child overnight, transports the child 50 miles or more, kills the child, demands ransom, or intends to keep the child permanently.

Per Andrea J. Sedlak, David Finkelhor, Heather Hammer, and Dana J. Schultz. U.S. Department of Justice. “National Estimates of Missing
Children: An Overview” in National Incidence Studies of Missing, Abducted, Runaway, and Thrownaway Children. Washington, DC:
Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice, October 2002, page 5. The
U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention funds ongoing research about missing children through
the National Incidence Studies of Missing, Abducted, Runaway, and Thrownaway Children (NISMART). These researchers published their
latest data in 2002, NISMART-2. The researchers will be collecting new data over the next year to use in an update to this study, NISMART-
3. To discuss the previous research, please contact Andrea Sedlak at 301-251-4211, SEDLAKA1@WESTAT.com.

AMBER Alerts

  • Since 1997 through December 2012, the AMBER Alert program has been directly credited with the recovery of 602 children.
  • Every state has an AMBER Plan.



According to key online victimization research, an estimated:

  • Four percent (4%) of 10 to 17 year olds online received an aggressive sexual solicitation – a solicitor who asked to meet them somewhere; called them on the telephone; or sent them offline mail, money, or gifts.
  • Thirty-four percent (34%) had unwanted exposure to sexual material – pictures of naked people or people having sex.
  • Twenty-seven percent (27%) of the youth who encountered unwanted sexual material told a parent or guardian. If the encounter was defined as distressing (episodes that made them feel very or extremely upset or afraid) forty-two percent (42%) told a parent or guardian.¹
  • A study about child sexual victimization indicated that as many as 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 10 boys could be sexually victimized before adulthood. ²

1. Per Janis Wolak, Kimberly J. Mitchell, and David Finkelhor. Online Victimization of Youth: Five Years Later. Alexandria, Virginia:
National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, 2006, respectively pages 8 and 33.
2. Per D. Finkelhor. “Current Information on the Scope and Nature of Child Sexual Abuse.” The Future of Children: Sexual Abuse of
Children, 1994, volume 4, page 37.


  • Since its establishment in March 1998 through December 2012, the CyberTipline has received more than 1.7 million reports involving the possession, manufacture, and distribution of child pornography; the online enticement of children for sex acts; child prostitution; child sex-tourism; child molestation not in the family; unsolicited obscene material sent to a child; and misleading domain names, words, or digital images.

Key Facts

The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children® gathers key facts regarding the issues of missing and sexually exploited children and Internet safety and updates these facts and statistics frequently.

Missing children

  • The most recent, comprehensive national study for the number of missing children estimated in 1999: [1]
  • Approximately 800,000 children younger than 18 were reported missing.
  • More than 200,000 children were abducted by family members.
  • More than 58,000 children were abducted by nonfamily members.
  • An estimated 115 children were the victims of “stereotypical” kidnapping. These “stereotypical” kidnappings involved someone the child did not know or was an acquaintance. The child was held overnight, transported 50 miles or more, killed, ransomed or held with the intent to keep the child permanently.
  • To find the number of children missing from Louisiana contact the state’s Missing Child Clearinghouses.
  • The first three hours are the most critical when trying to locate a missing child. The murder of an abducted child is rare, and an estimated 100 cases in which an abducted child is murdered occur in the U.S. each year. A 2006 study indicated that 76.2 percent of abducted children who are killed are dead within three hours of the abduction. [2]
  • The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children® has assisted law enforcement in the recovery of more than 188,389 missing children since it was founded in 1984. Our recovery rate for missing children has grown from 62 percent in 1990 to 97 percent today.
  • The AMBER Alert program was created in 1996 and is operated by the U.S. Department of Justice. As of July 18, 2013, 656 children have been successfully recovered as a result of the program. [3]
  • As of December 2012, NCMEC’s toll free, 24 hour call center has received more than 3,810,960 calls since it was created in 1984. Information about missing or exploited children can be reported to the call center by calling 1-800-THE-LOST (1-800-843-5678).

Child sexual exploitation

  • U.S. law enforcement agencies have seen a dramatic increase in cases of sexual exploitation of children since the 1990s. According to a report to Congress in 2010. [4]
  • In 2006 U.S. attorneys handled 82.8 percent more child pornography cases than they had in 1994.
  • State and local law enforcement agencies involved in Internet Crimes Against Children Task Forces reported a 230 percent increase in the number of documented complaints of online enticement of children from 2004 to 2008.
  • ICAC Task Forces noted a more than 1,000 percent increase in complaints of child prostitution from 2004 to 2008.
  • As of July 2013, the CyberTipline has received more than 1.9 million reports of suspected child sexual exploitation since it was launched in 1998. Suspected child sexual exploitation can be reported to the CyberTipline at www.cybertipline.com or 1-800-843-5678.
  • As of July 2013, NCMEC’s Child Victim Identification Program has reviewed and analyzed more than 90 million child pornography images since it was created in 2002.

Internet safety

  • 93 percent of teens ages 12 to 17 go online.[5]
  • Of children five years old and younger who use the Internet, 80 percent use it at least once a week. [6]
  • One in 25 children ages 10 to 17 received an online sexual solicitation where the solicitor tried to make offline contact.[7]
  • Four percent of cell phone owning teens ages 12 to 17 say they have sent sexually suggestive nude/semi-nude messages to others via text message.[8]
  • 15 percent of cell phone owning teens ages 12 to 17 say they have received sexually suggestive nude/semi-nude images of someone they know via text.[9]
  • For more Internet Safety facts visit www.netsmartz.org/Safety/Statistics.


[1] Finkelhor D., Hammer H., Schultz D., Sedlak A. National Estimates of Missing Children: An Overview, U.S. Department of Justice, 2002.

[2] Brown K., Keppel R., McKenna R., Skeen M., Weis J. Case Management for Missing Children Homicides: Report II, National Center for Missing & Exploited Children and U.S. Department of Justice, 2006.

[3] AMBER Alert, U.S. Department of Justice.

[4] The National Strategy for Child Exploitation Prevention and Interdiction: A Report to Congress, U.S. Department of Justice, 2010.

[5] Lenhart A. Social Media and Young Adults. Pew Internet and American Life Project, 2010.

[6] Gutnick A., Kotler J., Robb M., Takeuchi L. Always Connected: The new digital media habits of young children, Joan Ganz Cooney Center, 2011.

[7] Finkelhor D., Mitchell K., Wolak J., Ybarra M. Online “Predators” and Their Victims: Myths, Realities, and Implications for Prevention and Treatment. American Psychologist, 2008;63, 111-128.

[8] Lenhart A. Teens and Sexting. Pew Internet & American Life Project, 2009.

[9] Ibid.



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