Updated 07 May 2013

Prevent child abductions

One minute your kid's there and the next she's not. Here are some facts on child abductions and how to prevent this horror.


One minute she’s there and the next she’s gone. It is indeed every parent’s worst nightmare not to know where their child is, or what’s happened to her.

Sometimes kids are never found, as in the case of Etan Patz who was abducted in New York in 1979. His father spoke of “the crime that had a beginning, but no end.”

In other cases the stories have a happier ending, as in the case of the five-year-old son of an Angolan mining magnate, who was kidnapped in Johannesburg on Sunday and has reportedly been re-united with his family,

Here are some facts on kidnapping and abductions. And also some tips on what parents can do to prevent these from happening.

 About two-thirds of stranger abductions involve female children with an average age of 11.


Preventing abductions
Sometimes children of the most vigilant parents are kidnapped. No parents can look after a child all the time, but there are things parents can do to minimise the chances of something such as this happening. Your best ally is your child.

The South African police give the following advice to parents:

  • Your children should always check with you before they go anywhere or get into a car – even with someone they know.  
  • You should know where your children are at all times.  
  • Children should not accept gifts or favours from anyone without checking with you first.  
  • Your children should not go alone to places, especially unknown ones. They should always take a friend with them.  
  • Your children should know your address, your home telephone number, your cellphone number and your work number. 
  • Children should be very wary of anyone who approaches them with job offers or requests for help.  
  • Children should feel that they can tell parents if something has happened to them that made them feel scared or confused or uncomfortable.  
  • Children, who are old enough to stay at home on their own, should never let on to strangers that there is no adult present.  
  • It is important to have a recent clear photograph of your child. This will help the police and the public search for your child if he/she goes missing. 

Further advice from states the following: 

  • Check who your kids are talking to online. Online stalking of children happens.  
  • Children should be taught to run away and scream if someone follows them or tries to force them into a car.  
  • Have a plan of action in place for when a child gets lost in a public place.  
  • Make it very clear to your child whose cars they can get into – anyone not on that list is out of bounds until they have spoken to you.  
  • Children should not wear clothing on which their names are boldly displayed – they will respond to their name even if it is a stranger calling them.

(Susan Erasmus, Health24, updated May 2010)


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