Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Missing: 2,300 Men and Woman Every Day

Just when you think it's perfectly safe to travel around on your own...

I stopped by the Crime Library website and read up on some rather sobering statistics: In 2005, over 850,000 Americans were reported missing. That's about 2,300 a day. The article also talked about something that I have noticed for quite sometime - that the vast majority of nationally reported cases appear to be those of "damsels in distress", such as Natalee Holloway, whereas male or even minority abductions in general go largley unreported by the national media. It's not so much that I think it would make a difference in finding the abductees (since almost all of these crimes are localized), but rather that it perhaps leaves a false impression that most people gone missing are adult women.

But of the over 800,000 reported cases in 2001, all but 50,000 involved juveniles. Of the adults, more than half of those reported missing were males. (The racial demographics appeared to be roughly equal.)

According to the article, the rise in reports of missing persons since 1980 (when 150,000 were reported) is attributed to both an increased population and increased police interest in these types of cases. Even so, police at times appear reluctant to involve the media in their investigation, which in many criminal cases is understandable. But in a missing persons case, I am not so sure. I tend to believe missing persons cases should be broadcast and printed everywhere they occur - and as soon as possible. If there is even an infinitesimal chance that an abductor may panic and let his victim go, that chance should be taken. The broadcasted news alerts may even serve to "humanize" the victim in the eyes of the abductor if he or she were to see that broadcast, for it is one thing to abduct a nameless, anonymous stranger, but perhaps a more difficult thing when that person has a name, a history, and a family. And if the abductor does know the victim, then knowing the heat is on may compel him or her to cut loose and run. In any event, the record of victims being released by their abductors out of good will alone is grim, as the over 800,000 missing persons cases a year can attest.

The article is well written and is a good read. You can check it out by clicking here (NOTE: there are chapter links at the bottom of the page for more pages of the story). The story also talks about Brianna Maitland's case, one of our own here in New England. Brianna's family has a website for her HERE.

Here is a listing of missing children (18 and under at the time of their abduction) for the state of Massachusetts. Once there, you can search other states by clicking "Home" on the top menu.

I have occasionally talked with folks about such matters as unsolved abductions and missing persons, and it still surprises me just how many people honestly feel that something like that could never happen to them. They simply have no interest in the matter - or they think I'm strange for bringing it up. What's even more unsettling to me are the number of times I have talked with women who have said, quite confidently, that they would never "allow" such a thing to happen to them ("I'd kick their ass if they tried!"). Defiant claims of violent resistance and retaliation ("you've never seen me pissed off before...") seem to insulate people from the idea that they, too, might be stalked and abducted one day. But if a man like Bill Smolinski, from Waterbury Connecticut, can slip away from our eyes, then what woman can honestly brush off the possiblity of an assault by a person who is determined to take her away by force? Perhaps it is only a matter of tough talk masking a true understanding of the predators that lurk out there. Or perhaps many of us simply choose to live in denial. Or perhaps I'm just strange for bringing the matter up. I cannot know for sure.

We should take nothing for granted when we venture out alone. A few weeks back, some friends and I were out golfing when we all noticed a hawk soaring majestically overhead. Suddenly, the hawk swooped down right before us and snatched up an unsuspecting squirrel. The squirrel escaped the hawk's grasp, but not its own fate: It was fatally wounded, and the hawk simply perched on a nearby branch and waited for its prey to die. Human predators can lurk for days - sometimes months - before making a move on their own unsuspecting prey. One day you're out gathering food (or shopping) for your family, the next day everyone's wondering what ever happened to you.

It happens to 2,300 men and women every day.


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