Information on Child Abduction

Posted on Nov 16, 2011 05:55am

Dr. Maria Oquendo

The above photo of Carlie Brucia's abduction was captured by a car wash security camera in Florida where it occurred.

This heartbreaking crime that shocked and deeply saddened millions of Americans was the immediate catalyst to the CBS Cares PSA's on Child Abduction.


For the first time, we collectively witnessed a child's abduction. We watched the meaningless end of a young life and felt powerless. Afterwards, we struggled with this horrific experience, reaching in vain for an explanation.

Yet, this accidental recording gave us an extraordinary insight into the dynamics of this type of crime. This tape is, in a sobering way, Carlie 's personal legacy to the fight against child abduction.

The tape shows a confident, manipulative abductor who is keenly attuned to a young child's psychology. He knew that, under her cool attitude lay a very fragile and susceptible young mind. The abductor did not use violence to bring Carlie to his car. Instead, he relied on many of the signals used by adults that children are trained to respond and obey: an assertive, authoritative approach, reinforced by an emotional appeal. We watched incredulously, while Carlie was led away by her abductor…like many reluctant, yet obedient children are led away by their parents.

As parents, we pride ourselves in teaching our children many things. Yet teaching them to recognize and fight abduction is perhaps one of the most challenging and essential responsibilities that we must face.

While the first rule will always be not to go along with a stranger, it became clear from watching Carlie that children should be taught that--contrary to human instinct--the best chance of survival in an abduction is to vigorously resist the abductor every step of the way. This is the strong advice of the experts and leading organizations concerned with the safety and welfare of children. Without this knowledge, many of us and our children would do precisely what Carlie and too many others have done: listen to a stranger and later think that, if we are co-operative and go along with an abductor, they might relent and let us go.

We hope that you will take the time to see our PSA 's and read this section to see what the experts shared with us. Hopefully, none of our children will ever be faced by an abductor. But, if they were--as tens of thousands of children are each year in the United States--the information that follows could potentially save their lives.

Special thanks to Joe Brucia, Carlie 's father.

"If someone tries to abduct your child, your child should resist every step of the way."

-Supervisory Special Agent Mick Fennerty of the FBI 's Crimes Against Children Unit


It could happen in the time it takes to snap your fingers: Your child could disappear. In 1999, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency (OJJDP) reported that there were 58,200 non-family abductions. Fifty percent of children kidnapped in non-family abductions were taken from the street, in a vehicle, or from a park or wooded area. Many didn 't know what to do. It happens too often and you can prevent it from happening to your child if you take the time to talk to them. In an interview with CBS Cares, Agent Fennerty of the FBI who specializes in investigating crimes against children, including child abduction cases, conveyed that it is never too early to start training your child to protect themselves from being abducted. Learn what your child should do in a dangerous situation, so you can teach them what to do to avoid being snatched and what to do if snatched! Know what they can do to save themselves.



As soon as your child is old enough to talk you should begin teaching them basic facts that will protect them against an abductor. By age three your child should know:

• When it is appropriate to yell "HELP!"

• Their phone number.

• The color of their house and where their house is located.

Teaching your toddler these facts will help protect your child in a dangerous situation by making them smarter and not helpless.

By the time your child is five they can learn how to resist an abductor. Here is a list of tips from the FBI to teach your child in the event that someone tries to kidnap them:

• Draw attention to yourself in any way possible: Scream, Kick, and Physically Resist. Yell "Help!" Yell "This is not my father or mother!" It is vital to your child 's well-being that they resist an abductor by putting up a struggle. Any reasonable person who sees a child screaming, kicking, and yelling will offer help. So, informing your child to make a scene could save your child 's life.

• Run in the opposite direction of traffic on the sidewalk. This is another way for your child to resist and draw attention to him/herself.

• If you are riding a bike, do not let go of it. It is more difficult to get a child and an object into a car.

If your child can 't get away and ends up in the abductor 's car, there are still things your child can do to get away. For example, the FBI recommends:

• Roll down the window and yell.

• Jump out of the car at a stop sign or stop light.

• If your child is abducted and is in the front seat of a moving vehicle s/he can either pull the keys out of the ignition or jam the keys in the ignition. How would your child do this? Well, the FBI offers advice for both scenarios.

In order to pull the keys out of the ignition the FBI suggests that if a child is abducted, in the front seat of a moving vehicle, and the vehicle stops at a stop sign or a stop light, in a residential or business district, the child could turn off the vehicle, take the keys, and throw them out the window, in the back seat, or somewhere that the abductor would have to go to retrieve them thus providing the victim a chance to escape on foot.

In order to jam the keys into the ignition the FBI suggests that after the abductor placed the child in their vehicle, the child could, as the abductor walked around the car to get into the driver 's seat, jam any other object into the ignition, such as a paperclip, hair clip, or anything small enough to jam up the keyhole so that the abductor could not get their keys into the hole and leave the abduction scene with the child.


The U.S. Department of Justice reports that 74% of children that are abducted and later found murdered are killed within the first three hours after being taken. (University of Washington Study). Do you want your child to be trapped in the hands of an abductor? The only way to keep your child from walking away with a predator is to talk with them. They need to know what to do if an abductor approaches them. They need to know that they should be proactive in an unsafe setting. They need to know that they should do everything they can to get away. That means you need to make sure your child is never complacent in the face of an abductor. Reinforce this with them. Your child should understand that they should never give up and that their best chance is to follow the FBI 's advice: resist every step of the way.


You can also talk to your child about ways to prevent an abduction from happening. The FBI, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) offer these eight rules for your child 's safety:

1. I always check first with my parents or the person in charge before I go anywhere or get into a car, even with someone I know.

2. I always check first with my parents or a trusted adult before I accept anything from anyone, even from someone I know.

3. I always take a friend with me when I go places or play outside.

4. I know my name, address, telephone number and my parents ' names.

5. I say no if someone tries to touch me or treat me in a way that makes me feel scared, uncomfortable, or confused.

6. I know that I can tell my parents or a trusted adult if I feel scared, uncomfortable, or confused.

7. It 's ok to say no, and I know that there will always be someone who can help me.

8. I am strong, smart, and have the right to be safe.


• Children should not have clothing, toys or gear with their name visibly displayed. An abductor will have an easier time luring your child away if they are able to use your child 's name.

• Give your child a secret code word that only the family knows. Children should know they should never go anywhere with anyone unless the person knows the code word.

• Even when not being followed, children should walk against traffic on sidewalks to avoid the possibility of someone coming up from behind them. Of course, they should not take shortcuts or walk in alleyways, where there are not as many people to hear your child if s/he screams in the event of an abduction.

Predators are more likely to seek out a child that looks vulnerable. You don 't want your child to be easy prey for an abductor, so empower them with confidence. Tell them to hold their head up high, act like they know where they 're going and what they 're doing. Doing this could make a predator pass by your child.


The NCMEC recommends that parents should choose teachable moments to discuss safety skills. For instance, if a kidnapping occurs in your community, you should seize this occurrence as an opportunity to talk to your child candidly, but with reassurance. Educating your child is not about lecturing, but about having productive conversations where questions are encouraged. Teaching your child does not stop after just one conversation. Make these issues part of your daily routine. Role play potential situations, rehearse these possibilities.

The OJJDP reports that 59% of the victims involved in non-family abductions were between the ages of 15-17 and the majority of these children are female. As you give your older children more freedom, you still need to reinforce these important instructions.

Maybe you think that it can 't happen to your child or that your child wouldn 't walk away with an abductor. But, when we teach children to be polite and to not question adults they have no reason to scream instinctively, especially in public. Give your child a plan, so if a predator approaches them they immediately know what to do. You don 't want your child to be trapped with an abductor.


AMBER stands for America 's Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response. The AMBER Alert is a vital missing child response system that combines the resources of law enforcement and media to inform the public of an abduction. Today, 49 states have adopted an AMBER Alert plan. An AMBER Alert can be issued if:

-The child is under 18

-There is reasonable belief that an abduction has occurred

-Law enforcement believes the child is in imminent danger

-There is ample descriptive information about the child and the abduction

When law enforcement issues an AMBER Alert, Radio and Television Stations are asked to interrupt regularly scheduled programming to let viewers know that a child has been kidnapped. Broadcasters include descriptive information of the child, abductor, vehicle, or accomplices in their announcement. Changeable roadway signs are also activated to inform motorists of an abduction.

AMBER Alerts aid in the safe recovery of an abducted child by sending out immediate, up-to-date information to the public. Prompted by the kidnapping and murder of 9 year-old Amber Hagerman in 1996, the plan promotes awareness about an abduction and seeks to speed the safe recovery of abducted children. AMBER Alert is an effective time critical response to kidnappers. Already, 161 children have been recovered. In these cases, the public recognized the description of the people or vehicles involved or the abductor heard the message and released the child. If an AMBER Alert is issued in your community, be alert. You could save a child 's life.


The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is responsible for protecting and defending Americans as well as upholding and enforcing the criminal laws of the United States. To find out more about how they recommend protecting your child against abduction, visit:

The FBI recommends that parents should refer to the FBI publication "Parent 's Guide to Internet Safety", which is available on our web site, to protect their children from Internet-related abductions.

The FBI officially recommends that the public refer to the for other abduction-prevention reading material.

The Office of Justice Programs (OJP) provides federal leadership in developing the nation 's capacity to prevent and control crime, administer justice, and assist crime victims. The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) is one of the five OJP component bureaus. For more information on the AMBER Alert program, visit and for information on OJJDP 's Child Protection Division, visit here.

The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) is a private, non-profit organization that provides assistance to families, law enforcement, and organizations to help find missing children, combat child sexual exploitation, and promote child victimization prevention education. For more information, visit

Special thanks to the FBI 's Agent Fennerty and Public Affairs Specialist Michelle Goldschen, as well as Michele Laure, who was an important catalyst to this project!