The American Journal of Nursing (AJN) has just announced results from a study, based on 23 years of data collection, identifying new trends in nonfamily infant abductions.
The report, conducted in partnership with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, showed that while the number of abductions in hospital settings dramatically declined, those from private homes and public places have increased in incidence.
Among private home and public place abductions, there has also been an increase in violence and lower infant recovery rates. AJN is the largest circulating nursing journal in the world, and is published by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, part of Wolters Kluwer Health, a leading provider of information and business intelligence for students, professionals and institutions in medicine, nursing, allied health, pharmacy and the pharmaceutical industry.
"Nonfamily infant abductions are extremely stressful for victims' families, health care facility staff and the community," said Ann Wolbert Burgess, DNSc, RN, APRN, BC, FAAN, professor in the department of psychiatric nursing at the William F. Connell School of Nursing, Boston College, MA. "This research yielded nonfamily infant abduction trends and a profile of the typical abductor in public and private settings that has been disseminated to hospitals and other healthcare settings nationwide.
To better understand this crime, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention in the U.S. Department of Justice and the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing collaborated in a study about infant abductions occurring from 1983 through 1992. A second study was conducted from 1993 through 2006.
Since 1992, a higher proportion of infants taken from health care facilities have been recovered quickly; however, the recovery rate was lower among infants abducted from non-health care locations, in both the earlier and later periods. Although most abductors first target health care facilities, trends that might reflect the shift in the abduction site from health care facilities to homes include the significant increase in parental injuries and the increased involvement of weapons.
Prior visits by abductors to abduction sites might have increased because variables such as physical layout and the less predictable presence of others. In non health care settings, it may have become more important for abductors to familiarize themselves with locations ahead of time. Concerning abductors, an increase in the number of suspects arrested and indicted in the later period may be due to heightened public awareness of nonfamily infant abduction.
"Our research indicates that education and training have been major factors in reducing the rate of hospital infant abductions," said John B. Rabun, Jr., executive vice president and chief operating officer, the National Center of Missing and Exploited Children and co author of the study. "Further research is needed in private home and public place abductions so that we can better understand this trend and develop more specific preventive guidelines. Additional study of abductors could provide insight into their characters, thinking patterns and motivations."
This report included the 247 cases in the NCMEC's database at the time of comparison: 121 cases from 1983 through 1992, 126 cases from 1993 through 2006.
The original study included five sources of data: Demographic data on 119 NCMEC cases; FBI interviews with 14 abductors; FBI data on an additional 48 abductors; University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing faculty interviews with 38 family members of abducted infants; outcome data on 72 criminal–court cases obtained through telephone interviews with criminal justice system staff.
The second study of 199 nonfamily infant abductions reported to the NCMEC between 1983 and 2000 found that abductor violence had occurred in 30 cases. Regarding these 30 cases, subsequent analyses of six cases involving kidnapping by cesarean section and of interviews with family members caring for recovered infants were also published.
The statistical comparison revealed significant differences in abduction patterns from the earlier to the later time periods including:
- Location of abduction. Infant abductions from health care facilities declined from 63% to 32%. Those from private residences nearly doubled from 29% to 49%; those from public places tripled from 3% to 9%
- Parental injury. The total number of parental injuries went from 11 (9%) in the earlier period to 21 (17%) in the later period. The number of lethal injuries doubled going from 7 (6%) to 15 (12%)
- Arrests and indictments. The number of suspects arrested increased from 90 (88%) to 101 (94%); the number indicted increased from 82 (87%) to 99 (93%)
- Prior visit. More abductors visited the abduction location beforehand in the later period (89%) than did so in the earlier period (69%).
Based on data from 248 cases from 1983 through 2007, states that a typical abductor:
- Is a woman between the ages of 12 and 50 years and is often overweight
- Is compulsive and often uses manipulation and deceit to gain access
- Often indicates she has either lost or cannot have a baby
- Lives in, or is familiar with, the community where the abduction occurs
- Can provide good care for the baby once the abduction occurs
- Visits nursery and maternity units before the abduction and asks detailed questions about procedures and unit layout; the abductor may also try to abduct from the home setting
- Usually plans the abduction but does not necessarily target a specific infant; often seizes any opportunity that presents
- Frequently impersonates a nurse or other allied health care personnel.
The typical abductor in the non-health care setting is:
- Significantly more likely to be single while claiming to have a partner
- Often targets a mother, whom she may find by visiting hospitals, and tries to meet the target family
- Often both plans the abduction and brings a weapon, although the weapon might not be used
- Often impersonates a health care or social services professional when visiting the home.
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