It’s a fearsome thought: a child snatched by a stranger. Who investigates
these crimes? We do. It’s our job to handle cases of child abductions.
In 1932, Congress gave the FBI jurisdiction under the “Lindbergh Law” to
immediately investigate any reported mysterious disappearance or kidnapping
involving a child of “tender age”—usually 12 or younger.
And just to be clear, before we get involved there does NOT have to be a
ransom demand and the child does NOT have to cross state lines or be missing
for 24 hours.
Introducing the CARD Teams
Child abductions by strangers are often complex and high-profile cases.
And time is of the essence.
That’s why we’ve added another tool in our Crimes Against Children
program that helps our local field offices in these cases: our Child Abduction
Rapid Deployment, or CARD, teams.
Here’s the “who, what, when, and where” of these teams:
WHO makes up a CARD team? FBI agents with in-depth experience
and a proven track record in crimes against children investigations, especially
cases where a child has been abducted by someone other than a family member.
Once selected, team members go through extensive training. Each team has
a designated leader. The teams work closely with behavioral analysts, National
Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime (NCAVC) coordinators, and Crimes
Against Children coordinators.
WHAT do the CARD teams do? Relying on their expertise and experience, team
members make sure the investigation moves quickly, efficiently, and thoroughly.
They provide our field divisions running the investigations with on-site
investigative, technical, and resource assistance during the initial critical
period after a child is kidnapped.
WHEN are the teams deployed? Soon after an abduction has
been reported to a local FBI field office,
to FBI Headquarters, or to the National
Center for Missing and Exploited Children,
or in other cases when the FBI determines an investigation is warranted.
WHERE are the teams located and WHERE have they been deployed? We’ve
created ten regional teams nationwide: two each in the northeast, southeast,
north central, south central, and west. With the whole nation covered, we
can send a team anywhere in the U.S. within hours.
In addition to their unique expertise, CARD teams can quickly establish
an on-site command post to centralize investigative efforts and operations.
Other assets they bring to the table include a new mapping tool to identify
and locate registered sex offenders in the area, national and international
lead coverage, and the Child Abduction Response Plan to guide investigative
Child Abductions—No Ransom
Our field offices respond to cases involving the mysterious disappearance
of a child whenever and however they come to our attention. All reports of
circumstances indicating that a minor has or possibly has been abducted are
afforded an immediate preliminary inquiry.
In this initial inquiry, we evaluate all evidence, circumstances, and information
to determine if an investigation is warranted under federal law. (For instance,
it is a federal violation for a person to travel between states to engage
in any sexual act with a person under 18.) If a case is warranted, we will
immediately open an investigation in partnership with state and local authorities.
During 2005 alone, law enforcement entered 632,804 children as missing into
the FBI’s National Crime Information Center database. Although the
majority of these children were temporarily missing and not abducted, we
are committed to assisting law enforcement in investigating cases where
there is appropriate jurisdiction.
National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime (NCAVC)
Our National Center for the Analysis of
Violent Crime (NCAVC),
part of our Critical Incident Response Group (CIRG) near Quantico, Virginia,
provides free assistance—in the form of investigative/operational support,
research, and training—to federal, state, local, and international
law enforcement agencies.
In particular, the NCAVC has a rapid response element that:
Upon being notified that a child has been abducted, our field offices and
the NCAVC coordinate an immediate response to the abduction situation. The
National Child Search Assistance Act of 1990 states that law enforcement
agencies may not observe a waiting period before accepting a missing child
report and that each missing child that is reported to law enforcement must
be entered immediately into the state law enforcement system and National
Crime Information Center (NCIC).
Our special agents join local law enforcement in coordinating and conducting
comprehensive investigations. Our Evidence
Response Team personnel may conduct the forensic investigation of the abduction site,
while a Rapid Start Team may immediately be deployed to coordinate and
leads, which often number in the thousands.
Members of NCAVC also teach and give presentations at training courses for
CAC Coordinators. In addition, more than 150 FBI agents nationwide are designated
as NCAVC Coordinators and provide a necessary and effective link between
the NCAVC, our local field offices, and local law enforcement.
The Morgan P. Hardiman Child Abduction and Serial Murder Investigative Resources
Center (CASMIRC) was also established through legislation in 1998 under the
NCAVC. According to the legislation, CASMIRC is "to provide investigative
support through the coordination and provision of federal law enforcement
resources, training, and application of other multidisciplinary expertise
to assist federal, state, and local authorities in matters involving child
abductions, mysterious disappearances of children, child homicide, and serial
murder across the country."
Many FBI employees are parents, too, and we want nothing more than to keep
your children safe. To that end, we make a concerted effort to help prevent
child abductions in the first place through public outreach and education.
For example, we’ve created a brochure for parents entitled A
Guide to Internet Safety to inform parents
about the dangers of Internet-related abductions.
Also see our Be Crime Smart webpage
for more tips and guidance.
For more information about current kidnapping, child abduction, and
missing person cases that we are investigating, visit the Kidnapping
Crimes Against Children home