Child Abduction Statistics


February 10, 2013 Source: masonichip.org

Parental child abduction – We offer needed support
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The National Incidence Studies of Missing, Abducted, Runaway, and Thrownaway Children (NISMART) has placed cases into five categories…… Children 1. Family Abductions – A child was taken in violation of a custody agreement or degree, failed to return a child at the end of a legal or agreed-upon visit, with the child being away at least overnight. An attempt was made to conceal the taking, or the whereabouts of a child, or to prevent contact with the child. The child is transported out of state, or there is evidence that the abductor had the intent to keep the child indefinitely, or to permanently alter custodial privileges. 2. Non-Family Abductions – Attempted abductions, for example luring of a child for the purposes of committing another crime. Coerced and unauthorized taking of a child into a building, a vehicle, or a distance of more than 20 feet, the detention of a child for a period of more than one hour. 3. Runaways – Children that have left home without permission and stayed away overnight and during the course of their runaway episodes, were without a secure and familiar place to stay. These also include children who have run away from a juvenile facility. 4. Thrownaways – These are children who have experienced any of the following situations:

  • The child was told to leave the household.
  • The child was away from home and the parent/guardian refused to allow the child back.
  • The child ran away, but the parent/guardian made no effort to recover the child, or did not care whether or not the child returned.
  • The child was abandoned or deserted.

5. Lost, Injured, or Otherwise Missing:

  • Children missing for varying periods of time, depending on their age, disability, and whether the absence was due to an injury.
  • Parental Kidnapping / Family Abductions – A child was taken in violation of a custody agreement or degree, failed to return a child at the end of a legal or agreed-upon visit, with the child being away at least overnight. An attempt was made to conceal the taking, or the whereabouts of a child, or to prevent contact with the child. The child is transported out of state, or there is evidence that the abductor had the intent to keep the child indefinitely, or to permanently alter custodial privileges.

More than 350,000 family abductions occur in the U.S. each year, that is nearly 1,000 per day ! 163,000 of these cases involve the concealment of a child, transporting out of state, or intent to keep the child permanently Parental Kidnapping Study Results:

  • The child has experienced serious mental harm in 16% of the cases (56,000)
  • The child has experienced physical abuse or harm in 8% of the cases
  • (The University of Maryland found a 24% incidence of physical abuse)
  • The child is sexually abused in 1% of the cases (The University of Maryland found a 7% incidence of sexual abuse)
  • Mothers flee with children in 54% of the cases
  • Fathers flee with children in 46% of the cases

Case settlements:

  • one-third of all cases settled within 30 days / 80% of all cases settled within a year
  • one-half of all cases settled within 60 days / 90% of all cases settled within two years

Factors Contributing to Parental Kidnappings:

  • In 1998, there will be an estimated 1 million divorces, affecting more than 1 million children
  • There are 10 million children, living with a single parent who is separated, or divorced 150,000 divorces, or 1 in 7 involve child custody battles
  • Today’s average marriage will last about seven years
  • Single-parent families has quadrupled since 1960
  • Divorces have tripled in numbers since 1960

(Source: National Center for Missing and Exploited Children) The National Crime Information Center (NCIC)

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Fugitive Wanted For International Parental Kidnapping


July 19, 2012

Source: alexandrianews.org

The Federal Bureau of Investigation announced today the addition of Faical Ben Abdallah Chebbi, to the “Washington Field Office’s Wanted Fugitives” list. Chebbi, a former resident of Prince George’s County, Md., is a dual citizen of the U.S. and Tunisia and is wanted for international parental kidnapping.

On October 26, 2011, following his divorce proceedings, Chebbi, 40, was awarded visitation rights with his two children, Zainab, 3, and Eslam, 6. On November 11, 2011, Chebbi obtained his children from their maternal grandparents’ residence in Prince George’s County, Md. The children were supposed to be returned on November 13, 2011; however, on November 11, 2011, Chebbi and the children flew from Dulles International Airport in Chantilly, Va., to Germany, and continued to Tunis, Tunisia. On November 12, 2011, Chebbi contacted the children’s mother who resides in Fairfax County, Va., and informed her that he and the children were in Tunisia and would not return to the U.S.

 Zainab Chebbi

Eslam Chebbi

On November 17, 2011, the Circuit Court for Prince George’s County, Maryland, issued an order for Chebbi to return the children. On December 19, 2011, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia issued a federal warrant for Chebbi’s arrest for removing the children from the U.S. and retaining them outside the U.S. with the intent to obstruct the lawful exercise of parental rights.

Chebbi is 6’6” (198 cm) and weighs approximately 200 pounds (91 kg) with black hair, brown eyes and a medium complexion. Chebbi’s daughter, Zainab, has brown hair and brown eyes and has a mole on her right hip. Eslam, Chebbi’s son, has black hair and brown eyes. Both children speak English and are believed to be with Chebbi in Tunisia.

Chebbi speaks fluent Arabic, English and French and is likely to visit Algeria, Libya, Egypt and France. He may use an alias when crossing borders. While residing in the Washington, D.C. area, Chebbi was a limousine driver for several companies and operated his own limousine business called Airport Access. Chebbi is believed to continue to operate a self-employed business in Tunis, Tunisia, under the name Westwind Limousine.

The FBI investigates violations of the International Parental Kidnapping Crime Act (IPKCA) of 1993 which states that a criminal arrest warrant can be issued for a parent who takes a juvenile under 16 outside of the U.S. without the other custodial parent’s permission. The FBI works these cases in partnership with international authorities through the U.S. Department of State, Interpol and FBI Legal Attaché offices.

Individuals with information concerning Faical Chebbi, or his children, call 1-800-CALL-FBI or the nearest American Embassy or Consulate. Additional information regarding Faical Chebbi, including his wanted poster, is available on the FBI Washington Field Office’s website at http://www.fbi.gov/wanted/parent/faical-chebbi.

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Summer Holiday Is Parental Child Abduction Season


Child Recovery Services

Tragically International Child Abduction has reached global epidemic proportions.  According to leading experts the increase in inter-racial marriages and relationships  will, in the future, lead to a significant rise in the number of children born to parents of different nationalities 

As is true for all relationships, a statistically significant number of these marriages or partnerships will also end in divorce.       All too often, following the breakup of a marriage, one of the parents will abduct a child of that relationship against the wishes of the other parent,  frequently removing them to a country where the child has probably never lived.    – This is called “International Parental Child Abduction”.

Although there are various civil remedies available to  parents of abducted children , the challenges they face are enormous, including first and foremost, locating  the child .

Unfortunately for the majority of targeted parents, the financial burden involved in recovery and litigation falls upon their shoulders. With tens of thousands of children abducted by parents each year, the reality is that too many of these children never come home.  ABP World Group is dedicated to assisting those parents who need help in locating, rescuing, and returning  their abducted child home safely.

Our intelligence and investigative capabilities combined with our ability to dispatch personnel to most locations in the world offer a safe and strategic solution to protecting what is most important to you : your child.

Unfortunately in this present climate parental kidnapping  occurs all too frequently and we are here to help you through this extremely traumatic  period.

We are aware that parental child abduction can be difficult to resolve, but through the use of professional operatives with the skills and expertise necessary to find a resolution. we are here to help you.

ABP World Group’s successful recovery and re-unification strategy relies on the use of all the means available  including, but not limited to:

Electronic Forensic Foot printing Investigations

Intelligence Gathering

Information Specialists/Skip Tracing

Evidence Procurement

Interview/Evaluation

Surveillance Special Ops

Non-Combatant Evacuation Ops

Domestic Support

International Operations

Maritime/Land/Air transport

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Carjacking Facts – Robbery Prevention Advice


Source: crimedoctor

Carjacking is Robbery

Carjacking is the violent form of motor vehicle theft. It is a serious threat to our personal safety because the thief uses force and fear to rob our car from us. Sometimes the car owner or other occupants are kidnapped during a carjacking, and if lucky will be dropped off nearby unharmed. The worst case scenario occurs when you are transported to a secondary crime scene, which is usually more dangerous than the original confrontation. Those not so lucky victims have suffered other crimes like rape, aggravated assault, and even homicide.

Since the mid-1980s, carjacking has captured the attention of the media with reports of these sudden and violent attacks. Carjackers have unknowingly driven off with infants still in the backseat of the car, leaving behind a screaming and emotionally distressed parent. Other drivers have been violently pulled out of their seats and left lying on the road, terrified by what just occurred.

The crime of carjacking can be traumatic to our everyday lives because it creates fear in the common act of driving a car. Victims of carjacking have reported being unable to drive a car again while others required months of therapy. Others have become so hypersensitive, that embarrassing and dangerous situations have arisen in response to their fear when someone unwittingly approached their car on foot.

How Carjacking Got Started

Carjacking has always been around, especially in large metropolitan cities, we just rarely read about it. The crime of carjacking “took off” in the 1980s after the media published stories of bizarre situations and the violence associated with the crime. The media coined the phrase “carjacking” and the crime of auto theft took on a new identity. After a rush of publicity, other criminals “copied” the crime of carjacking. These copycat criminals must have said, “Hey, I can steal any vehicle I want without damaging it, I get the car keys, and I can rob the owner too. What a concept!”

Another reason carjacking got started is because of the sophistication and prevalence of new anti-theft devices and alarm systems. New car alarms and steering wheel locking systems made it tougher on the auto thief. Chip-integrated ignition switches, engine cutoff devices, and stolen vehicle locators are now more common in cars. Unfortunately for us, poorly motivated and unskilled car thieves have adapted by becoming more violent to get the cars they need and don’t think twice about using force against us.

Sometimes criminals will carjack a vehicle for use in another crime like armed robbery or for a drive-by shooting. These carjackers prefer to have a set of car keys and not have a visibly smashed window or damaged ignition switch that can be easily spotted by the police. This class of car thief is the most dangerous because they are usually heavily armed and are not concerned with your welfare.

How Often Does Carjacking Occur

National carjacking statistics are not available. However, the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS)* made a telephone assessment of 221,000 households from 1992-1996 to gain an understanding of the extent of the carjacking problem. The biggest problem of tracking carjacking incidents is current police agency reporting practices. Most criminal codes have not adopted this new crime type nor do they track it statistically. Most police jurisdictions charge the crime of carjacking as a robbery since force or fear was used to steal the vehicle directly for the owner. Many police agencies record multiple charges like aggravated robbery, auto theft, assault, battery to one event but usually only the first charge (robbery) gets indexed and statistically tracked. Some jurisdictions charge the crime of carjacking as only an auto theft since a vehicle was stolen.

Since the crime of carjacking is not indexed in the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports, it is unlikely that we will soon see a national statistic on frequency that is generated from police reports. What we have to work with is the NCVS telephone survey as the source of our data.

From the study of 1992-1996, the NCVS learned that each year 49,000 carjackings and attempts occur in the United States. About half of the reported carjackings were failed attempts. Of the completed carjackings, 92% had weapons where only 75% were armed during the failed attempts. Unfortunately, this statistic tells us that carjackers must be armed to be taken seriously by victims. A handgun was the weapon of choice followed by a knife. Males were responsible for 97% of the carjackings and attempts and were usually carried out by either one or two perpetrators.

Where Does Carjacking Occur

Carjacking can occur anywhere, but is largely a big city problem like traditional auto theft. See my web site on auto theft facts for more information.

Carjacking occurs most often in a busy commercial area where cars are parked and when the owner is entering or exiting the parked vehicle. Most carjackings or attempts (65%) occur within five miles of the victim’s home. The carjacker wants the keys readily available and the car door unlocked for a quick getaway. Carjackers tend to rob lone victims more often (92%), for obvious reasons. According to the NCVS, men were victimized more often than women, blacks more than whites; Hispanics, more than non-Hispanics; and divorced, separated, or never married more than married or widowed. This trend is not surprising given the fact that younger single males tend to take more chances and go to higher risk locations than do married persons. It is unclear whether household income or the value of the vehicle is a criterion in carjacking as the statistics are spread throughout the income levels. However the $35,000 to $50,000 income range had a slightly higher carjack victim frequency.

Surprisingly, the NCVS study indicates that 64% of the daytime carjackings were actually completed, while less than half of those at night were completed. This may be reflective of who is being victimized and who is out at night. About 62% of all carjacking victims took some form of action to defend themselves or their property. Victims were injured about 20% of the time in completed carjackings and about 16% during attempts. Although the statistics aren’t clear, each year about 27 homicides are reported related to auto theft. Also interesting is that 100% of the completed carjack victims called the police, whereas only 57% called to report an attempt carjacking. This variable in reporting is probably related to the desire to get their property back and for insurance purposes.

Popular carjacking locations are parking lots, shopping centers, gas stations, car washes, convenience stores, ATMs, hotels, valet parking, fast-food drive-thru, and outside of retail stores. Close proximity to a freeway onramp is a desirable escape factor from the carjackers prospective. A risky, but popular location for the carjacker is a roadway intersection with a stoplight. A carjacker will jump out of another vehicle, pull open your unlocked drivers’ door, and force you to get out. The type of carjacking allows for a quick escape but increases their risk of being followed by other drivers armed with cell phones. There have been incidents where well-meaning citizens got into a high-speed chase following carjackers and ended up being victims themselves.

The “Bump” and Carjack

Another copycat scheme used by carjackers is to bump your car from behind to get you to pull over and stop. We have all been trained to always stop following an auto accident to exchange license and insurance information. What a perfect scenario for a carjacker!

The carjacker, and his accomplice, will follow the intended victim to a suitable location with good escape routes and few witnesses. The carjacker will crash into the back of your vehicle at low speed and “bump” you with enough force to make you believe a traffic accident had just occurred. Beware of the Good Samaritan. Typically, the drivers of both vehicles pull over, stop, and get out discussing the damage. At this point the carjacker robs you of your vehicle, its’ contents, and drives away. The carjacker’s car gets driven away by the accomplice. Hopefully you won’t be injured during the exchange.

What Should You Do?

Carjacking of parked vehicles depends on the car owner being inattentive to their surroundings. Carjackers, like street robbers, prefer the element of surprise. Most victims say they never saw the carjacker until they appeared at their car door. To reduce your risk of being carjacked, I have listed some common sense steps below:

  • Always park in well-lighted areas, if you plan to arrive/leave after dark
  • Don’t park in isolated or visually obstructed areas near walls or heavy foliage
  • Use valet parking or an attended garage, if you’re a woman driving alone
  • As you walk to your car be alert to suspicious persons sitting in cars
  • Ask for a security escort if you are alone at a shopping center
  • Watch out for young males loitering in the area (handing out flyers, etc)
  • If someone tries to approach, change direction or run to a busy store
  • Follow your instincts if they tell you to walk/run away to a busy place
  • As you approach your vehicle, look under, around, and inside your car
  • If safe, open the door, enter quickly, and lock the doors
  • Don’t be a target by turning your back while loading packages into the car
  • Make it your habit to always start your car and drive away immediately
  • Teach and practice with your children to enter and exit the car quickly
  • In the city, always drive with your car doors locked and windows rolled up
  • When stopped in traffic, leave room ahead to maneuver and escape, if necessary
  • If you are bumped in traffic, by young males, be suspicious of the accident
  • Beware of the Good Samaritan who offers to repair your car or a flat tire. It’s okay to get help, just be alert
  • Wave to follow, and drive to a gas station or busy place before getting out
  • If you are ever confronted by an armed carjacker don’t resist
  • Give up your keys or money if demanded without resistance
  • Don’t argue, fight or chase the robber. You can be seriously injured
  • Never agree to be kidnapped. Drop the cars keys and run and scream for help
  • If you are forced to drive, consider crashing your car near a busy intersection to attract attention so bystanders can come to your aid and call the police
  • Call the police immediately to report the crime and provide detailed information

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Parental Child Abduction: American Father Fights to Bring Children Home From Egypt


Source: abcnews

Colin Bower said he still remembers the shock and horror he felt during a phone call he received in August of 2009. A male caller informed him that his children had been taken to Egypt, Bower says, and that if he made any attempts to contact authorities, he would never see them again.

He was supposed to pick up his two boys, Noor and Ramsay, 9 and 7 at the time, from a scheduled visit in Boston with their mother, Mirvat El Nady, Bower says. A U.S. judge had granted him sole legal custody after the couple’s divorce in 2008, and El Nady, a British and Egyptian citizen, had limited visitation. Those restrictions, Bower says, along with findings in the divorce proceedings raising doubts about her truthfulness, angered El Nady and prompted the kidnapping.

Bower, a financial consultant from Boston, said he later learned that El Nady had taken the children to John F. Kennedy airport in New York, purchased one-way tickets to Cairo with cash, and allegedly used Egyptian passports with false identities to get the boys past security and onto an EgyptAir flight.

Bower has sued the airline, alleging they failed to pick up on serious red flags: the boys’ surnames did not match their mother’s and the boys’ passports had no U.S. entry visas. Barry Pollack, who is representing Bower in the case, says EgyptAir should have safeguards in place for potential abduction cases.

“Airlines have every right to require the parents to show dual parental consent forms to prove that the adult has the right to take that child overseas,” Pollack told ABC News.

EgyptAir declined to comment specifically on the lawsuit. Just last month, lawyers for the airline filed a motion asking that the suit be dismissed. Regarding parental consent forms, their motion argues that EgyptAir is only required to review passports and that “airlines simply do not have the manpower required to track down and contact non-traveling parents to discuss their children’s travel.”

The motion for dismissal also cited a recent report on international child abductions by the U.S. Government Accountability Office. The report, which says the annual number of cases of abductions reported has tripled since 2000, suggests that airlines “do not have the authority to verify or enforce court and custody orders in an effort to prevent international parental child abductions.”

Instead, the report states, that responsibility belongs to the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security. Bower says that’s letting airlines off the hook.

“The GAO report clearly represents the interests of the airlines, not the safety of the passengers or their children,” Bower said. “This should absolutely terrify every parent.”

In response to an email from ABC News, the GAO said, “The report does not state that airlines have no responsibility to check identifications, nor was it intended to suggest that airlines are prohibited from requesting verified or certified copies of custody orders in order to prevent child abductions. …The report makes a general statement which was intended to reflect the distinction between the role and authority of the courts, law enforcement officials, federal agencies, and private sector entities such as the airlines.”

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Parental Abduction – How bad can it be?


Leading experts believe that due to the rapid growth in multi-national marriages and relationships, the number of children born from parents of different countries will continue to expand.

Similar to all relationships, a significant portion of these marriages or partnerships will end in divorce. All too often, one of the separating parents of the child of the relationship will seek to abduct the child to a country other than where the child has lived. This is called ‘International Parental Child Abduction’, and though there are various civil remedies available to targeted parents who have had their child abducted, the challenges they face are grave, and include first and foremost, locating where the child is located.

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Parental dilemma: Whether to spy on their Kids – parenthood and paranoia often walk hand in hand.


Source: David Crary

– In the 21st century, parenthood and paranoia often walk hand in hand.

For some, the blessed event is followed by high-tech surveillance – a monitoring system tracks the baby’s breathing rhythms and relays infrared images from the nursery. The next investment might be a nanny cam, to keep watch on the child’s hired caregivers. Toddlers and grade schoolers can be equipped with GPS devices enabling a parent to know their location should something go awry.

To cope with the uncertainties of the teen years, some parents acquire spyware to monitor their children’s online and cell phone activity. Others resort to home drug-testing kits.

Added together, there’s a diverse, multi-billion-dollar industry seeking to capitalize on parents’ worst fears about their children – fears aggravated by occasional high-profile abductions and the dangers lurking in cyberspace. One mistake can put a child at risk or go viral online, quickly ruining a reputation.

“There’s a new set of challenges for parents, and all sorts of new tools that can help them do their job,” said David Walsh, a child psychologist in Minneapolis. “On the other hand, we have very powerful industries that create these products and want to sell as many as possible, so they try to convince parents they need them.”

Some parents need little convincing.

In New York City, a policeman-turned-politician recorded a video earlier this year offering tips to parents on how to search their children’s bedrooms and possessions for drugs and weapons. In the video, State Sen. Eric Adams – who has a teenage son – insists that children have no constitutional right to privacy at home and shows how contraband could be hidden in backpacks, jewelry boxes, even under a doll’s dress.

“You have a duty and obligation to protect the members of your household,” he says.

Another parent who preaches proactive vigilance is Mary Kozakiewicz of Pittsburgh, whose daughter, Alicia, was abducted as a 13-year-old in 2002 by a man she met online. He chained, beat and raped her before she was rescued four days later.

In recent years, mother and daughter have both campaigned to raise awareness of Internet-related dangers.

Mary Kozakiewicz urges parents to monitor children’s computer and cell phone use, and says those who balk out of respect for privacy are being naive.

“It’s not about privacy – it’s about keeping them safe,” she said,

On a different part of the spectrum are parents such as Lenore Skenazy, a mother of two teens in New York City who wrote a book called “Free Range Kids: How To Raise Safe, Self-Reliant Children (Without Going Nuts with Worry).”

Skenazy, who let one of her sons ride the New York subway alone when he was 9, contends that many marketers exploit parents’ ingrained worries about their children’s safety.

“The idea is that the only good parent is a parent who’s somehow watching over their child 24/7,” she said. “You feel nothing should take precedence over monitoring your child’s well-being every second of the day … from time they’re born to when they go off to college.”

Joe Kelly of St. Paul, Minn., helped his wife raise twin girls (they’re now adults) and founded a national advocacy group called Dads and Daughters. Like Skenazy, he bemoans commercial exploitation of parental anxiety.

“Markets play on this fear that something horrific is going to happen to your child, when the odds of that are minuscule,” he said. “It might happen, but to have their whole childhood predicated on this remote possibility is, in the aggregate, even more damaging.”

Psychologists who work with troubled adolescents and teens say parents often ask if they should be doing more surveillance.

“Ideally, parents establish good open communication and trust with their children, and they don’t need to do all these things,” said Neil Bernstein, a psychologist in Washington, D.C. “But if the child is doing something to create suspicion, you can’t expect parents to turn their back and not monitor.”

Bernstein, author of “How to Keep Your Teenager Out of Trouble and What to do if You Can’t,” says the best approach is a balanced one – neither overly zealous and paranoid nor uninvolved and neglectful.

A look at some of the monitoring tactics and products available to parents:

___

Baby monitors:

These devices – some limited to audio monitoring, others also with video capability – have developed a reputation as a mixed blessing. They can provide parents with peace of mind, freeing them to be elsewhere in the house while the baby naps, but sometimes they accentuate anxiety.

“Some parents are reassured by hearing and seeing every whimper and movement. Others find such close surveillance to be nerve-racking,” says Consumer Reports, which has tested many of the monitors.

Skenazy likened night-vision baby monitors to the surveillance cameras used by convenience stores and prisons.

“It’s treating your child’s bedroom as if it’s the streets of Kandahar,” the battle-scarred Afghan city, she said.

The monitors operate within a selected radio frequency band to send sound from a baby’s room to a receiver in another room, a technology which can be vulnerable to interference from other electronic devices. Prices of models tested by Consumer Reports ranged from $30 for audio monitors to more than $200 for some with video.

“Overall, baby monitors can be as temperamental as a 2-year-old,” says Consumer Reports. “Interference is probably the biggest complaint, but parents also report such problems as low visibility, a shorter-than-expected reception range, and short battery life.”

Models at the high end of the price scale include the Dropcam Echo audio-video system, for $279. Its manufacturer says the system automatically detects motion and sound, and sends alerts to a parent’s smart phone or iPad.

Experts say baby monitors can provide a useful early warning if something is amiss, but caution that they should never substitute for adult supervision.

Parents are warned not to rely on monitors to prevent Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, and they should be sure that the monitors’ electrical cords are kept away from cribs. Earlier this year, about 1.7 million Summer Infant video monitors were recalled after being linked to the strangulation deaths of two infants.

___

Tracking devices:

Of the roughly 800,000 children reported missing in the U.S. each year, the vast majority are runaways or were abducted by a parent. But there are enough kidnappings by strangers – including a few each year that make national news – to fuel a large, evolving market for products catering to apprehensive parents.

The devices range from clip-on alarms to GPS locators that can be put in a backpack or stuffed in a doll, but they have limited range and can raise safety concerns of their own.

Ernie Allen, president of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, says the devices can be helpful in some circumstances but worries about overreliance on them.

“Some of them encourage parents, perhaps unwittingly, to forget their basic responsibilities,” he said. “There are parents who think they can depend on the technology, not on themselves.”

He recounted the case of one little girl who activated her wristband alarm when she was abducted. The abductor cut off the device, left it behind and later killed the girl.

Allen said the child might have been better off yelling for help, rather than focusing on the alarm.

“Some of the new technology is extraordinary,” Allen said. “But these shouldn’t be used as substitutes for good old-fashioned parenting.”

Generally, the gadgets are in two parts – a main device carried by the parent and a small alarm attached to the child. If a child vanishes, the parent can activate the alarm.

Other gadgets use GPS technology, relying on satellite signals, that allows parents using a Web browser to track the location of an enabled device such as a cell phone.

One company, BrickHouse Security, offers a GPS child locater for $200 that functions as a digital watch and can be locked into the child’s wrist. If forcibly removed, an alert is sent to the parent’s cell phone and email.

Some anxious parents wonder if a satellite-enabled tracking device could be implanted in their child – a technology now expanding in Mexico among people rattled by a kidnapping epidemic there. But Allen says such implantation, for children, could have grim consequences – a child who ran away from home or a noncustodial parent who abducted a child might make a grisly attempt to extract the device.

___

Spyware:

For many parents, one of the toughest decisions is whether to spy on a child’s computer and cell phone activity. It’s common for some children to send more than 100 text messages a day, and a recent Associated Press-MTV poll found that about one-quarter of teens had shared sexually explicit photos, videos and chat by cell phone or online.

Walsh, the Minneapolis psychologist, says the best initial step for parents concerned about online risks is a heart-to-heart talk with the child, with monitoring used as a contingency measure only if there’s clear justification.

“If it does make sense to use some spyware, I would never do that in secret way,” said Walsh, whose own three children are now adults. “Tell your children you’ll check on them from time to time. Just that knowledge can be effective.”

Mary Kozakiewicz disagrees, saying deployment of spyware must be kept secret.

“You can’t let them know it’s there, or they’ll do it at a friend’s house,” she said.

Indeed, one of the challenges for some parents is a technology gap – their children may have more savvy about cyberspace and an ability to thwart various spyware tactics.

“Parents are trying to play catch up – and it’s a highly fragmented, confusing sector,” said Keith Jarrett of the AmberWatch Foundation, a nonprofit based in Seal Beach, Calif., dedicated to protecting children against abduction and “the dangers of the digital world.”

AmberWatch promotes various safety devices and technologies, including SafeText – a system enabling parents, for $5 a month, to monitor their children’s text-messaging. The system sends alerts when it detects potentially dangerous or inappropriate text messages, so the parents don’t have to review vast numbers of messages themselves.

Another enterprise, Software4Parents, reviews and sells a range of spyware products. Its Web site features a comment by Mary Kozakiewicz after her abducted daughter was rescued.

“No matter how you feel about your child or how trusting you are that what’s going on is innocent, check it, check it and double check it – or don’t have (the Internet) at all,” Kozakiewicz warns.

Among the site’s featured products are Spector PRO and eBlaster, for sale at $99, and touted as ways way to monitor online chats, instant messages and emails.

“Receive complete transcripts of the web sites they visit, keystrokes they type and more – all delivered right to your email inbox,” the site says.

Several spyware brands, including Mobile Spy and MobiStealth, now offer systems that work with Android, Google’s operating system for mobile phones, ranging in price from $100 to $150 per year.

The software “gives you complete control over your child’s cell phone,” says MobiStealth.

Dr. Henry Gault, who practices child and adolescent psychiatry in Deerfield, Ill., says parents who spy on their children “are walking down a slippery slope” and may end up causing worse problems than the ones that prompted the surveillance.

“That should be the course of last resort,” he said. “Essentially you’re throwing in the towel and saying there’s no trust anymore.”

He suggested it’s normal for children try to keep some secrets from their family.

“Parents shouldn’t feel guilty not knowing 100 percent of what’s going on,” he said. “It’s our job as parents to reduce risk, but you can never reduce the risk to zero.”

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Home drug tests:

Compared to tracking and spyware gadgets, home drug testing kits are relatively low-tech and inexpensive. But they raise tricky issues for parents, who may be torn between alienating their child on the one hand and living with unresolved doubts about possible drug abuse on the other.

David Walsh directed an adolescent treatment program earlier in his career and says the at-home tests can be appropriate when parents have solid reason for suspicion.

“When a son or daughter is getting seriously into drugs, one dynamic of that is denial,” he said. “The stakes are so high. Parents can say, ‘We need to make sure you’re not doing serious damage to yourself. We might occasionally test you.'”

In Colorado Springs, Colo., single mother Amanda Beihl was among the first to carve out a business from Internet sales of test kits, starting in 1999.

Beihl created homedrugtestingkit.com, selling kits to test for illicit drugs and alcohol use. Individual kits testing for a single drug cost as little as $3; a 10-substance kit sells for $19.95.

It’s an ever-evolving field, Beihl says, as teens experiment with new hallucinogens or abuse a range of prescription drugs.

“A lot of parents say they’re afraid of ruining their relationship with their kid – they don’t want to be seen as the bad guy,” Beihl said. “I tell them, if you’re already worried about it, the relationship is probably not that great.”

Kim Hildreth, 52, of Dallas, tested both her daughters during their teens. They’re now in their 20s, and provide occasional assistance as she runs a company, drugtestyourteen.com, that sells testing kits online.

Hildreth has been in the business since 2003 and says she has many repeat customers – parents who used the tests on an older child and now worry about a younger sibling.

In Hildreth’s case, she opted for testing after concluding that her oldest daughter’s best friend was using methamphetamine.

“None of us wants to believe our kids are capable of that,” Hildreth said. “Denial is a much more comfortable place.”

She also later tested her younger daughter, to the point where resentment surfaced, but said both daughters are now staunch proponents of testing.

“We all think we know our kids, but they can change on a dime, and bad things can happen before you even figure it out,” Hildreth said. “They’re good at deceiving parents when they want to – that’s kind of their job.”

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