In 1984, John and Revé Walsh and other child advocates founded the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) as a private, non-profit organization to serve as the national clearinghouse and resource center for information about missing and exploited children.
Unfortunately, since many children are never reported missing, there is no reliable way to determine the total number of children who are actually missing in the U.S.
When a child is reported missing to law enforcement, federal law requires that child be entered into the FBI’s National Crime Information Center, also known as NCIC.
According to the FBI, in 2016 there were 465,676 NCIC entries for missing children. Similarly, in 2015, the total number of missing children entries into NCIC was 460,699.
This number represents reports of missing children. That means if a child runs away multiple times in a year, each instance would be entered into NCIC separately and counted in the yearly total. Likewise, if an entry is withdrawn and amended or updated, that would also be reflected in the total.
During the last 33 years, NCMEC’s national toll-free hotline, 1-800-THE-LOST© (1-800-843-5678), has received more than 4.5 million calls. NCMEC has circulated billions of photos of missing children, assisted law enforcement in the recovery of more than 250,000 missing children and facilitated training for more than 337,000 law enforcement, criminal/juvenile justice and healthcare professionals. NCMEC’s Team HOPE volunteers have provided resources and emotional support to more than 61,000 families of missing and exploited children.
NCMEC by the Numbers(i)
In 2016 NCMEC assisted law enforcement and families with more than 20,500 cases of missing children.
- 90 percent endangered runaways.
- 6 percent family abductions.
- 1 percent lost, injured or otherwise missing children.
- 1 percent nonfamily abductions.
- 2 percent critically missing young adults, ages 18 to 20.
Of the nearly 25,000 runaways reported to NCMEC in 2017, one in seven were likely victims of child sex trafficking. Of those, 88 percent were in the care of social services when they went missing.
NCMEC also participates in the AMBER Alert Program, a voluntary partnership between broadcasters, transportation agencies, law enforcement agencies, and the wireless industry to activate an urgent bulletin in the most serious child abduction cases. NCMEC serves as the secondary distributor of these alerts and, to date, 897 children have been successfully recovered as a result of the AMBER Alert program, including 45 recoveries credited to the wireless emergency alert program.1
NCMEC’s forensic artists have age-progressed more than 6,300 images of long-term missing children and created more than 500 facial reconstructions for unidentified deceased children. NCMEC is currently assisting with more than 723 cases of unidentified children’s remains, and so far has assisted in 107 identifications.
Team Adam, which provides rapid, on-site assistance in cases of critically missing children, has deployed more than 1000 times.2 The program was named after Adam Walsh, the abducted and murdered son of NCMEC co-founders John and Revé Walsh.
Project ALERT®, which provides technical assistance and outreach regarding long-term missing child cases, has assisted families, communities, criminal justice, and forensic professionals more than 9,800 times.3
NCMEC has analyzed more than 12,900 attempted child abductions to identify trends and help develop safety tips for families.
NCMEC operates the CyberTipline, a national mechanism for the public and electronic service providers to report instances of suspected child sexual exploitation.
In 2016 the CyberTipline received 8.2 million reports, most of which related to:
- Apparent child sexual abuse images.
- Online enticement, including “sextortion.”
- Child sex trafficking.
- Child sexual molestation.
Since its inception, the CyberTipline has received more than 20 million reports.4
To further NCMEC’s mission and help reduce proliferation, NCMEC has sent more than 182,000 notifications to electronic service providers regarding publicly accessible websites (URLs) on which suspected child sexual abuse images appeared.5
NCMEC’s Child Victim Identification Program, which helps to locate and rescue child victims in abusive images, has reviewed more than 209 million images and videos and law enforcement has identified more than 13,300 child victims.6
NCMEC has assisted with more than 90,000 requests related to helping locate noncompliant sex offenders.7
Looking for stats on missing kids in your state? Each state has a missing person’s clearinghouse, which can provide regionalized information on missing kids. Check out the list here.
i All numbers provided reflect program totals since inception, except where otherwise noted.
1 AMBER Alerts began in 1996 and are a program of the U.S. Department of Justice. NCMEC is a secondary distributor of AMBER Alerts.
2 NCMEC’s Team Adam program began in 2003.
3 NCMEC’s Project ALERT program began in 1992.
4 NCMEC’s CyberTipline began receiving reports in 1998.
5 NCMEC began formally tracking notifications to ESPs in 2010.
6 NCMEC’s CVIP program began in 2002.
7 NCMEC created SOTT in 2006.