In 1984, John and Revé Walsh and other child advocates founded the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children as a private, non-profit organization to serve as the national clearinghouse and resource center for information about missing and sexually 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 2017 there were 464,324 NCIC entries for missing children. Similarly, in 2016, the total number of missing children entries into NCIC was 465,676.
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 Likewise, if an entry is withdrawn and amended or updated, that would also be reflected in the total.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 34 years, NCMEC’s national toll-free hotline, 1-800-THE-LOST© (1-800-843-5678), has received more than 4.7 million calls. NCMEC has circulated billions of photos of missing children, assisted law enforcement in the recovery of more than 277,000 missing children and facilitated training for more than 353,000 law enforcement, criminal/juvenile justice and healthcare professionals.
NCMEC by the Numbers(i)
In 2017 NCMEC assisted law enforcement and families with more than 27,000 cases of missing children.
- 91 percent endangered runaways.
- 5 percent family abductions.
- 3 percent critically missing young adults, ages 18 to 20.
- 1 percent nonfamily abductions.
- Less than 1 percent lost, injured or otherwise missing children.
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, 924 children have been successfully recovered as a result of the AMBER Alert program, including 53 recoveries credited to the wireless emergency alert program.1
NCMEC’s forensic artists have age-progressed more than 6,600 images of long-term missing children and created more than 530 facial reconstructions for unidentified deceased children. NCMEC is currently assisting with more than 710 cases of unidentified children’s remains, and so far has assisted in 124 identifications.
Team Adam, which provides rapid, on-site assistance in cases of critically missing children, has deployed more than 1,100 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 10,000 times.3
NCMEC has analyzed more than 14,500 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 2017 the CyberTipline received more than 10 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 37 million reports.4
To further NCMEC’s mission and help reduce proliferation, NCMEC has sent more than 245,000 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 249 million images and videos and law enforcement has identified more than 15,000 child victims.6
NCMEC has assisted with more than 108,000 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.