In addition to runaways, family abductions, and nonfamily abductions, there are two other categories that NCMEC handles: lost, injured, or otherwise missing (LIM) and critically missing young adults.
A lost, injured, or otherwise missing child is defined as a child who has disappeared under unknown circumstances or a child who is too young to appropriately be considered an endangered runaway. This ranges from a child wandering off and becoming lost, to a child who may have been abducted, but no one saw it happen. These circumstances sometimes involve “foul play”, or those reporting the incident may attempt to cover up a crime involving the child.
Though not legally children, NCMEC also helps law enforcement with cases of critically missing young adults aged 18, 19, and 20. A critically missing young adult is one who is at an elevated risk of danger if not located as soon as possible due to the circumstances surrounding their disappearance.
Given the broad nature of these two categories, it can be difficult to determine patterns that may increase risk. However, some characteristics may be common:
- Young children, especially those with autism, wander from a known location after being drawn away by something of interest, such as following a pet, an animal, or other child, or they run to something they are attracted to like bodies of water, traffic signs, trains, etc.
- Young children can be unaware of being lost and may not feel worried or lonely for some time, increasing the distance that they stray.
- Children may be unaware of how to return home, but try to get back on their own.
By the Numbers
Of the 20,500 cases reported to NCMEC in 2016, 2% were critically missing young adults, and 1% were lost, injured, or otherwise missing children.
Between January 1, 2012 and December 31, 2016, over 900 AMBER Alerts were issued, 6% of which were for lost, injured, or otherwise missing children.
What NCMEC is Doing About it
Teaching Best Practices and Procedures
NCMEC is committed to providing training, technical assistance, and resources at no cost to law enforcement and other personnel who investigate cases of crimes against children, specifically cases of missing children and child sexual exploitation.
"This was the best organized training program I have ever experienced. This was excellent and useful training that will have an impact on how our agency handles missing children cases. I am anxious to implement the many things that I learned at this seminar."
- Chief John Pritchard, Herington Police Department
Raising Public Awareness to Help Bring Them Home
Through our photo partners in the private sector, we coordinate the creation and dissemination of missing child posters to targeted areas requested by law enforcement to help generate leads and gain the public’s help in the search for these children.
Another way the public can help in the recovery efforts is by signing up in The ADAM Program to receive missing child alerts in your area.