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No Rash of Abductions, Yet Vigilance High

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Overall, 539 children in Virginia were listed as missing as of Aug. 1, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. Most of those are runaways (nationally, 450,000 children run away from home each year) or were abducted by relatives such as a noncustodial parent (354,000 nationally each year).

Indeed, between July 1 and Aug. 1 of this year more children were reported found than lost in Virginia. In that time, state police received 1,068 reports of missing children. In the same period, 1,080 children were reported found. "Some of those could have been returned in an hour," Geller says.

Attorney General Jerry Kilgore maintains that it misses the point to say there's been only one stranger abduction in Virginia this year. "To me, when the issue is the safety of children, statistics don't mean a thing," Kilgore says by e-mail. "Even if we were talking about only one abduction, that would be one abduction too many."

When the General Assembly convenes for the winter, Kilgore plans to press hard for legislation that would mandate two anti-abduction programs statewide: AMBER alert and Code Adam.

Both programs alert the public about suspected or confirmed abductions, and both are essential, Kilgore says. He points to statistics showing that children are most likely to be recovered in the first seven hours after their disappearance. And Kilgore urges continued vigilance: "Parents are right to be concerned. This can be a dangerous world, as we have seen around the country."

The Justice Department reports that nationally 114,600 children are the subjects of attempted abductions by strangers each year; about 4,500 of those attempts are successful.

— Melissa Scott Sinclair

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