The Public Interest

Missing children, misleading statistics

Joel Best

Summer 1988

DURING THE 1980s, a small but nasty debate emerged over the number of children abducted by strangers. Competing estimates appeared in speeches, press reports, and testimony before congressional committees. This fall, the federal Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) will try to resolve the issue by releasing the results of the National Studies of the Incidence of Missing Children. Reporters covering the debate over the stranger-abduction problem seem to assume that these studies’ findings will be authoritative.

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