All the lost children

The news: In August, authorities in Berkeley, Calif., found Jaycee Dugard 18 years after Phillip Garrido kidnapped and kept her locked up in his backyard.

Behind the news: The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, which compiles abduction, missing and runaway cases involving children under 18 who are considered “greatest risk,” lists 96 Illinois children who went missing and remained so during the past five years. More than 45 percent of those children were black, while 25 percent were Latino.

Seventy-six, or 79.2 percent, of the cases were “endangered” runaways.

David Finkelhor, director of the Crimes Against Children Research Center, said minorities are overrepresented since their communities face more challenges that lead to these issues.

In particular, he said, runaways are more common among families that are poor, without two parents, or struggling with alcoholism, criminality or mental illness. “I don’t think this is specifically a Hispanic or African-American problem,” he said. But in these communities, “people are trying to scrape by, and people’s needs aren’t getting met. They’re stressed.”

Ernie Allen, president and CEO of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, also pointed out that about 58,000 children are abducted by nonfamily members each year and then quickly released. Because of the very short timeframe, these cases do not usually end up on the center’s Web site, he says.

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