Thankfully, infant abductions are a rarity. But it does happen and 2012 has seen its fair share. Although all of the abducted infants were recovered, one of them tragically ended in the death of the mother.
A recent article published by the FBI states that analysis of abduction cases suggests that abductors are finding new and troubling ways to obtain babies. This may include using violence to commit their crimes. Social media is also playing a role as a method of location and abduction.
“For the most part, women are no longer going into hospitals and dressing in nurse’s uniforms and walking out with children,” said Ashli-Jade Douglas, an FBI intelligence analyst who works in the FBI’s Crimes Against Children Unit and specializes in child abduction matters. The increasing use of anti-abduction technology makes obtaining an infant from a hospital more and more difficult.
The women who commit these crimes are usually between the ages of 17 and 33,” said Douglas, who provides analytical support to the Child Abduction Rapid Deployment Team. “Usually they are unable to get pregnant. Often, they will fake a pregnancy in the hopes of keeping a boyfriend or husband.” In most cases, she added, the women intend no harm to the infants—and maybe not even the mother. “They just want a child to raise as their own and will do anything to get one.”
The article goes on to identify a woman who used social media to get close to the mother of a newborn, befriended that woman and ultimately abducted her two-week old infant after being invited to stay with the mother in her home.
“Parents should check their privacy settings on social networking sites,” Douglas said, and they should always use caution online. Privacy settings can sometimes be confusing and may change without notice. This can mean that photos, comments and locations may be visible through a simple online search.
The FBI has some recommendations on how new parents and their families can protect their children both online and in the home:
- As much as you want to tell the world about your new arrival, the Crimes Against Children unit recommends against displaying the traditional pink or blue balloons or yard signs welcoming the baby. These are literally flags alerting a potential abductor of an available infant.
- New or expectant mothers (and other family members) should always be aware of their surroundings and who they encounter. They should avoid giving strangers any personal information if someone attempts to start a conversation that involves the infant. Asking to many personal questions may be a warning sign.
- Make sure online privacy settings keep your social media profiles available only to people you want to see your photos, location or other information. Photos contain information that can tell an abductor where the photo was taken so they can locate you. It’s probably even a good idea to refrain from posting where you will be at any given time.
- Even if you think you may be overreacting you should report any suspicious activity, odd behavior of strangers or unusual attempts to contact you. “You may not think it’s important,” the FBI’s Douglas explains, “but that type of information allows us to track incidents and it could help prevent future abductions.”
It’s sad that the joy of new life must also be tempered with caution. The chances that your bundle of joy will be taken from you are remote, but being careful will help increase the safety of your baby as well as your family.
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