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Child abduction cases by strangers are rare

on August 14, 2009

Police said Friday that child abduction cases in some East Bay cities are “exceedingly rare.”

“Ordinarily, they’re short-lived and have to do with some kind of custody battle,” said Sgt. Mary Kusmiss of the Berkeley Police.

Abductions by strangers occur even more infrequently.

“The harsh reality is, most abduction cases are by somebody [the child] knows,” said Anthony Gonzales of Child Quest International, a non-profit that deals with missing and exploited children in the Bay Area.

The last time a stranger abducted a child in Berkeley occurred in 1992, Kusmiss said.  In the Baby Kerri case, a Richmond woman posing as a social worker stole a two-day-old baby from her 16-year-old mother at Alta Bates hospital in Berkeley.

The baby was returned three months later, thanks to a tip from a neighbor. It’s still unclear what happened this week when a foster father reported that his five-year-old foster son disappeared from his car in Rockridge.

Fremont Police Detective Bill Veteran said that kidnappings were also “a rarity” in Fremont, where the boy is from.  The most recent incident, he said, was a child abduction involving the child’s father, which occurred years ago.  Abductions by strangers, he agreed, were especially rare.

According to the California Department of Justice, there were 1,363 parental or family member child abductions in 2008, compared to just 35 stranger abductions in the same year.

National statistics from 2002 affirm the same trend: abductions of children by family members are about three times more common than abductions by strangers, according to U.S. Department of Justice.

Police in Berkeley said that when and if children are approached by a stranger, the same tried and true techniques work.

Children should refuse to go anywhere with them, pull away and yell things like, “you’re not my mom, you’re not my dad.”

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