How to Report a Kidnapping

While a missing child can be a parent's worst nightmare, it is not a time to panic, but to be prepared with the knowledge of procedures and protocol that are essential in reporting a kidnapping. The first 48 hours are the most critical. In the event you believe your child has been kidnapped you should act immediately and report the incident to local law enforcement. Knowing your role, the role of others and how to locate help can be key to the safe recovery of your child or loved one.

Search every possible hiding space in your house for your child. Check closets, piles of clothes, crawl spaces, in and under all beds, inside large appliances like the dishwasher, washer, dryer, heating ducts and inside vehicles. Look anywhere a child could hide.

Call 911 immediately if you cannot locate your child anywhere in or just outside your home. Be prepared to provide detailed information and answer questions from all investigating officers. If your child has been kidnapped from a store, immediately notify the manager. A "Code Adam" will be put in place, and all employees will mobilize the store to begin searching for the missing child.

Provide your child's name, date of birth, height, weight and any specific identifiers such as eyeglasses, braces, how their hair was styled, what they were wearing and when you realized the child was missing 1.

Request the child's name and information be immediately entered into a National Crime Information Center Missing Person File. Call the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) toll free at 1-800-THE-LOST (1-800-843-5678). Alternatively, a Live Hotline is available on the NCMEC website; you can directly speak with someone at the NCMEC here.

Ask local law enforcement to issue an Amber Alert. Criteria is as follows: an abduction must be confirmed, the abducted child is reportedly at risk of serious injury or death, ample descriptive information must be provided for the child, captor or captor's vehicle description and the child must be 17 years old or younger in order to issue an alert. Once the information is entered into the NCIC as above in step 4, a statewide Amber Alert can be issued or regional if law enforcement believe the child has been taken across state lines. Amber Alerts interrupt regular programming such as broadcast radio, television and are displayed on highway signs, as well as lottery tickets, wireless devices and the Internet.

Ask to review your child's case file. There may be something important you overlooked in the initial shock. Stay calm and scan through the file without trying to think too hard about events or what happened.

Explore other programs for missing children, crime tips and the possible offer of a reward. Local law enforcement and prosecuting attorneys may have knowledge of other local, state, regional or national programs that can help you when reporting a kidnapping or possibly offering a reward for the return of your child.