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PostSubject: State ranks 3rd in missing persons   Sun Nov 01, 2009 4:36 am

State ranks 3rd in missing persons


By Anthony Colarossi Sentinel Staff Writer

October 31, 2009

At times Florida can seem to be the national epicenter of reported missing children and child abductions.

The cases here gain national prominence and rarely have happy endings. After the media fanfare is over, the children's names stick out as sad reminders: Carlie Brucia. Jessica Lunsford. Trenton Duckett. Caylee Anthony. Haleigh Cummings. And now Somer Thompson.

The state does hold a number of unfortunate distinctions when it comes to measuring the number of children reported missing and, what some consider a related statistic, the number of registered sex offenders in the state.

According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, Florida generally ranks third in the nation — behind only California and Texas — for reported missing persons, most of whom are children, registered sex offenders and the number of "stereotypical kidnappings," the most serious kind of stranger abductions.

The numbers can seem frightening for parents. Florida had nearly 62,000 missing-person reports during 2007. And as of July, the state had 51,560 registered sex offenders.

The vast majority of missing-person cases end up getting resolved. Many times reported missing children are kids who get lost or are runaways, said Ernie Allen with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

Many other cases involve custodial disputes. So of the roughly 800,000 kids reported missing nationwide each year, only about 58,000 represent "nonfamily abductions," Allen said. And only about 115 of those are defined as "stereotypical kidnappings."

Those involve someone the child does not know or has only a slight acquaintance with and who "holds the child overnight, transports the child 50 miles or more, kills the child, demands ransom or intends to keep the child permanently," according to Allen and U.S. Department of Justice statistics.

The large missing-persons numbers in California, Texas and Florida may be explained by a number of common factors.

"You've got large, populous states. You've got magnet states," Allen said. "You've got year-round climate, and kids tend to be relatively more accessible."

The large numbers of sex offenders in those states "probably" have some correlation, Allen said, but he also noted that not all sex offenders' crimes involve children.

"The 51,000 in Florida does not mean they all represent a serious threat to children in the state," said Allen, who has called for a tiered system for delineating sex offenders.

Florida ranks behind 13 other states in the number of sex offenders per 100,000 people. Florida has 281 such offenders per 100,000. Nationwide the ratio is 223 per 100,000.
http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/crime/orl-somer-sidebar-103109,0,73629.story

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