Stolen From Their Homes: How Often Are Kids Kidnapped?

This is a partial transcript from The O'Reilly Factor, June 10, 2002. Click here to order the complete transcript.

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BILL O'REILLY, HOST: The Impact segment tonight, the terrible kidnapping murder of Danielle Van Dam in San Diego and now the kidnapping of 14-year-old Elizabeth Smart in Salt Lake City have one thing in common. Both girls were taken right out of their own homes. Very frightening.

Question, how often does this happen? And can anything be done about it?

Joining us now from San Francisco is Dr. Loren Brooks, an expert on kidnapping who's currently a senior consultant with the Leadership Consulting Group, a firm specializing in threatening situations and potential violence.

I feel so sorry for the family of Elizabeth Smart and the good people of Utah mobilized and everybody's out looking and all of that.

Are these cases, and it's between 200 and 300 children each year in America that are kidnapped by a nonrelative, non-family member, are these cases usually sexually driven?

LOREN BROOKS, PH.D., KIDNAPPING EXPERT: Usually the motivation, Bill, either is sexual predation, or sometimes the abductor feels like they actually have the right to integrate the individual into their own family system.

O'REILLY: Is there money involved in many of them?

BROOKS: Not that often. Not in this country. Ransom is usually not the motivation that we see over here in the United States. Sometimes internationally, you see that more frequently.

O'REILLY: Yes, I don't think there's been any ransom in the Elizabeth Smart case that I've heard of, have you heard anything to the contrary?

BROOKS: No, I haven't.

O'REILLY: All right.

BROOKS: Usually it is sexual predation situation that you see.

O'REILLY: OK. How unusual is it for somebody to just to break into somebody's house and snatch a child, particularly a 14-year-old child, you know, and Danielle Van Dam was 7? These kids can put up a fight. They can scream.

BROOKS: Yes, it's quite rare. You know, there are about 800,000 individuals that go missing each year, and of those, about 85 to 90 percent are juveniles. And of those, about 200 to 300 are stranger-abducted, sometimes taken off the street. But the out-of-the-home abduction only occurs about 45 to 65 times a year, so it's a low-frequency event, but it's extremely traumatic, of course, for families and communities.

You know, it's difficult for the family to stop thinking about this until they can find their little girl.

O'REILLY: But, but not only that, every American with children right now watching this broadcast is saying, Is my house safe? You know, if I'm asleep at 3:00 in the morning, can somebody climb up through a window and grab my kid without me knowing it? 

That's why that a case like Elizabeth Smart has galvanized everybody, because they put themselves in the position of the parents. I mean, there they are. And in this case, it was actually another girl in the room who was so petrified that she didn't say anything for an hour.

BROOKS: Absolutely. This will certainly have an effect on her siblings and her family severely. And you're absolutely right, it does have a ripple effect throughout the community and throughout the country.

The other thing is, usually in these cases there is someone out there who knows what happened. And if you are that person and if you're watching this program, I would strongly invite you to make a difference, set this right, contact the FBI or the National Association for Missing and Exploited Children.

O'REILLY: But, you know, the family has gone on and the relatives and friends have gone on almost every program now and everybody in the United States knows who watches any kind of television news knows what the situation is.

But once they abduct a child like this, I mean, it's very hard, particularly if they're, you know, sexual perverts who just want to damage the poor little girl. Anyway, part of the problem of doing stories like this is that it just sends a chill into the whole society all across America, people are now even more vigilant, almost paranoid about their kids. Good or bad thing?

BROOKS: Yes. Well, it's hard not to be. You can't really stop yourself from being very concerned, and I think the best thing to do is to try to educate your children in a reasonable way, not to frighten them too much, but make them aware of the dangers that exist in the world, and have a good line of communication with them, have an open relationship in which they can tell you things they observe and things that are going on.

O'REILLY: What about the home protection, is there anything that all parents should do? I mean, it's summertime, lot of people leave their windows open, they don't have air conditioning, and not everybody has that. You know, what can they do?

BROOKS: That's a tough one. You know, I think the best thing to do is just to take the average precautions with regard to home safety. And again, make people in your home alert about what's going on. And maybe set up some kind of an agreement in the family with regard to what will occur if there is some kind of crisis situation.

O'REILLY: Yes, that's in, that's a good advice. Because if the little girl had known, and as soon as the abductor got out of the room, she ran into her parents, that would have helped this case dramatically.

BROOKS: Right.

O'REILLY: So that's very important that each parent should have a discussion with their children about not only that but fire and any kind of a thing in the house.

Doctor, thanks very much.

BROOKS: Right.

O'REILLY: And, of course our prayers are with the Smart family. We'll keep you posted on that investigation.

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