Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Greenlease Kidnapping

Progress on Kidnapping?

After the murder of Bobby Greenlease, FBI Director Hoover issued a directive asking schools and youth organizations to review safety procedures to combat stranger kidnappings.

"Assuredly, a more heinous crime cannot be conceived," Hoover wrote.

Most schools changed procedures for removal of pupils by non-parents, including the use of emergency contact cards that authorized certain individuals to pick up a child. Such a system might have saved Bobby Greenlease.

Since the 1970s, an explosion of parental kidnappings related to custody disputes a trend author Paula Fass calls the democratization of kidnapping has created a new challenge for schools in trying to sort out authorization issues.

How many kidnappings are there in America? The most recent U.S. Department of Justice study, conducted in 2002 with statistics for the year 1999, estimated that nearly 800,000 children were listed as missing.

More than half of those were considered runaways. About 204,000 were family abductions, and some 58,000 of the cases involved abductions by non-family members. Just 115 of those were victims of what authorities call stereotypical kidnappings, or abductions with financial or sexual motives. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children says that about 100 such incidents are reported each year. In three of four of those cases, the abducted child is killed within three hours, just as in the Greenlease case.

Today, technology might have hastened the arrest of the boys killers.

The insertion of a microchip into a ransom bundle, for example, allows authorities to trace its movement, and advanced telephone tracking technology might have led police to the kidnappers during one of the many phone calls they made to the Greenlease residence before the money drop occurred.

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