Now the director of Infant Abduction Response for the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, John Rabun Jr. said the focus on infant and newborn abduction stemmed from a media special in the mid-1980s.
“We started all the data acquisition for the phenomena back in ’87. At that point, no one knew anything, including us, and we did it because of a TV producer who come into my office and wanted to do a special on the, as she put it, epidemic of infants who were being stolen from health care. To which I responded, ‘Huh? Epidemic?’” he said.
The information would eventually stem from data provided by major news organizations. From that collection, the center created a profile of the suspects in abductions — in 94 percent of cases, the suspect is a female who has given birth.
According to Rabun, she cares about children, and while she will not “love” the child, she will care for it as her own.
“The whole reason for the abduction is him, the male significant other,” he said, adding she will fake a pregnancy to keep a husband from leaving or to prompt a long-term boyfriend into committing.
“… [The profile is] remarkably, I don’t know, fixed. It just doesn’t seem to change; some methodology may change but the profile itself is just amazingly consistent, which isn’t usually the case in the criminal justice system,” Rabun said. “So we went into it really for interdiction purposes, helping cops and agents investigate the cases, find the babies, lock up the perp.”
Statistics from NCMEC show that 291 children were abducted from health care facilities, homes or “other places” from 1983 to 2014, with 12 of those still missing.
Using the profile, officials moved into abduction prevention, educating health care on who to look for and how to improve security.
“It’s not like looking for the guy who comes in wearing a trench coat, carrying an Uzi, gonna hold you up,” Rabun said. “She birthed here; her daughters birthed here. I mean, it’s not to say she’s a frequent flier, but there’s enough, ‘I’ve seen her before,’ that you kind of, ‘Eh.’ Everything goes out of your world view, you write it off.”
He said newborn and infant abductors tend to explore hospitals within a 25-mile radius in suburban settings or closer in for urban areas.
“It’s window shopping, not the hospital that’s the least secure — she doesn’t know enough to make that determination — in an odd way, it’s for hospital she feels best about,” Rabun said.
For CMC, infant security is one of the top priorities.
The hospital delivers an estimated 1,000 babies per year. Each one receives an electronic security device at birth, along with extensive identification protocols.
“We go through a very diligent identification process where, as soon as the baby is born, we put bands on the baby that match the mom and generally the significant other, whether that be a father or whoever that might be,” said Director of Perinatal Services Kathleen Coleman. “… We do tons of education with regards to those safety measures such as we teach them not to allow the baby to go out of the room with anyone who is not properly identified. … We also get education out to the physician’s offices prior to coming in to the hospital. We do education with every staff person.
“… We do routine drills for infant abduction drills, so we’re testing the entire hospital for their response and if they know where to go and who to look for, those kinds of things.”
Those measures are reassuring to the parents welcoming children at the hospital.
During Wednesday’s tour, the Rothschilds said the security procedures made them feel “very safe.”
“We have a 7-year-old as well so, of course, that thought [of your child being abducted] always crosses your mind even with being out in the public,” the mother said. “… There are some bad people in the world and if they’re out in the public, they could come out into the hospitals. It definitely makes you feel safer knowing that she’s not leaving this place.”
Hospitals have been at the forefront of decreasing the infant abduction rates, cutting the instance rate from a high of 17 in 1991 to a minimal number today.
“It’s the kind of things hospitals are having to do and are doing really well. The instance rate got as high as 17 or 18 back till about 1995-ish, thereabouts, and then really started coming down,” Rabun said. “… Health care has done an amazing job in the last 10, 15 years to harden the target where we should only have a maximum of one, maybe two a year.”
For more information on the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children or infant abduction, visit www.missingkids.com.
The following list includes all U.S. cases of newborn and infant abductions by non-family members from health care facilities, homes and “other places” documented by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, International Association for Healthcare Security & Safety and the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime.
• 291 abductions of infants from 1983 to 2014, with one reported in 2014
• 12 are still missing
• 132 abductions occurred at health care facilities; 127 were located and five are still missing
• 118 abductions happened at homes; 114 were located with four still missing
• 41 abductions were at “other places;” of those, 38 were found but three are still missing
• Of the reported cases, violence was more likely in home abductions (35, or 30 percent of cases) than in hospitals (11 cases, or 8 percent) and other places (11, or 27 percent of cases)
• In a breakdown by state, Georgia reported 10 infant abductions from 1983 to 2014. Nine were from hospitals and one from a home.
— Source: National Center for Missing & Exploited Children