“Stranger Danger” to children is vastly overstated, and is used to sell parents of small children on raw fear. There may not even be another immediate objective, but fearful people are easier to manipulate. And what can be a greater fear to stick someone with than concern for their small child?
This analysis published earlier this year on boingboing.net takes an oft-cited number — 800,000 children abducted every year! — and pretty well demolishes it. This number represents a 13-year old estimate of the number of children reported lost or missing to police or missing-child agencies. But aside from a stranger abduction, causes of such reports range from a simple wandering-off to being taken without notice by a non-custodial parent. Actual stranger abduction appears to be more like 115 cases per year.
To summarize: Media reports will cite the 800,000 figure. (Listen for it.) Meanwhile the real figure is 115. The media is overstating the case by a factor of nearly 7,000.
Remember this the next time you hear a viscerally scary statistic on TV news.