Thirty years ago, police could enter information about stolen cars, stolen guns, even stolen horses into the FBI’s crime database – but not stolen children. Several tragic cases began to awaken the nation to the problem that there was no coordinated national system for addressing missing children cases. In 1979, 6-year-old Etan Patz vanished from a New York street on his way to school. Over the next several years, 29 children and young adults were found murdered in Atlanta. Then in 1981, 6-year-old Adam Walsh was abducted from a Florida shopping mall and later found brutally murdered.
When Adam first disappeared, his parents, John and Revé Walsh, turned to law enforcement to help find their son. To their disbelief, there was no coordinated effort among law enforcement to search for Adam on a state or national level and no organization to help them in their desperation. In 1981, and in response to their tragedy, the Walshs established the Adam Walsh Outreach Center for Missing Children in Florida to serve as a national resource for other families with missing children.
Today, with better public awareness, training, laws and technology, the recovery rate of missing children has jumped from 62 percent in 1990 to more than 97 percent today. More long-term missing children are being recovered.