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CNN SUNDAY MORNING

Interview With Ann Scofield

Aired August 4, 2002 - 07:21   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LARRY SMITH, CNN ANCHOR: For every kidnapped or missing child who receives media coverage, there are other cases that seem to go unnoticed. Ann Scofield of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children joins us now from Washington to talk about this disparity.

Good morning to you.

ANN SCOFIELD, NATIONAL CTR FOR MISSING AND EXPLOITED CHILDREN: Good morning.

SMITH: First things first, how many missing or exploited children cases do you hear about everyday and every year are reported everyday and every year?

SCOFIELD: As we speak this morning, it begins as every day does, and it ends with approximately 2100 reported missing children cases nationwide to law enforcement agencies. This is astronomical. Even though the number appears high, the actual number of child abductions, that is those by strangers, non-family members, have seen a slight decrease.

SMITH: Seen a decrease. Is there a reason for that? And it seems like there's more, I mean obviously more media attention lately.

SCOFIELD: We believe that the reason for the decrease is tri- fold. I believe we've got children today who are more street smart. That is they have learned a great deal from parents, schools, and national organizations teaching them child safety tips, warning them of the dangers of non-family or stranger abductions. And they are indeed a lot more educated today and willing to put in place those safety tips.

SMITH: Well why is it that some cases are reported it seems very closely and yet, some go virtually ignored?

SCOFIELD: It's -- we would prefer, of course, at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to have every case receive the same kind of media attention the ones have in recent days. Unfortunately, the reality of it is that there are multiple factors that often contribute to one case over another -- the type of case it is, the location, the urgency of deployment of resources, many, many factors, and we simply don't have the answer either. However, I believe that on the whole the exposure by media to the cases that we've seen recently have been a benefit to the nation as a whole, to raise the consciousness on child safety, ensuring that parents understand this is a reality and that we must work as a community to avoid these kinds of instances.

SMITH: There are two cases that have -- lately that have been talked about quite a bit, the 13-year-old in Texas, Laura Ayala and the 7-year-old in Milwaukee, we heard that piece a moment ago, Alexis Patterson. I want to read something, an NPR (ph) interview from last month that your President Ernie Allen did a few moments ago and said there have been some of these cases that have involved minority children that have gotten attention, but certainly it is far more likely that the media would see the case in a setting where one would not think these kinds of things would happen and where the circumstances are the most dramatic.

Now obviously as a part of the media, I point the finger back at ourselves, but isn't a missing child case a missing child case simply regardless of situation or anything else regarding that?

SCOFIELD: It certainly should be. I believe if you speak to anyone in the nation their feelings would be the same as you've expressed. Any missing child case should receive the same scrutiny and the same kind of urgent attention that the others do. Unfortunately, there are some factors. The more dramatic an abduction, as we have seen here recently, often garners more attention than others. However, I believe that the exposure to all the cases and there have been many this summer. We've been inundated and parents around the nation have a real right to be fearful to the extent that they are putting in a place a plan for their child and themselves to first of all, have a prevention in place that is teaching your children child safety tips. And in the instance that an incident occurs, that an abduction happens, ensuring that that child has the poise, the confidence, the ...

(CROSSTALK)

SCOFIELD: ... confidence to ...

SMITH: Ann if I could ...

SCOFIELD: ... to actually get themselves freed.

SMITH: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) real quick. I have time for one more question, very quickly. Is race an issue when it comes to the media? It's obvious that's what people are talking about right now. Is that an issue in the media coverage, these cases?

SCOFIELD: It would seem at first blush, at first glance, obviously that even race may play a part in the number of abducted children. However, we know differently. The statistics prove that differently. Whether or not the media determines one case over another is something that we certainly are encouraging them to give a more relative degree of choice from our office. We've got a number of cases daily, more than 100 that are still waiting for the kind of exposure that you have seen here recently. SMITH: OK. Ann thanks so much for your time. Your hard work continues, and we appreciate that, and thank you for your time today. Ann Scofield of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

SCOFIELD: Thank you.

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