Demographic characteristics of victims and offenders of stranger-perpetrated sexually motivated child abductions using a motor vehicle: a study of resolved incidents in New Zealand between 1987-2011
Cases of child abduction with subsequent sexual assault (henceforth: CASSA) are very rare in New Zealand. However, when a child is abducted and the perpetrator is a stranger to the victim, it can be difficult for police to decide where to look, and who to look for. Research pertaining to the United States (US), the United Kingdom (UK) and Canada have identified victims as mainly White (Gallagher, Bradford, & Pease, 2008; Lord, Boudreaux & Lanning, 2001) or Caucasian descent (Boudreaux, Lord, & Dutra, 1999; Dalley & Ruscoe, 2003); female; and between 13 and 16 years of age (Dalley & Ruscoe, 2003; Gallagher et al, 2008). General offender characteristics include: average age of 27; White (Lord et al, 2001) or Caucasian descent (Boudreaux et al, 1999); unmarried; live alone or with their parents; have alcohol, drug or mental health issues; and are unemployed (Dalley & Ruscoe, 2003; Hanfland, Keppel, & Weis, 1997).
Although there are International studies there is no research in New Zealand. Lack of information results in knowledge gaps as it is debateable whether knowledge from other jurisdictions is applicable to New Zealand cases. To address this knowledge gap this study examined data from resolved cases recorded and coded by the New Zealand Criminal Profiling Unit and the National Intelligence Application (NIA) database in New Zealand between 1987 and 2011.
Employing descriptive statistics, the study analyses 47 solved CASSA cases in New Zealand. The study assesses the victim incident reports; victim and offender demographics; offender modus operandi (MO); victim activity at time of contact with the offender; the distance travelled by the offender to the initial contact scene; and further variables. During the data analysis distinct victim and offender profiles emerged. In particular, patterns became apparent relating to (1) the age of offenders and the age of victims; (2) the increase in CASSA crime rates; (3) the time of day the victim was abducted; and (4) the distance between the offenders’ home and initial contact scene.
Findings from this study showed similarities to the US, UK and Canada research. This included: victim age (i.e. 13-16 years old); victim gender (i.e. female); offender gender (i.e. male); offender ethnicity (i.e. Caucasian descent); distance from offenders home to initial contact scene (i.e. 0-5km radius); and time of the offence (i.e. weekday). There were also visible differences between International research and New Zealand such as the male victim age (i.e. 0-3 years old);victim ethnicity (i.e. Indigenous Maori descent); offender age (i.e. 37-40 years old); and the number of sexual acts committed against a victim (i.e. mean of 3.7 acts per case). The study was not without limitations, including the inability to reference New Zealand literature and the research and literature primarily based on description. Furthermore, the small sample size of CASSA cases and the lack of available and/or reliable data also limited the study. These will be discussed in further detail, as well as how future research can enhance the knowledge of stranger CASSA cases in New Zealand.