National Study of Law Enforcement Agencies' Policies Regarding Missing Children and Homeless Youth, 1986 (ICPSR 6127)

Principal Investigator(s): Collins, James J.; McCalla, Mary Ellen; Powers, Linda L.; Stutts, Ellen S.


The purpose of the study was to provide information about law enforcement agencies' handling of missing child cases, including the rates of closure for these cases, agencies' initial investigative procedures for handling such reports, and obstacles to investigation. Case types identified include runaway, parental abduction, stranger abduction, and missing for unknown reasons. Other key variables provide information about the existence and types of policies within law enforcement agencies regarding missing child reports, such as a waiting period and classification of cases. The data also contain information about the cooperation of and use of the National Center of Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) and the National Crime Information Center (NCIC).

Access Notes

  • The public-use data files in this collection are available for access by the general public. Access does not require affiliation with an ICPSR member institution.


DS1:  Data File - Download All Files (11.138 MB)
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DS2:  SAS Data Definition Statements - Download All Files (0.809 MB)

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Study Description


Collins, James J., Mary Ellen McCalla, Linda L. Powers, and Ellen S. Stutts. National Study of Law Enforcement Agencies' Policies Regarding Missing Children and Homeless Youth, 1986. ICPSR06127-v1. Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], 1995.

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This study was funded by:

  • United States Department of Justice. Office of Justice Programs. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (86-MC-CX-K036)

Scope of Study

Subject Terms:    homelessness, kidnapping, law enforcement agencies, missing children, parental kidnapping, police investigations, policies and procedures

Geographic Coverage:    United States

Time Period:   

  • 1986

Date of Collection:   

  • 1987-05--1987-07

Universe:    Law enforcement agencies in the United States.

Data Type(s):    survey data


Sample:    A national probability sample of approximately 1,200 law enforcement agencies was selected from the Law Enforcement Agency Directory compiled by the United States Census Bureau. The agencies were screened to identify those that investigate missing child reports, and 1,060 questionnaires were mailed to agencies that had investigated a missing child case in the past five years. A stratified, simple random sample was designed to produce approximately 800 responding agencies. Law enforcement agencies were stratified jointly by two characteristics expected to affect investigative policies and practices: number of sworn officers (separated into less than 50, 50-99, 100-299, and 300+) and region of the country (Northeast, Midwest, South, and West).

Data Source:


Extent of Processing:   ICPSR data undergo a confidentiality review and are altered when necessary to limit the risk of disclosure. ICPSR also routinely creates ready-to-go data files along with setups in the major statistical software formats as well as standard codebooks to accompany the data. In addition to these procedures, ICPSR performed the following processing steps for this data collection:

  • Standardized missing values.
  • Checked for undocumented or out-of-range codes.


Original ICPSR Release:   1995-10-30

Version History:

  • 2005-11-04 On 2005-03-14 new files were added to one or more datasets. These files included additional setup files as well as one or more of the following: SAS program, SAS transport, SPSS portable, and Stata system files. The metadata record was revised 2005-11-04 to reflect these additions.

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