Times have changed a lot since I was a kid. I had lots of freedom. I could go where I wanted without saying where that would be as long as I showed up for dinner exactly at 5 p.m. I don't really think my mom had a clue where all I went, I think she thought I stayed in our neighborhood. Mostly I did, but once in awhile I got the urge to go visit someone much farther away and I walked there or road my bike. (This was in the 40s.) I also rode the streetcar to downtown L.A. from the time I was 10 with my cousin and later with friends as a teen. I saw plenty, but didn't tell the worst to my mom because I knew she'd curtail my trips.
One time my sister did disappear from the neighborhood when she was only 5. The police were called. Everyone looked for her and she finally turned up about 3 hours later, then the police arrived. I don't really remember where she was, but it didn't make any of the parents keep a better eye on us. Of course we only had radio and newspapers back in the day and we didn't learn about bad things happening anywhere but our general area which was Southern California. The news seemed to concentrate on the movie stars of the day. I don't remember any stories of child disappearances from that time and I'm sure there must have been.
When my oldest girl was only 2, my mom left her on a fenced in front porch while she went in back to hang up clothes. When mom returned, my child was gone. She called the police immediately, within a short while they found her 5 miles away on a street corner. Supposition was that the abductor had a police radio and hear the police were already looking for her.
As time went on and I had a houseful of kids an lived in a rather small beach town, our kids were allowed the free run of the neighborhood. My four-year old disappeared and of course the police were called. We learned 3 other 4 year-olds were gone too. To make a long story short, around 4 p.m. a crossing guard (who I knew from PTA) went home to find four little kids in her back yard. They'd managed to climb over the fence using a trash can, but couldn't get back out. They were kept company by her chow dog and ate lots of oranges from her backyard tree.
She tried to drive the kids home, but they had no idea which way to go. She called the police and they delivered them. What we learned is they were trying to find the jungle. They saw the dog through the fence and thought he was a lion. So everything turned out okay--but really scarey for long, long time.
Today, most people would not let their children roam free like we did in years past. Just walking to school can be dangerous. We hear on the news all the time about children being abducted.
I do think it's a shame though, I know all my traipsing around is what made me so independent and figuring I could do anything.