Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Security: Personal Security. Kidnappings.

Personal Security: Express Kidnappings

The Book: International Security:

Express kidnapping is a crime which has boomed over the last decade with incidents taking
place globally from Caracas to Vladivostok. There have been cases in London where victims have been snatched from the street and kept in captivity for several days until their bank accounts have been emptied via ATM machines etc.

One classic example of an express kidnapping that I know of happened to a businessman
visiting a Central American country. When he arrived at the airport he went to the taxi rank and
got a taxi to take him to his hotel, about 10 minutes into the drive the taxi pulled over and in
jumped two men with guns. The victim was handcuffed, threatened and robbed to start with. He
was driven to numerous ATM machines until he could not take out any more money on his bank
cards. As he was being driven around one of the kidnappers was making phone calls trying to
sell him to other groups, luckily for him no one wanted to buy him. The criminals had his
passport and took his picture on a cell phone, then told him if he reported anything to the police
they would find out, as they worked with them, then they would come and kill him. The man
went to his Embassy and they told him he was lucky, everything he lost could be replaced and
not to report the incident to the police.

The chances are that the fact this man was a foreigner could have saved him from being sold
on and into a ransom situation. These were not sophisticated criminals who had the skills and
resources to be able to handle a high profile kidnapping. As I have stated before criminals don’t
want attention and the kidnapping of foreigners usually brings attention from the international
media and the Embassy of the victim, which means embarrassment for the government and
pressure on local law enforcement to do something.

Express kidnappings are safer and more convenient for criminals, who do not need to be highly
skilled and connected to pull them off. In a typical kidnapping the criminals will usually go to a
wealthy area and look for a suitable target, someone who looks like they have some money and
then snatch them. Once they have the victim they’ll be robbed, taken to ATM’s, sexually
assaulted etc. If the victim has a cell phone the criminals may use it to contact their family for a
ransom, the amounts requested in express kidnappings tend to be low. This is where locals
make better targets than visitors; In say, Venezuela it would be easier and quicker for a resident
businessman in Caracas to get and deliver a ten thousand dollars ransom to kidnappers than it
would be for the family of a kidnapped student who may live in Helsinki.

The main problems with express kidnappings are that the kidnappers are generally not what
could be classed as high end criminals. This means they tend to be more violent and
unpredictable than groups that target higher profile victims for large ransoms.

One tactic that criminals are using throughout South America is to contact the families of people
who they have just stolen cell phones from or they know to be in places like cinemas etc. where
cell phones are usually turned off. The criminals then claim to have kidnapped the owner of the
cell phone or the person in the cinema and demand a ransom of a few thousand dollars, that the
family needs to pay within a couple of hours. Now consider how you would react if you received
a phone call from someone claiming to have kidnapped a close family member and telling you
to drop off two thousand dollars at a location in two hours or they’ll be killed. You would want to
contact your family member but if they don’t have or are not answering their cell phone, what
are you going to do?

If you have any questions on kidnapping prevention feel free to contact me!


Orlando Wilson
Risks Incorporated

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