Kidnapping for Ransom (KFR) has become one of the biggest methods for making money amongst criminal networks outside of the United States, Canada, and Western Europe. Kidnapping for ransom does occur in the United States, Canada, and Western Europe but they are far less frequent than places like Mexico, Honduras, Columbia, India, and Pakistan. Kidnappings are not always for money and may sometimes happen for ideological purposes. We are not discounting those types of abductions. Similarly, human traffickers often use the same methodology to abduct their victims. We will call this methodology the abduction cycle.
Kidnappers, Traffickers, and others who desire to abduct people, rarely abduct anyone spontaneously. The first step is always spotting a potential target. Kidnappers often employ a small network to watch for potential victims who meet the human requirements needed to meet their objectives. As a traveler and a citizen, it is important to be informed of who is being abducted at your destination and even in your own neighborhood. Who is it that these networks are trying to find? These requirements will vary from network to network as will the purpose of their abduction. A KFR network will look for several things
- A person at the airport who displays wealth and affluence
- A person oblivious to their own personal security, and vulnerabilities
- A person who will tug at the heartstrings of the public at large, also known as a “Sympathetic Client”
Kidnappers, traffickers, and other abductors will then begin surveillance of the potential target. Surveillance will have several phases which will include assessing for virtual vulnerabilities and physical vulnerabilities. The kidnappers will observe patterns of life which include times, places, habits, routes, and places where the kidnappers with have the strategic advantage. A common mistake westerners make is to assume that the host country’s law enforcement personnel are not part of these networks. A KFR network will observe for some of the following things:
- A person whose online presence, including public records, indicates a high net worth
- A person whose choice of hotel room and security posture makes them a soft target
- A person who leaves at the same time, by the same route, and same means of conveyance every day, with little situational awareness
- A person whose image projection demonstrates that they are vulnerable to becoming a victim
- A person with a vice such as heavy drinking, drugs, prostitution, or other things that would place them in a vulnerable situation
Kidnappers, traffickers, and other abductors then go into the targeting phase. This phase includes picking the time, place, and method for the abduction. Targeting will often include rehearsals and other indicators such as:
- Calling your hotel room to determine your availability
- Sending unwanted maintenance or room service
- Trying to pre-position a taxi especially for you
- Following you around for several days (If you keep seeing the same people over and over again through the day, or same vehicles, you are being followed.)
- Dry runs such as cutting you off on a road to determine your driving skills, or bumping into you on the street to determine your situational awareness
Kidnappers, traffickers, and other abductors then go into the acquisition phase. This is the phase where the person is abducted. There are three things to remember at this point and that is that they will most likely use speed, surprise, and violence to gain control of the victim and cause learned helplessness. This is where they will take advantage of the shock of capture to gain control and get them as far away as possible.
- Speed could include ramming, disabling, or blocking your vehicle or suddenly gaining access to you when you least suspect it.
- Surprise is almost always used in conjunction with speed to ensure the shock of capture. It causes the freeze response in your sympathetic nervous system.
- Violence is almost always used and will be used repetitively to instill learned helplessness. The violence will likely come physically, verbally, and sexually. The more you fear your captors the easier it will be for them to control you.
Kidnappers, traffickers, and other abductors will then go into the transportation phase. This involves getting you as far away from the abduction as possible.
- You can expect to be moved and transported in several vehicles.
- You can expect to be held at multiple locations.
- You can expect to be restrained, blind folded, possibly drugged, and stuffed in a trunk or other compartment where you will lose track of place, time, and direction.
This phase may go on for weeks, or months. Expect the kidnappers to question you about your phone, family, wealth, and other potential victims.
Kidnappers, traffickers, or other abductors will go into the holding phase. This is where the kidnappers believe they have a reasonable amount of safety and security. In many cases, this location may be in plain sight. It is not uncommon for some of these locations to be near a police station, or in an affluent neighborhood where nothing bad ever happens. It is important to know that you are likely to be moved around from location to location.
Kidnappers, traffickers, and other abductors will transition to a resolution stage when their objectives have been met, their use for the victim has been exhausted, or they feel like they may be caught. This phase may happen in a number of ways:
- Ransom is negotiated and paid to the kidnappers
- Another negotiated solution takes place through law enforcement or a third party intermediary
- Government or local law enforcement uses a kinetic method to capture or kill the abductors and rescue the victim
- The abductors choose to release the victim
- The abductors choose to kill the victim
We encourage everyone to obtain basic training on how abductors operate and to learn situational awareness. It is not uncommon for citizens to tell us that they are afraid of knowing because they fear it will make them paranoid. We argue that knowledge makes you safer, and if learned and practiced, it will simply become part of who you are. We will be teaching Anti Kidnapping and Hostage Survival in New York from March 6-8, and a basic situational awareness course at the same location on March 9-10th. We hope to see you there.