One critical element when discussing personal security, especially in the developing world is to have an understanding of the various types of kidnapping that exist and the associated mitigation and prevention strategies that you can employ.

First off, it’s important to note that in the US in particular and most of Western Europe kidnapping for economic or political reasons is a relatively rare crime. One exception is “Tiger Kidnapping” which is prevalent in parts of Europe.

Furthermore an overwhelming number of kidnapping incidents are resolved and usually quickly. This is not true in developing countries so those who work or travel there need to be aware of the associated risks and the methodologies used.
First off let’s discuss the primary types of kidnappings in the US and then move on to the variations prevalent elsewhere in the world.

Parental/Custody Kidnapping: These incidents, which make up the majority of the kidnappings in the US arise from custody disputes where a parent or other relative abducts a child or children.

Predatory Kidnapping: An abduction where the victim is taken by a predator to commit a sexual or other violent crime where there is no economic motivation. These incidents are the reason why many crime prevention experts in the US warn about the risk of being taken to “crime scene 2”.

Other types of kidnapping which are more prevalent in developing nations:

Kidnap for Ransom: a traditional kidnapping where the victim is abducted and held while the victim’s family or employer is contacted and a ransom is demanded.

Express Kidnapping: Sometimes also called a lightning kidnapping. This is an increasingly prevalent crime where the victim is selected quickly and held for a short period of time usually from several hours to a day or two. Sometimes several days. The victim is typically taken to ATM machines and made to withdraw the daily maximum. In some cases the victim’s family may also be required to pay a small ransom.

Political Kidnapping: Kidnapping a victim or victims with the intent to exchange them for prisoners being held by the authorities or for some political concession from the government.

Virtual Kidnapping: Not really a kidnapping at all but more an extortion. The “kidnappers” identify when a potential victim is incommunicado for a particular period of time usually due to travel, being in a movie or similar event. They then contact the victim’s family and claim to be holding the victim and demand a small ransom to be paid immediately. The family typically panics and unable to reach the victim, pays the ransom.

Tiger Kidnapping: This is a bit of an exception to my comments above as this crime is somewhat prevalent in the Republic of Ireland and the UK. Typically the victim is a bank manager or other financial services manager with access to cash or other valuables. In these cases the victim’s residence is invaded and the family held hostage. While the family is being held by part of the kidnap gang the bank manager is taken to his place of business and forced to turn over cash or other valuables to secure the release of his family.

There are also some rarer types of kidnapping that most expatriates and travelers are unlikely to encounter:

Revenge kidnappings: these most often occur to persons involved in some type of criminal activity — often done by one criminal group against members of another in order to send a message. These incidents also occur occasionally in areas where there are family, tribal or clan rivalries but again are usually restricted to members of the rival clan.

Bridal kidnappings: In some parts of Central Asia this is still used as a mating ritual of sorts. A man kidnaps a woman as his prospective bride and holds her for several days. At this point her honor is called into question and her family agrees to her marrying the kidnapper.

This is by no means an exhaustive list but most other types of kidnap events could likely be classified as a subset of the above types or refers to a tactic for kidnapping such as miracle fishing kidnaps or mass kidnaps.

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