Article 41: Preventive measures against kidnapping

By Sqn Ldr S.Ausaf Husain (Retd)

Dawn June 19, 2007

IN my letter ‘kidnapping and hostage survival’ (June 14), I have explained the orderal, which a victim of kidnapping has to go through during the period of his or her captivity and suggestions how to react while under hostage situation. I would now like to explain certain measures which if taken can save the people from becoming a victim of kidnapping.

Kidnappings just do not occur suddenly. These are always planned. The planning for kidnapping starts several weeks or may be months before the actual time of action. The kidnappers observe their target and carryout detailed survey of the area to select the suitable site and time for kidnapping. During the survey they observe and note maximum details regarding the person whom they want to kidnap. For example, his or her daily routine, routes followed, social activities, personal habits, security arrangements and identities of family members etc.

A kidnapper’s actions are influenced by their ability to operate safely and confidently. They ultimately release the victim, or kill him or exert additional psychological pressure on the Victims Company or family as the effect of a kidnapping specially on spouses and children can be particularly traumatic, in the hopes of coercing the payment of the demanded ransom or concession.

While targeting a victim kidnappers and other criminals have been known to evaluate their chances of success based on the following vulnerabilities: -
  1. Apparent wealth.The potential gain from kidnapping and the apparent ability of the would be victim or his company to pay ransom or an extortion demand.
  2. Media value. Individual or corporate name recognition, product or service identification and your standing in business, government, entertainment industry or social circle all add to your value as a potential target
  3. Family. Spouses and children of the targeted victim are particularly valuable and prized targets.
  4.  Accessibility. The paradigm of the path of least resistance applies. A ‘hard’ or protected target is less likely to be a victim than a ‘soft’ or vulnerable target.

As a security professional I suggest following points as a guide for reducing chances of becoming a victim of kidnapping: -

  1. Increase your awareness by learning more about the nature and scope of the threats that exist in the area. Read the accounts of criminal activity in the newspapers and learn from the experience of others.
  2. Lower your profile. It’s the perceived wealth, which makes you a target for one class of criminal, while your apparent vulnerability makes you a target for another.
  3. Avoid potentially dangerous situation recognizing a potentially dangerous situation without taking action to avoid involvement is foolhardy.
  4. Respond properly if confronted. The appropriate response to a threat of kidnapping covers a broad spectrum-from passive compliance to disabling the attacker and escaping.
  5. Adopt and follow all principals of good security.
  6. Use common sense.
  7. Keep yourself well informed about the day-to-day criminal activities in the country.
  8. Exercise prudent judgment.
  9. Conduct your personal vulnerability assessment.
  10. Those who frequently travel within the country or abroad should make an even more detailed personal vulnerability assessment.
  11. Familiarize your family members with the personal vulnerability assessment made. But be careful not to scare them.
  12. Talk candidly about safety concerns with your family especially as spouses and children besides being targeted, could carelessly disclose information regarding your activities, which can lead to problems.

Professional kidnappers also apply the principle of risk reduction in the selection of target. Their objective, is of course, is to reduce the risk of failure. Given a chance, they will focus their efforts on a target that offers the best chance of success that is a victim whose personal security habits are lax and whose patterns of activities are unpredictable. By following the above suggestions, you will complicate kidnapper’s planning to such an extent and degree, that, they will most likely look elsewhere for a victim.