In our last article, we discussed the geography of kidnapping, investigating the regions of the world with the highest incidence of the crime. In this article, we will be examining the potential targets of kidnapping and determine the types of individuals who stand the highest risk of abduction.
It should come as no surprise that those capable of generating a large ransom payment are those that stand a higher risk of becoming targets. This is why the wealthy and affluent tend to be the most popular targets of economic kidnapping. However, it is not only the super-rich who are victims of this type of crime. Many middle-class professionals and businessmen have been targeted as well. In many cases, however, it is not the principle income earner who is the victim. Rather, it is those closest to them, such as their wives or children.
For many of the same reasons, expatriates are also the targets of kidnapping. Moreover, expatriates suffer from the threat of political, as well as economic kidnapping. Even so, foreigners still tend be abducted less often than native citizens. This is probably because it takes a long time to target, plan and carry out a kidnapping operation, and many travelers are simply not in a country long enough for this process to be completed. Additionally, it may be considerably more difficult to coordinate a ransom payment for an expatriate than for a native countryman.
Even so, expatriates operating in areas such as Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan suffer from increased risk of kidnapping. Moreover, the abduction of expats in places such as Nigeria has become prevalent enough to support a veritable kidnapping industry. Due to the threat of kidnapping in areas of conflict and instability, certain political figures such as diplomats, government officials and military officers are also at higher risk of abduction. However, individuals such as these tend to have a security staff and are, therefore, considerably more difficult to target.
Apolitical individuals from modest backgrounds can also be the targets of kidnapping, yet lack the security resources available to those more high profile. Although the immediate family of a person of modest means may not be able to generate a high ransom, an extended familial group can. In tribal societies, such as Iraq, a tribe or clan consisting of thousands of individuals is often able to amass a large ransom in order to secure the release of a fellow tribe member.
Interestingly, criminals themselves are often the targets of abduction. In the southwestern United States and Mexico, narco-traffickers, human traffickers, gang members, and their families have often become the targets of kidnapping and abduction. In some cases, these abductions are a form of retaliation, or serve as a warning to a rival criminal organization. It is these criminal-on-criminal abductions that make the city of Phoenix the so-called second kidnapping capital of the world.
It is no secret that many humanitarians and aid workers operate in some of the most hostile and austere environments in the world. Unfortunately, these individuals often underestimate their risk of being kidnapped. Even apolitical and non-controversial humanitarian organizations can be the targets of criminals, as good intentions do not make one immune from crime. Humanitarian workers, especially newly arrived ones, are sometimes viewed with suspicion. In many parts of the world, they are seen as outsiders harboring a hidden agenda or motive. In some instances, aid workers have even been accused of being spies or the agents of a foreign government.
Like humanitarian workers, reporters and journalists will often travel to dangerous locations in order to cover important events. Unlike some humanitarian groups, however, reporters are rarely viewed as apolitical. Journalists are often affiliated with the policies of the country they are based out of, whether they agree with these policies are not. Moreover, many governments in the world view journalists, particularly Western journalists, as a security threat. As a result, reporters are exposed to the threat of being detained by official government forces in addition to the threat of abduction by criminal organizations.
Kidnap and ransom insurance, if disclosed, can also increase the risk of abduction to an individual. This is why many insurance providers demand that companies keep such information secret, even from the employees who are covered. However, one kidnapping can quickly lead to another as word gets out that a particular company, organization, or government is willing to pay large sums. As such, organizations who have recently paid a ransom should carefully review their security policies as they are at increased risk of being targeted again.
And Everyone Else
Hopefully, this article has demonstrated that while some groups have a higher risk than others, almost anyone can be a target of kidnapping. It should also be noted that following proper security procedures can substantially decrease an individual’s risk of being kidnapped. After all, most criminals tend to prey on the easiest target in their immediate environment. That is why the next part of this series will describe the precautions individuals should take in order to avoid becoming the victim of abduction.