In our last three articles on kidnapping, we covered the types, geography, and targets of the crime. In this piece, we will present practical information on how to avoid becoming a victim of abduction. While the past few articles should help individuals assess their risk, this piece will identify clear steps to protect people from this crime. The following are ten tips that can be taken in order to reduce the risk of kidnapping.
Tip 1: Establish Residential Security
One of the first steps towards comprehensive personal security is ensuring proper residential security. This starts with basic things such as keeping windows and doors secured at all times and ensuring that all locks are of good quality. Individuals should also consider where they choose to live. For some people, an apartment complex may provide more security than a standalone home, as criminals are reluctant to target places where there are a lot of potential witnesses. At-risk persons should also consider installing a security system or working with a security service in order to safeguard their residence. In some cases, high-profile individuals may even need to hire armed guards and/or contract with expert security consultants.
Tip 2: Utilize Cell Phones and Itineraries
There are other simple steps individuals should take that can drastically increase their security. For example, it is generally a good idea to carry a cell phone at all times. Cell phones are perhaps the most versatile safety tool that an individual can employ, as they prove helpful in almost every circumstance. In addition to carrying a cell phone, it is wise for people to ensure that others know about their daily comings and goings. During formal business travel, or travel to hazardous places, individuals should provide a comprehensive itinerary to a trusted associate. Emergencies can be resolved much more quickly when law enforcement has an idea of approximately when and where a person went missing.
Tip 3: Act, Dress, and Drive Modestly
One of the chief motivating factors for kidnapping operations is the prospect of a large ransom. As such, it is best to avoid ostentatious displays of wealth. Valuable items such as jewelry and expensive electronic devices should be kept from view. People should also carefully consider the type of automobile they drive, as this is often the most conspicuous indication of income. Additionally, individuals should try to avoid wearing clothing that will make them stand out, since an atypical or lavish wardrobe can also signify a person’s wealth.
Tip 4: Secure Your Data
As with almost everything in the digital age, properly securing data is necessary to protect oneself. However, such information is not limited to passwords, identity information and credit cards. It also includes addresses, phone numbers, travel plans, and information about family members. The amount of people who have access to this sort of data should be limited as much as possible. Data protection is particularly important for firms and organizations. These groups should establish systems to protect the information of their employees. Additionally, background checks should be run on employees who have access to sensitive material or anyone who will be familiarized with the security system of an organization, including often overlooked personnel such as janitors, maids and gardeners.
Tip 5: Vary Your Routine
While data protection is important, individuals should also vary their routines in order to ensure that others garner as little information about them as possible. After all, most kidnapping for ransom operations involve extensive surveillance in the early stages. This surveillance is conducted to discern a target’s routine so that an operational plan can be formulated. If criminals cannot detect any distinct pattern, they will be hesitant to carry out the act. That is why it is imperative for at-risk persons to change their routine as much as possible. This means varying travel times and routes, especially during the daily commute to and from work.
Tip 6: Know Your Area
Many kidnappings occur while individuals are en route. Therefore, several precautions should be taken while on the move. Firstly, it is advisable to be as familiar as possible with the vicinity of travel. Individuals should be aware of the chokepoints and traffic patterns in the areas they are in. It is also a good idea for people to identify safe havens around the places they live, work, and travel. Save havens can be places such as hospitals, police stations, high-security establishments, or simply areas that are more crowded. These havens can be invaluable if a person finds himself in trouble or being pursued.
Tip 7: Drive Deliberately
When driving, at-risk persons should always drive with the windows up and the doors locked. Individuals should avoid getting too close to the car ahead of them and drive in lanes that prevent them from being boxed in. Such tactics can help drivers utilize routes of escape if they are attacked. If a person is ambushed, he should remember that the car is both a shield and a weapon. If possible, it is best to stay in the vehicle and drive away as soon as the situation permits¹. Furthermore, individuals should remember that they can, and should, drive through or over their attackers if their life is in jeopardy and there is no other safe route of egress.
Tip 8: Use Your Shoes
While an automobile provides some advantages, individuals may find that walking on foot can be safe as well. After all, traveling on foot in a large city often means being surrounded constantly by people. There are some advantages to walking as well. For example, it may be easier for pedestrians to avoid chokepoints, vary their routines, and spot surveillance. However, if people choose to walk they should try to walk during daylight hours in crowded areas. Traveling by foot at night or through areas with light pedestrian traffic is considerably less safe than driving.
Tip 9: Meet in a Secure Location
Individuals should also use caution when they are meeting with someone they are not familiar with. After all, there have been many kidnappings where the criminal has passed himself off as a potential business prospect in order to get the target to a place of his choosing. That is why it is generally a good idea to do some background research on potential prospects before deciding on a meeting place. Not only is this good business sense, it is good security sense as well. At-risk individuals should also remember to conduct meetings in public spaces or establishments with good security.
Tip 10: Remain Alert and Vigilant
Of all the strategies that individuals can take in order to protect themselves from kidnapping, the most important is simply remaining alert. Giving the appearance of confidence and vigilance will deter many criminals, who generally prefer easier prey. Remaining alert can also help individuals spot surveillance, anticipate an attack, and quickly identify routes of escape. Furthermore, a vigilant attitude can also provide piece of mind to an at-risk person and a sense of control over their situation.
Individuals who feel that they are at increased risk of kidnapping should consult with security professionals for more in-depth advice. However, the following set of articles can help many people formulate a basic strategy for abduction avoidance. Yet, perhaps the most important security tool that anyone can have is to adopt the right psychological mindset. After all, many consider security precautions to be tedious and a waste of time.
However, at-risk persons should try to avoid becoming complacent and remain vigilant. In some cases, such precautions may mean the difference between life and death
¹Obviously, a person should not attempt to escape in all case. If the attackers have the victim cornered, have heavy weapons, or have set up a roadblock this strategy is not advisable, and it is probably best for individuals and simply comply with the attackers’ demands.