In our last article, we presented a brief introduction to kidnapping and described the different variants of the crime. In this article, we will be investigating where the incidence of kidnapping is greatest. It is important to note that kidnapping tends to be highly concentrated by region and by country. For example, almost half of all kidnapping on the globe occurs in Latin America. However, Somalia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nigeria and Iraq account for much of the remaining half. Moreover, kidnapping tends to be concentrated in particular areas within any given country.
Of the world’s kidnapping hot spots, Mexico is perhaps the most troubling. The threat of kidnapping is greatest in the country’s capital and in the states along the northern border. Some have called Mexico City the kidnapping capital of the world. Indeed, the number of kidnapping-for-ransom cases tripled between 2005 and 2012. There are well over 1,000 reported kidnapping incidents in Mexico each year, however, the number of kidnappings is significantly higher as there is little trust in police and other law enforcement authorities. Indeed, over 20 percent of the kidnapping cases in Mexico are perpetrated by the police or the military themselves.
Kidnapping is also a concern in other countries of Latin America such as Venezuela, Haiti, Brazil, and Columbia. Venezuela’s capital, Caracas, has become one of the most dangerous cities in all of Latin America. Kidnappings, as well as other crime, have continued to rise, despite the efforts of the government to stem the flow. In contrast, Colombia, a former kidnappers playground, has been able to dramatically reduce the incidence of kidnapping although it still remains a concern. Haiti is also a high threat area even though the rate has decreased recently as result of an influx of UN peacekeepers. Additionally, there is a significant threat in Brazil, particularly in Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo and Campinhas.
While Latin America leads the world in kidnapping, there are areas of Asia that remain just as dangerous. The crime is particularly common in Afghanistan as the Taliban often ransoms individuals in order to raise money for their operations. Indeed, there is a market for kidnap victims in Afghanistan as the Taliban is known to purchase abductees from criminal gangs. Kidnapping is also a problem across the border in Pakistan where there were 474 cases of kidnapping for ransom in 2010 and 467 cases in 2011. Although most of the kidnappings in the country involved native Pakistanis, there were at least 7 foreigners kidnapped in the country between July 2011 in January 2012.
While few nations are as dangerous as Afghanistan and Pakistan, kidnapping is also a problem in more stable Asian countries. There is a significant threat of kidnapping in the Philippines, while the crime remains a concern in India, China and Indonesia. In fact, there were almost 35,000 reported kidnappings in India in 2009. The city of Delhi alone experienced almost 3,000 kidnappings in 2010. Kidnappings are most common in Mumbai, New Delhi, Behar and the Assam region of India. The crime is also on the rise on the other side of India’s northeastern border in China. Although foreigners are rarely victims, the rate of kidnapping for ransom in China has been increasing with the new Chinese upper class proving the most popular targets.
There is also a significant and widespread threat of kidnapping in Africa. Countries such as Somalia, Nigeria, Algeria, Kenya, Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo suffer from an increased incidence of the crime. As is well known, kidnapping and hijacking tend to be particularly popular within Somalia and off its coast. Likewise, the regional affiliate of Al Qaeda in Algeria has been known to target expatriates for kidnapping. Moreover, there have been several hundred kidnappings of expats in Nigeria, especially in the volatile area around the Niger Delta. In central Africa, the Lord’s Resistance Army, a rebel group, has been responsible for kidnappings in Sudan, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Like many other regions of the world, the Middle East is also known to have several kidnapping hotspots. Following the US invasion, incidence of kidnapping exploded throughout the country of Iraq. Although the security situation has improved since 2007, the risk of kidnapping remains very high throughout the country, with the possible exception of the Kurdish North. There is also significant risk of kidnapping in Yemen. Unfortunately, the threat in the country is likely to become even more severe given the recent political instability and the presence of Al Qaeda in the area. Additionally, there is a threat of abduction in Iran, although the situation is somewhat different. While the risk of criminal kidnapping in Iran remains low, given the geopolitical tensions, there is a significant risk that Iranian authorities could wrongfully detain any traveler who appears pro-Western.
This article has highlighted the world’s kidnapping hotspots. Although many countries, such as Iraq and Afghanistan, are known to be highly hazardous, it is important to note that kidnapping can occur in any country. Indeed, some have dubbed Phoenix, Arizona the “second capital of kidnapping,” due to the high incidence of abductions in the city. Moreover, kidnapping remains a concern in other Western countries such as Spain, Greece, Georgia and the Caucasus region of Russia. As a result, travelers should be aware of the threat of kidnapping regardless of where they travel.
While this article has investigated why kidnapping can occur almost anywhere, our next article will detail how kidnapping can happen to almost anyone. Next, we investigate the victims of kidnapping in Kidnapping Part III: The Targets of the Crime.