Mike Clayton has managed over three hundred  private investigation cases worldwide and can pinpoint in 87% of the cases, where the mistakes were made, which determined why the kidnapper chose the victim.

Part I of III

Kidnap for Ransom

  • Systemic corruption – Mexico: weak law enforcement system
  • A profitable business model –high return with low risk that can be repeated
  • The residual effect of kidnap for ransom

How is it that kidnap for ransom is such a low risk business with a high return when there are so many laws against it? How is it that people who have very little education, except for “street smarts”, are able to plan and execute a business model, which seldom fails? In all cases examined, the answer is the same, systemic corruption.  Often local law enforcement is on the kidnappers’ side so that kidnappers are able to coordinate and execute the crime easily.

As in any successful business model, a general strategy is followed. In the case of kidnap for ransom, the bad guys have a plan as well. They give thought and consideration to whom they are going to kidnap by profiling their victims. They organize where the kidnap will take place, who will do the actual kidnap,   the escape route to be used, and how the victim will be held, the location of the safe house, etc.. They know how much profit they will need and generally how long the kidnap will last. With planning and the element of surprise, 97% of all kidnapping attempts are successful.

There is a residual effect that results from a kidnap for ransom. In 99% of the cases, the family suffers the most. The next group who suffers is the company that the victim works for or owns, and the person who suffers the least of the three is the victim. The victim is usually taken care of, albeit by killers, they are killers with a plan that have a business strategy with a high degree of success.

Understanding how kidnappers work is the first step in learning how not to be an easy target, which reduces the chance of a kidnap for ransom.

Kidnap for Ransom – Part II

  • Traditional vs. non-traditional kidnaps
  • Who kidnappers kidnap
  • Important counter measures

Traditional kidnappers will analyze their target. One or two members of a traditional kidnap group will have the job of selecting possible targets, which takes time. They select possible targets from the business community and/or the high social economic groups, and then they surveil their targets choosing the most predictable ones from the list. The non-traditional or non-professionals have fewer members, they are more spontaneous in their actions and choice of targets, and are likely to be street criminals or gang members. Cases from non-traditional groups are usually shorter in duration than traditional groups, the victim is usually randomly selected, and they can be very violent.

Potential targets are owners of businesses who are, or appear to be, able to pay a ransom, and/or their family members, and business executives; anyone who looks like they can pay a ransom. Where kidnaps frequently occur, executives, travelers, or high net worth individuals and their family members are targeted.

To protect kidnap gangs and to gather information, the police are sometimes used by the kidnappers. Information can be gathered in various ways, such as, by surveillance from employees or gained by an ex-employee. Also, information may be gathered through an ongoing business project where management may not be taking proper security measures to safeguard themselves.

By knowing the steps kidnappers take in analyzing who to take, individuals can take counter measures to lower their profile. However for measures to be effective, daily and constant attention must be given. The ultimate goal is to make the person a more difficult target so that kidnappers will then move on to  an easier one.

Since kidnappers surveil their targets, a good counter measure is to break routine. Vary routes daily, such as to and from residences, hotels, and offices. Also, vary the time of departures and arrivals. This should be part of the daily routine, that is, not having a routine.

On each route, choose a “safe area”.  Look for places on or close to the routes going from point A-to-B. Safe areas are places that have an armed guard, such as a bank, hospital, schools, a residence or business with an armed guard stationed on the street side of the property, or it could be a private parking area. If surveillance is suspected, go to the safe area, call coworkers, friends, or a trusted security response team.

In addition, at all times be aware of who is around, if suspicious people or vehicles are noticed, REACT! Be proactive!

On a daily basis:

  • Vary the travel time and routes used between point A-to-B
  • Learn the safe areas, which can be used for protection
  • Be aware of surveillance, when suspicious people or vehicles are noticed – REACT!

Seldom, potential targets know that they are being targeted. Remember, understanding that the risk is there is the first step in countering an incident. Next, make security an ongoing practice, and REACT proactively to situations. The kidnappers only need to know two things; can the victim or victim’s family or company pay a ransom, and where will the target be at a given time? If they know these two things,  it is often too late, and it is highly likely that person will be kidnapped.

Kidnap for Ransom – Part III

  • Surviving a Kidnap – Scenario
  • Tactics for Survival

Scenario – When the victim was released, he returned in relatively good physical condition and in spirits. He remarked that it had not gone as well for his cousin who was also taken. When he elaborated, he said that his cousin cried and complained a lot, which infuriated the kidnappers. He said that they severely beat him on a daily basis and withheld food from him. When asked about the difference with his own conditions, he said that he was able to watch television and was given regular meals as long as he kept quiet and followed the kidnappers’ rules.

At the beginning, the cousins were kept together and during that time he was able to calm down his cousin, but at the end of the second day, they were separated from each other. He said that he could hear his cousin’s cries from the maltreatment. Over the course of their captivity, the kidnappers maintained his cousin in a small storage closet under a staircase.

So what made the difference? Attitude and consequently – behavior. A victim has done nothing to deserve abuse, but because of the differences in the attitudes of these two men, their subsequent treatment was vastly different. An attitude of tolerance, but with dignity, is extremely important. Although each case is different and each person responds differently under stress, there are tactics that can be used to minimize maltreatment.

In the event of a kidnap, review all of the details of what has happened. Be aware of the surroundings and quietly review them. Meditate and know that everything possible is being done to gain a quick release. Faith is crucial, and the belief that one is not alone. Pray for strength and guidance. Do not personalize insults, denigrative acts, and threats by the kidnappers, or for that matter, others being held.

Be sympathetic to the captors; show and maintain a good attitude. A useful tactic in just about every case is, if possible, to befriend one of the guards, and rely on that person to gain information on the gang’s plans regarding a possible release and other useful information.

A victim of a kidnap for ransom should avoid the following conduct:

  • Do not be irritating, intolerant, show extreme insecurity like crying, and inability to adapt.
  • If asked to do some work like cleaning up an area, do it diligently.
  • Do not be verbally abusive to the kidnappers or try to dominate the person guarding you.
  • Do not cry and show vulnerabilities.
  • Do not refuse a meal from the kidnappers.
  • If you attempt to escape and fail, the consequences may be devastating.

Awareness of behavior modification may help individuals survive a critical situation. Remember, these tactics have helped in the past, and be encouraged that new ones can be developed as circumstances play out. The key is to be able to adapt to the situation and return home in the best shape possible, both physically and mentally.