Kidnapping Avoidance & Prevention Now Available in Paperback

Kidnapping_Avoidance_Cover_for_Kindle (2)

Kidnapping Avoidance & Prevention from Integrated Protective Concepts is now available in paperback format from  The book was previously released in E-Book format for Kindle and compatible readers.

Kidnapping Avoidance & Prevention is a 70-page book that covers proactive measures that can be taken to reduce the risk of falling victim to a kidnapping.  Here is a little bit about the content:

A confused tourist gets into the wrong taxi and is expressed kidnapped. A businessman is lured to a bogus meeting and held for ransom. An expatriate consultant is kidnapped after being stopped at an impromptu roadblock. A journalist goes for an interview that turns horribly wrong. A bank manager’s family is held hostage to force him to access bank funds. Kidnapping is a pervasive crime that takes many forms around the world. Kidnapping Avoidance & Prevention will help you understand the different types of kidnappings, how they occur and how to identify ways you can better protect yourself, your family and your personnel. In this book you will learn:

• About different types of kidnappings

• How kidnappers select their victims and the process and methods they use • How to assess your vulnerability

• How to recognize potential ruses and traps

• How to limit information about yourself and your movements

• How to recognize surveillance and other pre-incident activity

• How to use OPSEC principles to protect yourself

 • How to use force multipliers to mitigate risk

• Where to find additional resources

Kidnapping Avoidance & Prevention doesn’t discuss hostage survival or how to handle a kidnapping event; rather it concentrates on proactive measures that can be used to reduce the risk of becoming a victim of a kidnapping.

Both paperback and Kindle versions are available here:

Both versions are also available on many international Amazon sites such as France, UK and Spain.


Kidnapping Primer

One critical element when discussing personal security, especially in the developing world is to have an understanding of the various types of kidnapping that exist and the associated mitigation and prevention strategies that you can employ.

First off, it’s important to note that in the US in particular and most of Western Europe kidnapping for economic or political reasons is a relatively rare crime. One exception is “Tiger Kidnapping” which is prevalent in parts of Europe.

Furthermore an overwhelming number of kidnapping incidents are resolved and usually quickly. This is not true in developing countries so those who work or travel there need to be aware of the associated risks and the methodologies used.
First off let’s discuss the primary types of kidnappings in the US and then move on to the variations prevalent elsewhere in the world.

Parental/Custody Kidnapping: These incidents, which make up the majority of the kidnappings in the US arise from custody disputes where a parent or other relative abducts a child or children.

Predatory Kidnapping: An abduction where the victim is taken by a predator to commit a sexual or other violent crime where there is no economic motivation. These incidents are the reason why many crime prevention experts in the US warn about the risk of being taken to “crime scene 2”.

Other types of kidnapping which are more prevalent in developing nations:

Kidnap for Ransom: a traditional kidnapping where the victim is abducted and held while the victim’s family or employer is contacted and a ransom is demanded.

Express Kidnapping: Sometimes also called a lightning kidnapping. This is an increasingly prevalent crime where the victim is selected quickly and held for a short period of time usually from several hours to a day or two. Sometimes several days. The victim is typically taken to ATM machines and made to withdraw the daily maximum. In some cases the victim’s family may also be required to pay a small ransom.

Political Kidnapping: Kidnapping a victim or victims with the intent to exchange them for prisoners being held by the authorities or for some political concession from the government.

Virtual Kidnapping: Not really a kidnapping at all but more an extortion. The “kidnappers” identify when a potential victim is incommunicado for a particular period of time usually due to travel, being in a movie or similar event. They then contact the victim’s family and claim to be holding the victim and demand a small ransom to be paid immediately. The family typically panics and unable to reach the victim, pays the ransom.

Tiger Kidnapping: This is a bit of an exception to my comments above as this crime is somewhat prevalent in the Republic of Ireland and the UK. Typically the victim is a bank manager or other financial services manager with access to cash or other valuables. In these cases the victim’s residence is invaded and the family held hostage. While the family is being held by part of the kidnap gang the bank manager is taken to his place of business and forced to turn over cash or other valuables to secure the release of his family.

There are also some rarer types of kidnapping that most expatriates and travelers are unlikely to encounter:

Revenge kidnappings: these most often occur to persons involved in some type of criminal activity — often done by one criminal group against members of another in order to send a message. These incidents also occur occasionally in areas where there are family, tribal or clan rivalries but again are usually restricted to members of the rival clan.

Bridal kidnappings: In some parts of Central Asia this is still used as a mating ritual of sorts. A man kidnaps a woman as his prospective bride and holds her for several days. At this point her honor is called into question and her family agrees to her marrying the kidnapper.

This is by no means an exhaustive list but most other types of kidnap events could likely be classified as a subset of the above types or refers to a tactic for kidnapping such as miracle fishing kidnaps or mass kidnaps.

The Miracle Fishing Kidnap Threat

We have repeatedly discussed the pre-operational steps that occur prior to most crimes from similar robbery to assassination and perhaps most notably kidnapping.  These steps include things like surveillance and target selection.  There is at least one type of crime where this does not occur however — at least not in the typical sense — mass kidnappings or “miracle fishing”.  Mass kidnappings often called miracle fishing or pesca milagrosa have been perhaps most common in Latin America, in particular Colombia although it does occur other places as well.

Classic pesca milagrosa reached its zenith in Colombia in the 1990s and early 2000s and was largely perpetrated by the two main leftist guerilla groups, the ELN and the FARC and to a degree by right-wing paramilitary groups.  Most mass kidnappings have involved victims being abducted at an improvised roadblock although in some cases kidnappers enter an establishment like a restaurant or hotel and take all the patrons hostage.

Mass kidnapping may be less common than other types of kidnaps and it may be more geographically isolated to some areas like rural Colombia — so why spend time talking about it?  One key reasons is that most typical proactive security measures have limit usefulness compared to other types of situations.

While there may be a number of ways it can occur (piracy and hostage taking in the horn of Africa or a mass kidnapping from a tourist park as occurred in Uganda) the classic example usually involves a roadblock or unlawful checkpoint — especially in the classic “miracle fishing” scenario in Colombia. The term “Miracle Fishing” refers to the way the perpetrators figuratively “cast a net” and gather “fish”.  They keep the big fish and throw back the little ones.

In these situations the kidnappers will typically set up a roadblock on a stretch of road – sometimes over the crest of a hill or at a blind curve in a road to avoid giving the victim advanced warning.  As cars pull up the roadblock the drivers and passengers are pulled from the vehicle and either assessed at the scene or more likely detained, moved from the scene to a secure location and assessed for valuation at that point.  During the assessment phase the kidnappers will try to determine the value if each victim and then keeping the high-value victims and releasing the low-value victims.  In some cases the valuation phase can be quite sophisticated to include using laptop computers and access to bank information.  One of the most noteworthy cases of miracle fishing involved the 1994 kidnapping of US agricultural expert Thomas Hargrove at a roadblock outside Cali, Colombia.  Hargrove subsequently spent 11 months in captivity.  The movie Proof of Life was largely based on the Hargrove case.  The movie dramatically depicts a miracle fishing/mass kidnapping incident.

In some cases victims are abducted in mass from a fixed location.  I know of one case anecdotally in the early 2000s  where the patrons of a roadside restaurant, also outside Cali  were kidnapped en masse.  They were given rubber boots and marched into the jungle.  There each person was assessed and the valuable fish were retained and the others released.

Its important to understand the potential risk of miracle fishing kidnaps because a lot of the things we may do for crime prevention and kidnap avoidance like watching for surveillance, varying routes, etc. will not necessarily help.  Situational awareness will still be important though.  If you come upon a roadblock suddenly you will have very limited time to determine your best course of action and probably very limited options.  We’ll look at assessing and dealing with roadblocks and checkpoints in the near future.