Can anything be done about kidnappings?

Two women kidnap another woman by puting her in a car boot

All us were shocked by the incident that happened in Cleveland US, Ohio, were three women (Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight) where kidnapped and held for about 10 years against their will.They have recently thanked the public in a new video. The suspect a school bus driver Ariel Castro has since been put on trial for the kidnappings."

High-profile cases like this are generally given extensive media attention, but by far the majority of kidnappings are settled without publicity.

In fact, for a number of reasons, some countries have little incentive to broadcast a kidnapping problem, but informal reports show that it is a global problem.

Kidnappings a global problem

Kidnapping is a crime that seems to be in fashion among all criminals from America to the Philippines, with kidnappers ready to grab at anything that moves. On one occasion a baby barely one day old was kidnapped.

In Guatemala an 84-year-old woman in a wheelchair was abducted and held captive for two months. In Rio de Janeiro, street thugs are snatching people right off the street, sometimes demanding as little as $100 in ransom.

Not even animals seem to be safe. Years ago some brazen criminals in Thailand kidnapped a six-ton working elephant and demanded a $1,500 ransom.

Criminal gangs in Mexico are said to encourage their young members to practice on pets and domestic animals to get adequate experience before they go for the real thing.

In the past, kidnappers targeted principally the rich, but times have changed. A report from Reuters states:

Kidnapping has become a daily occurrence in Guatemala, where people fondly remember the good old days when leftist rebels targeted only a handful of wealthy businessmen. Now rich and poor, young and old, are fair game for kidnap bands.”

Nowhere does the value of a single life seem more apparent than when a kidnapping occurs.

Relatives, friends, sometimes whole nations become galvanized with fear for the life of the hostage.

A mood of helplessness and angry frustration prevails. Heroic efforts to meet the kidnapper’s demands are made.

Money becomes almost meaningless compared to the value of that one life.

Typical is the view expressed in a New York Times editorial:

As long as the victims’ lives are in danger, efforts to save them are paramount. . . . The first priority must go to saving innocent lives.”

Thus authorities usually stay in the background to avoid jeopardizing delicate negotiations for release. And what relief and joy if the victim is released unharmed!

In a few short years, the world has plunged into what some are calling “the age of the kidnapper.”

Kidnapping and its more recent counterpart—hostage taking—have suddenly mushroomed world wide.

“About the only growth industry” on the troubled Italian economic scene “is kidnapping,” observes Time magazine.

In fact, “kidnapping has become a very profitable industry,” says a member of Italy’s parliament. “In the last five years kidnappers have raked in millions of dollars alone.”

Other nations around the globe have experienced rapid growth of kidnappings and hostage takings within their borders; but the problem is also international.

Abductors now strike almost anywhere in the world. Why do they use such methods?

Why some result to kidnapping?

What many authorities long feared has taken place. Frustrated political groups or individuals seeking a hearing have discovered that kidnapping, terrorism and political violence are ideal political weapons.

When certain lives are at stake, they have found, there is little that families or authorities will not do to save them.

Modern communications make these incidents into world events that are seen on television screens by countless millions.

Thus the abductor’s cause gets global attention far more effectively than any number of less spectacular efforts. What is most important to extremists is that it seems to work.

It seems to them that the more spectacular the act, the more likely the world is to discuss their grievances and exert pressure on their political opponents.

Publicity spreads the word. Success of one group stimulates similar groups in other lands to use the same methods.

“When spectacular terror succeeds,” notes the Long Island Sunday Press, “it is almost certain to be repeated, and a self-feeding phenomenon is in motion.”

Viewing the success of political opportunists, common criminals—have seen a way to make easy money—thus have gone into the same business of kidnapping.

Thus, kidnapping scenes are also being played out on various neighborhoods around the world.

What can be done?

To curb the trend, many believe that kidnappings should not be given so much publicity. 

“Publicity just leads to planting the idea in some [deranged person’s] brain,” declares a U.S. police official.

The fact that such acts often come in waves, after a widely publicized incident, seems to bear this out.

But others fear the implications of curbing freedom of the press in any way.

“Suppression of news, even of the most shocking sort, is the handmaiden of tyranny,” writes the editor of U.S. News & World Report.

Some have even suggested making it a federal crime to pay a kidnapper’s ransom demands.

The “family or any others who pay ransom are simply advertising that kidnapping pays,” declares a prominent U.S. government adviser. “They are thereby inadvertently involving countless other innocents in ordeals of terror.”

But others say: Consider the consequences of such a move. Would heartsick relatives of the hostage even notify officials if there were such a law?

Would they not be tempted to handle the matter themselves to save their loved one, leaving authorities out altogether?

Thus, some observe, enforcement efforts might be thwarted still more.

Government impotence at curbing the rising tide of criminal and kidnappings has created a climate of fear among their prime targets—the wealthy and representatives of foreign corporations.

Kidnappers have discovered that an executive’s corporation is a sort of “substitute family” that can be forced to pay even higher ransom demands than a wealthy person’s own family.

But they continue to prey on the local wealthy as well.

“A siege mentality pervades the millionaire families that dominate local society” in Monterrey, Mexico, reports the New York Times. They have “quietly dropped from the social circuit.”

Established life patterns have been changed. Potential victims are no longer free to come and go as they please.

Daily schedules have to be varied, different routes taken to work—anything to avoid the habitual patterns for which kidnappers look

Some prosperous people in the north of Italy are reportedly sending their children to school in nearby Switzerland, hoping that they will be safe there.

In some places homes are made into fortresses with shatterproof glass in windows, barbed wire topping surrounding walls, all-night floodlights and patrolling armed guards.

Automobiles are armored against bullets. Many hire bodyguards with the latest automatic weapons. Says one American businessman in Argentina:

Fear overshadows everything. I spend more time on safety than I do with [the business].”

Thus, aside from the direct cost of ransom payments, kidnapping and hostage taking create a huge burden of related security costs.

Private security agencies that supply bodyguards and other protective services report big increases in their business world wide.

Kidnap insurance is also booming business nowadays.

Specially trained anti-kidnap dogs are in demand. One Italian kennel owner who trains killer guard dogs says:

I have already sold trained Alsatian dogs to top company executives, industrialists, actors and professional men and the demand is still growing.”

The dogs are trained to attack anyone who assaults their master. They can kill the attacker if not stopped, according to the trainer.

In fact, one firm in Arizona even offers what they call executive guard dog for your protection at $230,000 dollars!

With all the precautions, though, is one totally safe?

A police officer assigned to a highly publicized U.S. kidnapping made this sobering comment:

What you have to realize is that if someone really wants to kidnap a person, that there’s just not much anybody can do to stop it.”

Similarly, an American diplomat, who was kidnapped in Mexico and released after the kidnappers’ demands were met, gave this advice to students at the American Graduate School of International Management:

A lot of people asked about carrying firearms and so forth. I think that’s foolish and ridiculous. You’re so out manned and out-armed that it wouldn't do you any good."

However, every individual will have to decide what precautionary measures are best suited for his set of conditions. But, what if you are kidnapped?

The next article will dwell more on how you as an individual can do if you find yourself in such a situation. (What you can do about kidnapping?) If you feel have more suggestion on the subject matter feel free to air them.