Children are especially vulnerable to kidnapping as their natural inquisitiveness can be exploited, most nannies or drivers are not security trained, also many kindergartens and schools have very low standards of security. And most parents think that something as horrific as having their child kidnapped will never happen to them… But is does happen, and in such cases prevention is far better than hoping for happy endings that the chances are, will not materialize.
- Deputies: Florida man arrested after 11-year-old girl fights off abduction attempt at bus stop
- Boy, 4, Abducted From Crib and Brutally Murdered Identified; Arrest Made
- Met ramps up patrols in Bromley after four attempted child abductions
Most people think of kidnap for ransom situations when we discuss kidnapping but another type of domestic kidnapping is where an estranged parent will take a child they do not have legal custody for. These situations can become very complicated if the child is taken to or is in another country, as the local laws usually take precedence. The Hague Child Abduction Convention is the international law that tends to be used for child custody disputes but how this is interpreted at local levels is another thing. A single parent may have custody of their child in U.S. or Western Europe, but if their ex-partner is a citizen of say an Asian or Middle Eastern country and manages to get the child there, the local courts will most probably give them custody.
I have been asked quite a few times if I could go to various countries to recover children who have been taken by estranged parents. I am happy to provide advice and highlight the fact that if the parent I am talking too has legal custody in U.S. this might not apply in the country the child is in. Also, if the child was snatched back, those doing so would have committed the crime of kidnapping, which in most places has a lengthy prison term attached. Combine the risk of being arrested and the child being harmed during the snatch, things are better left to embassy staff and trusted local attorneys.
Kidnapping situations are nasty situations to be involved in and best avoided at all costs, period! If the kidnappers are professionals there is a good chance that a hostage would be released when the ransom demands are met, on the other side of the coin if the ransom demands are not met, it would be a good business practice to execute the hostage, to encourage future payments. The professionalism of kidnappers varies greatly from those that are highly skilled to Neanderthals; all, however, are capable of extreme violence.
The express kidnappers for example are generally not what could be classed as high end criminals. This means they tend to be more violent and unpredictable than groups that target higher profile victims for large ransoms. As always, if ransoms are paid in express kidnappings there is no guarantee the victim will be released, especially if the victims can identify the criminals or have been sexually assaulted, which can be expected in most cases.
We have been approached quite a few times by the families of kidnapping victims wanting to know if we provide hostage rescue services. Of course our answer is always NO! People that claim to provide such services tend to live in their own little fantasy worlds. There are those claiming to provide such services in Mexico; well if you follow the news then you will see that a few times every year Americans are arrested for crossing the Mexican border with a firearm. These people go to a Mexican jail and in a few cases after a lot of government pressure they may be released but most are not.
So, you think the Mexican police, military and the drug cartels will turn a blind eye to a private SWAT team waltzing across the border to save a damsel in distress? I am also sure if they made it back the FBI would be having a chat and ATF would be interested in the weapons crossing the border etc. etc. Also, from a business point of view, consider how much would you charge to go into Mexico to perform a completely illegal operation, face a slow imaginative death, life in a Mexican prison and don’t forget the repercussions to you, your family if the Cartels found out you messed with them? As I said, some tend to live in their own little fantasy worlds, right!
We can’t overemphasize why kidnapping situations should be avoided and where a threat is identified precautions need to be taken, especially when children are involved. In most cases children are a lot more vulnerable, easier to take than an adult yet the threat to them is taken lightly or ignored! Here I am going to list some basic considerations to help prevent child kidnappings.•
- Compile a threat assessment: This is the most basic and often overlooked element to any security program. You need to consider all the potential threats to the child and get the opinions of others; forget the “it will never happen” attitude. Arrogance is the greatest weakness is all security and military operations. Ask the opinions from a wide variety of people, advice from security professionals can be helpful but in a lot of instances their opinions are text book and one dimensional. Criminals don’t have text books, so also ask those who you think can give you some unique perspectives.
- How would you kidnap the child? Think like the kidnappers, think with a criminal’s mindset where the rule of law means as little as the life of someone who got in your way! Once you have answered this question and have the threat assessment compiled, then you can start to consider what security measures to put in place to counter the potential threats.
- Residential security: It’s a sad fact that a lot of kidnappings take place at the victim’s residence or when they are entering or exiting. The security of the residence, the grounds and the surrounding area need to be assessed. Contingency plans need to be put into place for potential threat situations and active kidnapping attempts.
- Pretext tests: Consider testing the security of the residence and alertness of the staff by sending someone to try and gain entry to the house, grounds or to deliver an unsolicited gift of a toy or sweets for the child. Remember, when selecting someone for the pretext, that people are usually suspicions of young men, not so of young girls and women with children.
- Could the child be drugged? This can be from unsolicited gifts delivered to the house or given while the child is in the garden for an outing. If the child has taken ill the parents’ and staff’s main concern will be the child’s wellbeing and security precautions can be disregarded. The ploy of poisoning the child can be used to get them out of a secure residence for a street kidnapping or to a hospital where a low level of security may exist as a visual deterrent but nothing more.
- House staff: Have all house staff be vetted and at least been briefed on security awareness and procedures? Criminals will look to recruit or blackmail employees to give them itineraries and sensitive information, that’s why you must insure that all you employees are vetted out, supervised and all sensitive information is kept on a need to know basis.
- Nannies: The child’s nanny will need to be trusted at a far greater level that the other house staff and understand any potential threats the other staff may not have been made aware of. The nanny will need to know how to spot any potential threats and how to respond to any emergency situations.
- Drivers: Full time drivers should be trained to identify and react to potential threats and hostile situations. Contract drivers should not be trusted and not be given the details of any trips until the last minute.
- Security personnel: Will they fight, run or are they working with the kidnappers. Just because someone has a gun it does not mean it works, they can use it or would use it if they had to. Yes, I am very cynical about those in the security industry and with good reason! Make sure you’re not wasting your money!
- Visitors to the residence: Ensure visitors are known, contractors have appointments and not left unattended.
- School security: Most schools have minimal security in place, they may have cameras and employ a few guards but nothing that could prevent a kidnapping attempt from a determined semi-professional criminal gang. The issue with armed school security is how they would react to a hostile incident and are they properly trained? You don’t want them shooting a child “by accident” as they try to prevent a kidnapping.
- School staff: Are they security aware and trained to deal with emergency situations?
- Penetration tests: Consider sending someone to test the school’s security; can they get in, walk around unchallenged, talk to children etc.
- Being picked up from school: What are the procedures for the children when being picked from school? What chances are there for the child to be picked up by an unauthorized person? Test it!
- The child’s friends: What threats could the child’s friends be under that could lead to your child being threatened? If your child is visiting friends what are the other families’ security precautions like, consider pretexting or a penetration test! We are talking about a child’s security, so don’t worry about hurting the other parents’ feelings, better that than dealing with a kidnapping, right?
- The child: When old enough basic security procedures should be taught to the child but be mindful to do so in a way not to scare them, but to educate them. This needs to be an ongoing process and as they grow they need to be made aware of the potential threats they could encounter both criminal and social!
Hopefully you can see from this article there is a lot more to a security program than hiring a big guy with a gun, and we have not touched on such things as local laws, budget, environment and cultural issues etc. Where a potential kidnapping threat is identified everything must be done to minimalize it, if in the process you hurt some people’s feelings then so be it. That’s a far better state of affairs than to have to pick up the pieces from the aftermath of a kidnapping situation!
We run a full range of kidnap prevention training courses that are tailored to our clients requirements. For more on kidnap and ransom click here to purchase my book on Amazon in kindle or paperback. And there are links below for my book on family security for parents, teenagers and responsible adults.
Books on Amazon
Protecting Your Loved Ones: Security Awareness For Parents & Adults
This book is essential reading for responsible adults, parents & teenagers.
Kindle @ https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07FLJT9T5
Paper Back @ https://www.amazon.com/dp/1717755933