Kidnap and extortion


Source: SOCA

The threat of kidnap continues to concern UK communities, law enforcement, and commerce and industry throughout the world. This is despite the fact that the UK is acknowledged by the United Nations as a world leader in reducing the harm caused by kidnap and blackmail offences. High profile kidnaps abroad cause harm at international, community and regional level. 

During 2008/09, police forces reported 2,034 kidnappings to the Home Office, a slight increase (2%) on 2007/08. Nonetheless, in recent years the overall trend in reported kidnaps is downward and the current figure is almost 30% less than in 2001/02 (2,795).  In practice, however, the true kidnapping figures are unknown.

Different types of kidnap

It’s likely that many kidnaps go unreported, as often the hostage and the person subject to the kidnappers’ demands are themselves criminals and have no wish to involve the law. These “vendetta kidnaps” generally revolve around debt disputes, for example linked to drug deals.

“Tiger kidnaps” involve the holding of a hostage, usually a close relative of the victim, to force the victim to facilitate a robbery.

Kidnappings abroad

Overseas, UK nationals are at greater risk of kidnap in areas of recent conflict or instability. There has also been an increase in the kidnapping of foreign nationals, for example in Pakistan, with ransom demands being made to overseas family members, including those in the UK.

In South Africa, criminals commit fraud by deceiving people to invest in items such as scrap metal and then lure victims to the country to be kidnapped to obtain ransom money. This technique has previously been associated with criminals in west Africa, including Nigeria.

Extortion / blackmail

Blackmail covers a multitude of criminal activities, including product contamination, and uses threats to get money, although other demands may also be made.

As with kidnaps, the true extent of blackmail and extortion offences (including “protection rackets”) by serious organised criminals is not known.  Fear, and damage to reputation in the case of retail businesses, may make victims unwilling to report instances.

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