An express kidnap can be a development of an opportunist street crime such as a mugging, where the mugger realises they can get more money by making demands of a family or employer.

Alternatively, it can be planned and a victim specifically targeted – as in the case of corrupt police officials selecting a particular victim. In either case, the victim is usually held for a short period of time (hours rather than days) and the ransom demand is relatively small compared to protracted, long-term kidnaps. As the perpetrator usually did not plan to kidnap the victim, they have nowhere to hold them discreetly until a large ransom is gathered, which is why they request smaller ransoms.

Express kidnaps are often perpetrated by street criminals who may be violent, under the influence of drugs/alcohol, poorly educated and prone to panic or aggression, which is not a good situation for the hostage to be in. If you do fall victim to a street robbery that could turn into an express kidnap, your focus should be on getting through the situation without it escalating into a prolonged express kidnap or home invasion.

Keeping Safe

Being aware of the threat of express kidnaps and making sure you are prepared is crucial.

The following tips could reduce your vulnerability to becoming the victim of an express kidnap:

• Be cautious if you are involved in a slight ‘bump’ in your car at a road junction, for example. Never get out of the car to talk to the other people involved as this is a classic carjacking and express kidnap tactic.
• Avoid having company logos on clothing, cars and visible documents or equipment as they are a wealth indicator, showing you work for a high-profile organisation that may pay handsomely for your release.
• Do not carry business cards with your company logo and job title on in your wallet. They tell a criminal your company, rank and even a telephone number to ring and demand money.
• Do not carry personal documentation such as bank statements on you.
• Have a cover story. For example, say that you are staying at a hotel and do not admit to having a house/apartment where the kidnapper could take you to steal more valuables and terrorize your family.
• Agree to a family duress code that you can use in a phone call to alert your family that you are a hostage and may be forced to bring kidnappers home with you. This gives your family time to escape and raise the alarm.
• Consider having a mobile phone that contains only a few phone numbers, and encrypt all other numbers to prevent access. This will help limit the number of contacts a kidnapper may attempt to extort and may aid in negotiations by keeping the incident discrete.