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Characteristics of Hostage and Barricade Incidents: Implications for Negotiation Strategies and Training

NCJ Number
Journal of Police Crisis Negotiations Volume: 1 Issue: 1 Dated: 2001 Pages: 3-33
Theodore B. Feldmann M.D.
James L. Greenstone Ed.D.
Date Published
31 pages
This article examines the characteristics of 120 hostage and barricade incidents and discusses their implications for hostage negotiation strategies.
Hostage and barricade incidents are frequently encountered in law enforcement practice. When these situations occur police negotiators must establish effective communication with subjects whose underlying motivation may not be readily apparent. In order to better understand the factors influencing hostage-takers and barricaded subjects, this paper examines the characteristics of 120 hostage/barricade incidents. The results indicate that these criminal acts may be categorized into seven broad groupings according to the primary motivation of the subject. Each category has unique characteristics, implying that police must alter negotiation strategies according to the characteristics of the incident. The data presented suggests that effective management of hostage and barricade situations requires an understanding of many different factors. Some characteristics of these incidents noted are: acts are usually committed by males under the age of 30; perpetrators frequently had a prior criminal record; firearms were implicated in nearly three-fourths of the incidents; nearly all of the offenders had psychiatric diagnoses; the majority of incidents were associated with suicidal intent; warning signs prior to the incident were apparent in over 60 percent of the cases; and SWAT teams were deployed in over two-thirds of the cases, and an assault was carried out in slightly less than 40 percent of the incidents. First and foremost, the motivation for the incident must be understood. Negotiators cannot defuse a potentially explosive event unless they fully appreciate why it is occurring. It is insufficient to merely know that the perpetrator has a history of mental illness; the nature of the illness and its effects on behavior must also be recognized. Effective crisis management techniques will greatly reduce their lethality. References.