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NCJ Number
H H A Cooper
Date Published
79 pages
A contemporary typology of hostage-takers' characteristics and countermeasures for law officers, security professionals, and governmental authorities are presented, along with a detailed historical analysis of hostage taking.
Two reasons are cited for the continuing popularity of hostage taking: (1) the contagious factor in our international society which spurs imitative acts and (2) the tactical effectiveness of taking hostages as long as human life is valued. The typology groups together all hostage takers who have engaged in roughly comparable activities and suggests appropriate responses to hostage taking. All responses are designed with one end in mind: the rescue of the hostages. This book focuses mainly on the identity of the hostage takers because the entire response to the crisis depends on this issue. The seven distinct categories of hostage takers are political extremists, fleeing criminals, institutionalized or incarcerated persons, estranged persons, wronged persons, religious fanatics, and mentally disturbed persons. Appropriate and inappropriate tactics and responses to these categories of hostage takers are discussed in detail and illustrated by specific examples. Tactics examined for various hostage situations cover measures such as allowing small bargaining concessions (e.g. provision of food and drink) to establish a more comfortable bargaining atmosphere with the hostage takers and to assure that greater consideration is shown to the hostages and establishing communications networks between the hostage takers and law enforcement personnel. Mental health professionals should be consulted to help assess the mental state of the hostage takers. Finally, negotiators and law enforcement personnel must be prepared for immediate action if the hostages' lives are in imminent danger. Most crucial to all hostage-taking crises is the ability of the negotiators to determine the impulsiveness of the activity. Chapter notes are provided. Discussions focusing on the elements and the dynamics of hostage taking are appended.