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Kidnapping: A Brief Psychological Overview (From Understanding and Responding to the Terrorism Phenomenon: A Multi-Dimensional Perspective, P 231-241, 2007, Ozgur Nikbay and Suleyman Hancerli, eds. -- See NCJ-225118)

NCJ Number
Mike Webster Ed.D.
Date Published
11 pages
This paper outlines a model of response to kidnapping by law enforcement negotiators that includes kidnapper motivation, types of kidnapping, kidnap dynamics, management strategies, and tactics.
The first step in choosing a management strategy for a kidnapping case is to identify the kidnapper’s motivation, which is concerned with why the kidnapper engaged in the abduction. The motivation may be “instrumental,” i.e., in order to achieve some tangible benefit, such as to obtain money or obtain the release of compatriots. “Expressive” motivation means the kidnapping or possession of the person kidnapped is an end in itself, such as displaying power over the person or victimizing the person. A second aspect of most kidnappings is some form of communication that can be used to assist in determining the motive and the degree of danger the motive poses for the kidnap victim. Assessing the dynamics of the kidnapping is a third important aspect. In an instrumental kidnapping, the dynamics favor the survival of the kidnap victim, since the victim being alive is essential to the possibility of obtaining the benefit desired. Expressive kidnappings, on the other hand, pose more danger for the victim, since harming the victim may be part of the expressive purpose of the kidnapping. The selection of the appropriate management strategy for the response to the kidnapping is dependent on the assessment of motivation, incident type, and the dynamics that flow from these factors. Instrumental kidnappings are conducive to negotiation, because the kidnapper is seeking some benefit from the authorities in exchange for the safe return of the victim; however, negotiation is not the management strategy of choice for expressive kidnapping, since the kidnapper is not seeking leverage to gain something from a third party. Such kidnappings require crisis intervention. 14 references