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Kidnapping Investigations: Enhancing the Flow of Information

NCJ Number
FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin Volume: 73 Issue: 7 Dated: July 2004 Pages: 12-16
Toni M. Chrabot; Winnie D. Miller
Date Published
July 2004
5 pages
In a kidnapping case, a crisis negotiation team uses its negotiation training to develop strategies that reduce the kidnappers' expectations, to respond to threats and demands, and to seek the safe return of the victim.
A crisis negotiation team typically establishes a negotiation operations center in the victim family's residence or place of business, whichever seems the most likely point of contact by the kidnappers. This enables team personnel to observe and converse with family members about the victim, including his/her past behavior and routines as well as the circumstances surrounding the kidnapping. The team provides the on-scene commander and investigative personnel with accurate information. The team becomes the channel for obtaining and disseminating information pertinent to the kidnapping. Some team members, along with other investigators, should participate in the initial debriefing of family members while other team members will set up equipment designed to capture any future communication with the kidnappers. There should be an area in the negotiation operations center where the team can conduct private meetings, hold shift-change discussions, and conduct telephone conversations with investigators. Because team members are skilled in active listening, they should interact with family members to help them deal with the anxiety, fear, uncertainty, and impatience that inevitably accompanies a kidnapping. In developing a negotiation strategy with kidnappers, negotiators should attempt to lower the kidnappers' expectations regarding their financial gain from the kidnapping, which involves pointing out the difficulties in obtaining large amounts of ransom money. Points to be emphasized are bank's questioning of large withdrawals and the reporting of large transactions, the lack of family's access to liquid assets, and the kidnappers' mistaken belief that the family has the resources to cover the demanded ransom. While lowering kidnappers' expectations, negotiators should still indicate a willingness to cooperate with the kidnappers to achieve a satisfactory outcome for all concerned.