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PROJECT: EXPRESS KIDNAPPINGS

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Insurers have raised alarms about a new form of "express" kidnapping making waves in South Africa.

Criminals target anyone and adjust their demands based on how quickly they think they can exact a ransom.


Victims are usually returned alive, sometimes injured, but undeniably highly traumatised.

 
  • According to South African crime statistics, there were over 4,500 cases of kidnapping in one quarter of 2023, ranking South Africa at number 7 in the world.

  • South Africa has seen an increase of over 30% in kidnappings in the past decade.

  • The epicentre of the kidnapping crisis is currently the Gauteng province, South Africa's economic heartland and home to Johannesburg, the country's commercial capital.

  • Over 7,800 cases have been reported in this region.

  • This trend is quickly expanding to other areas in our country.

  • The instances and risks have become so prominent that insurers have established specific products to mitigate the risks of kidnapping and the rising costs associated with kidnapping.

  • The rise in express kidnapping is related to an increase in levels of violent crime in the country, and the risk profile of victims has also widened.

  • It is no longer only high-net-worth individuals who are targeted.

  • Risk is determined by an individual's location, community or nationality, vulnerability, and type of employment or business.

  • Everyone is a potential target.

  • Kidnappers change the ransom demands according to the victims or their families’ financial worth.

 

"Express kidnapping" involves criminal groups that kidnap and threaten people. They then force victims to withdraw the maximum amount allowed from ATMs or to use their banking apps to transfer funds. Although the victim is usually released unharmed physically, the psychological and emotional impact on them cannot be overstated.


Most cases of express kidnapping in South Africa are a side-effect of carjacking, robberies, and rape.

Crime experts say an increasing number of victims are now being singled out directly.


Professional syndicates focus on smooth transactions, and victims suffer less.

Copycat counterparts are more violent.

 
  • The Institute for Security Studies (ISS) reported in 2023 that the main reasons for kidnappings are ransom, human trafficking, and extortion.

  • While kidnapping for ransom makes up only 5% of the criminal cases in South Africa, it still works out to around two people being kidnapped for ransom per day in the country.

  • Part of the increase is attributed to the fact that two-thirds of the 21 million youths in South Africa are unemployed, they resort to crime to earn a living.

 
  • In addition to the socio-economic factors, the government's response to kidnapping has been criticised for its inefficiency, further exacerbating the situation.

  • Law enforcement agencies are often overwhelmed and under-resourced and face challenges in tackling increasingly sophisticated organised crime networks.

  • This environment has made it easier for kidnapping syndicates to operate with relative impunity, contributing to the surge in express kidnappings.

 

SAFETY MEASURES:


To mitigate the risk of kidnapping, experts recommend practising situational awareness—being mindful of what is happening around you, recognising potential threats, and taking steps to avoid or mitigate the danger.


Additional safety measures include:


  • Avoid Routine Patterns:

    • Vary routes and times when commuting to work or home to make it more difficult for kidnappers to predict movements.

  • Travel in Groups:

    • Whenever possible, avoid travelling alone, especially in high-risk areas.

  • Stay Informed:

    • Keep up with the latest news and updates about kidnapping hotspots and avoid these areas where possible.

  • Secure Your Home and Vehicle:

    • Ensure your home and vehicle have comprehensive security systems, including alarms, surveillance cameras and enabled tracking systems.

  • Emergency Contacts:

    • Have a list of emergency contacts readily accessible and inform family and friends about your whereabouts and plans.

  • Training and Preparedness:

    • Consider self-defence training and stay informed about how to respond in case of an attempted kidnapping.

  • Use Technology Wisely:

    • Utilise GPS tracking devices, emergency alert apps, and other digital tools to enhance personal safety.

  • Know Your Surroundings:

    • Be aware of your environment and the people around you.

    • This can help identify suspicious activities early.

 

As rampant crime continues to plague many parts of the country, Western Cape residents are not spared.

The province has recently witnessed a spike in extortion and kidnappings.

 

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Specialised Security Services invites the public to the Mike Bolhuis Daily Projects WhatsApp Group.

This group is important in delivering insights into the latest crime trends, awareness, warnings and the exposure of criminals.


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Regards,

Mike Bolhuis

Specialist Investigators into

Serious Violent, Serious Economic Crimes & Serious Cybercrimes

PSIRA Reg. 1590364/421949

Mobile: +27 82 447 6116

Fax: 086 585 4924

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