Tag Archives: Kidnappers

What would you say is the most effective way to kidnap a character? it’s spur of the moment. the kidnapper is a strong man with training (but no weapon) and his victim, who does get captured, is a much physically weaker man. there are two witnesses who try to intervene: one with military training (though not as much as the kidnapper) and the other is the kidnapper’s lover, who attempts to stop him. how could the kidnapper incapacitate them all before the police arrives? thanks so much!

Okay, there’s actually an issue in here, so let’s step back and talk about professional criminals for a second. Criminal activity is their job, and they need to approach their life with a risk vs. reward analysis for nearly everything they do. They’ll work together and network with other professionals. This isn’t altruistic, just an understanding that they need to work with other people to achieve their goals. They don’t need to like the people they’re working with, but, if they all still have a shared goal, they will. Most understand how planning and advance setup can help reduce the risks involved in their profession.

Okay, with that out of the way, let’s talk about the crime. A kidnapping is not something you do spur of the moment. It’s a difficult criminal operation, involving a lot of moving pieces, any one of which can scuttle the whole operation after the team is committed.

Your criminal will need a team backing them up. They’ll need to have a way to grab and extract the victim, a place to hold them, a way to keep them alive and under guard while negotiating, a communications method that can’t be traced back to them, and a method to retrieve the ransom. Some of that can be dispensed, if they have no intention of returning the victim alive, or ransoming them at all.

Grabbing the victim is a little situational, but the difference between a successful extraction and a botched bloodbath is advance planning. Ideally your team needs to be able to grab the victim without leaving any witnesses behind. This is trickier than it sounds, because they can’t actually kill the person they’re intending to ransom the victim back to. Ideally this means picking a time when the victim and the victim’s relative/friend/whatever are at separate locations. If that’s not possible, the team will need a very delicate touch.

If the person paying the ransom dies, then the operation’s over, and the criminals have a corpse and nothing else to show for a lot of wasted effort. In some situations, they might be able to salvage the situation, by ransoming the victim to a new buyer, but that is an extreme long shot.

In a well run kidnapping, once the victim has been taken, they’re fairly unimportant to the criminals. They need to be kept alive, and they can’t be allowed to escape. But, they’re not the kidnappers’ focus. At this point, they’re going to be more interested in getting person paying the ransom to do what they’re told.

The other side of it is, with the extraction itself, your criminal will not want to leave witnesses. If they’re not the ones the kidnappers are planning ransom the victim back to, they’ll have no incentive to leave the witnesses breathing. Killing them sends a clear message that the victim is in serious peril, and it discourages the person paying the ransom from screwing around.

What this means is, your kidnapper isn’t going to grab someone “spur of the moment”. If he decides “now’s the time”, it’s because he was already planning to grab them. Also, there’s a very real risk he’ll simply kill your other characters. Best case the police don’t even realize there’s been a kidnapping, and worst case, they’re no closer to identifying the kidnappers. As opposed to the police now having at least a physical description of one member of the crew. So, I guess the real answer to your question is: two shots to the chest, one to the head.

As a quick aside, if his plan is to force one of the characters to do his bidding, he might just grab them all, and release the one he intends to use as a pawn later, and keep the others as hostages.

Once they’ve got their victim, there’s the question of what they want. If the goal is money, then we’re talking about a ransom, and there’s a lot of literature on the subject. If they’re wanting to force someone else to do what they want, they’ll need the ability to micromanage that person’s actions. Usually we’re talking some kind of communications setup with the pawn, but surveillance isn’t out of the question. If the objective is information, then everything gets a little messed up. I’ll stick a pin in that for later, partially because a discussion on interrogation and torture will rate a trigger warning.

Spartan, the first season of 24, Man on Fire (2004), and Taken should all give you some insight into the kinds of people you’re dealing with. 24 opens with using captives to force the protagonist to do their bidding, and the first 12 hours are really good. Man on Fire (2004), is a kidnapping for money. Taken and Spartan both deal with selling captives into sex slavery, which is something I just glazed right over. Both films illustrate how this particular form of kidnapping operates in a more opportunistic assembly line nature, because of how they’re generating income.

For some additional insight on professional criminals, I’ll keep recommending Heat until you watch it. Ronin and Reservoir Dogs are also worth watching. Technically Ronin is dealing with former spies who’ve become mercenaries, but the same principles apply. Ronin also has the benefit of actually being a smash and grab operation, even though the target is an attaché case, and not a person.


I have seven teenagers against five well-trained, enormous, agressive men that double their size. The teenagers are 14 years old and have a very basic training on self-defense. The men attempt to kidnap them. How should the kids proceed? What’s their best chance? They have 5 minutes until help comes. I guess there will be some broken bones, isn’t it?

Unfortunately for you, five minutes is more than enough time for five well-trained men to capture seven teenagers with rudimentary training, especially if they have them cornered with nowhere to run. Self-defense training is meant to prepare one to face untrained assailants, not professional kidnappers, soldiers, and ex-special forces washouts.

The problem is that if they are kidnappers, then they are likely professionals and that means they are looking to extort something from them or their parents. They’ll have already chosen their targets and it’s unlikely to be a random chance event, instead it’ll be a premeditated targeting. This drastically reduces the teens chances of escape. They definitely won’t be able to hold them off. The men will be better at incapacitating them than they will be at holding them off.

The kidnappers will probably be carrying tasers and cans of mace for the express purpose of capturing the teens as quickly and efficiently as possible. Because the men are trained, they will work together regardless of their personal feelings with a focus on their goal. You won’t be able to break them up the same way you can with amateurs. These are professionals, they’ll have a game plan and several backups before they attack. They will be quick and efficient. Their preference will probably be to keep the teens alive, but that can go downhill quickly if they face serious resistance.

Now, much of the sequence is going to depend on where they are and who the five men are after. Do they have a specific target among the seven teens? Are their faces visible (if they can be identified, it’s likely that none of the teens will survive if they are taken)? What do they plan to do with the teens once they have them? Are they taking all seven or are some expendable, if so, which ones? If the kids give them problems, they may have to make some very harsh choices about who lives and who dies, who is expendable and who is not. If they are being taken to extort the parents, then it’s likely they will be handled more gently. If they are being taken for the slave trade, then the early troublemakers will probably be killed.

Assuming they are willing to incapacitate all the children (instead of killing a few) and have a vehicle close by, it’s a question of who they decide to take with them.

Run and hide is the teens best chance, if they stand and fight they are doomed. There aren’t enough of them to take on all five, especially not if the five are working together with a goal to capture only one or two of them. If they are capable of thinking on their feet, grabbing some sort of makeshift weapon is a good idea. What that weapon is will depend on what’s available for them to grab. So, think through your setting.

A few might try to be brave, but it’s the well-trained part, beyond enormous and aggressive that’s going to get the teens in serious trouble. Well-trained will mean that the men are good at working together, it means that they will be able to dispatch or incapacitate most of the teens in less than a few minutes, if not in a few moves. Ironically, the ones who put up the most fight will be dealt with first and harshly to make an example to the others. Because they are pressed for time (they may not know how much time, but they’ll know the kids have to be taken quickly) this may lead to them being sloppy and more likely to remove the troublesome ones. After all, seven are nice, but you don’t need them all for a payday. It would be best if no one got hurt, but if the kids push, it’s likely that someone will.

How to Survive a Kidnapping: take a look at this article

A Look at Kidnapping through the Lens of Protective Intelligence

Man on Fire both the books and the movie with Denzel Washington are worth looking at for how kidnappers operate.

Taken: I don’t recommend this Liam Neeson movie for the combat (it’s not bad, just not right for his SAS background), but it’s a good look at how kidnappers operate especially in the sex trafficking trade.

I also recommend watching the Burn Notice episode, Hard Bargain. In the meantime, check out the IMDB quotes page for the episode though this one happens to be my favorite. Burn Notice has a few great episodes dealing with kidnappers. Here are a few good quotes:

Michael Westen: [voice-over] A kidnapping is a business deal. The bad guys have negotiating power since they’re selling the life of a loved one. But then again, they have a market of one, so they *have* to work with you.

Michael Westen: [voice-over] About forty percent of kidnapping victims are released safely. These statistics are affected by a number of factors, including the nationality of the kidnappers, the age of the victim, and whether a hostage negotiator is employed.

Nick Lam: I can’t do this, man! What’s the point? They want, like, five million bucks!

Michael Westen: [voice-over] The odds go down sharply if no one has any money to pay the ransom.

The downside for your characters is that these kidnappers have a market of seven, they can stand to lose a few.

The question is, what do you want out of this scene? I personally would play it as a chase scene, possibly one told from the perspectives of a few different teens as they try to run and hide from the men who are trying to take them. A few will probably escape, because there’s not enough time for a prolonged chase and the kidnappers won’t want to spend too much time trying to track them all down. They’ll cut their losses early. However, the ones who try to stay and fight will most assuredly be captured, some perhaps killed. You can however have a very tense sequence that tips the audience off to the characters having good survival instincts and show that they are capable of thinking on their feet.

The big money is on what their lives are worth. Not to you or the reader, but to their parents and guardians.