Newsletter (14) – 6 Tips for Preventing Kidnapping

Lessons from the Sheng Siong Kidnap

The mother of the CEO of Sheng Siong (a chain of local supermarkets) was kidnapped on 8th Jan 2014. She was released the next day when the family paid a ransom of $2 million. The police later arrested the suspects, and all within 2 days.

Compared to the horrific kidnappings that happen in other countries, or those that happened in Singapore during the 1960s, this case turned out quite well. The victim was ransomed quickly, was returned to her family safely, and the police arrested the suspects in a very short time frame.

http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/singaporean-pair-arrested/948388.html

I never talked about kidnapping and abduction in my newsletters before. Two reasons: there weren’t many kidnap cases in Singapore for a long time; and preventing kidnapping largely involves using the same principles I have talked about in earlier newsletters anyway.

But now, two things worry me:

1)      Copycat crimes – some other criminals may look at how the kidnapping was botched up, figure out that they can easily do better, and just go for it now that these two kidnappers started the ball rolling.

2)      Singaporeans who regularly go overseas may leave themselves vulnerable to abductions, if the overall safety of the Singapore environment has made them careless.

6 Tips to Prevent Kidnapping:

1)      Please don’t be gullible.

Madam Ng was kidnapped easily because one of the kidnappers told her that her son was injured and he was going to take her to see him. She had a mobile phone, she could have easily called to verify things, but she didn’t. Granted, she’s 79 and that generation might not be used to the convenience of modern technology. But we, and our children, have no such excuse! Call to verify if anyone claims that a loved one is hurt and offers to bring you there straight away.

I have a special code I use for my sons to let them verify if someone who approaches them has been sent by me. If you have kids and you are not around them all the time, do work out such codes and passwords too. It sounds silly, but it is a small step to help prevent your kids from being kidnapped.

2)      Watch your environment always.

If a stranger approaches you in a Bad Place, don’t switch off your mind. More on this at https://walkinsafety.wordpress.com/2010/03/08/newsletter-02-dont-bug-me/

If kidnappers cannot trick you into moving you to a secondary location (mentioned in https://walkinsafety.wordpress.com/2011/02/14/newsletter-12-a-friends-story/), they might try to physically move you there. To prevent that, always watch out for places where people can hide themselves and jump out to grab or attack you. A parked van with a door slightly open (and someone leaning against a wall nearby), a stationary car with the driver looking at you with unusual interest as you walk past, or even a dark doorway along a row of  old shop-houses can mean trouble. Avoid such places if you can, or if you have absolutely no way of  avoiding them, please don’t face such places with earphones in your ears, your favourite music blasting away and your mind on the latest, greatest music video by your favourite artistes!

3)      Expect To Be Out-Numbered.

This kidnapping was an anomaly in that it was pulled off by just one person at the beginning. Experienced criminals know that it is very difficult for one victim to be restrained by just one criminal, so they will usually have 2-3 at the very beginning. So if you see a suspicious group around you (and notice someone further away who might be looking out for witnesses or the police), get your guard up and be prepared to run like nuts if you have to.

Don’t worry about embarrassing yourself if you are wrong. Statistics from around the world show that more people have died from kidnapping than from embarrassment… : P

4)      Grab and Hold On.

If criminals want to move you somewhere else (secondary location), grabbing and holding on to things will mess up their plans. A nearby lamp-post, a trash-can, even a passer-by will do in a pinch. Don’t let the kidnappers get you inside a vehicle that easily, or else it will be even harder for you to escape. Make sure you yell and scream while you are desperately clinging to a nearby lamp-post. Depending on which country you are in, you may or may not get help. But you will certainly get attention, and that can make things just that little bit more complicated for the kidnappers. If you are dealing with amateurs, that extra level of hassle might be enough to make them lose their nerve and look for easier victims.

5)      Remember the Bystander-Effect (https://walkinsafety.wordpress.com/2010/02/17/newsletter-01-genovese-syndrome-the-deadly-bystander-effect/).

You aren’t safe just because there is a crowd around. You have to get the people involved in helping you. As I said in a previous newsletter,” if you are ever in a large group when you need help, realize that you may not get any help at all if you appeal to the entire group. Single out a specific person instead.”

In a kidnapping situation, screaming in panic may not be enough to galvanize bystanders into action. You may have to yell something like “Police! Call the Police! Kidnap!” This is NOT a fail-safe, but it just might tip the odds in your favour.

6)      Keep safe company when traveling overseas.

Many Singaporean women travel overseas by themselves in this day and age. I know I sound like a wet blanket and a spoilsport, but please consider traveling with people who know the world, who can recognize danger and have the common sense to avoid it. Travel with someone who knows when to change channels when necessary (https://walkinsafety.wordpress.com/2011/03/15/newsletter-13-changing-the-channel/).

Take more precautions especially when overseas. Most criminals do have some vestiges of humanity left, which means they are not so quick to inflict harm and pain on another human being. However, if you are a foreigner, it is easier for the criminal mind to rationalize you away as being less than human, as I said in another newsletter, “to look upon you the same way the Chinese consume sharks-fin soup, or as a breathing sex-doll or a walking ATM”.

Far better to totally avoid such situations than have to ever deal with them!

All these tips assume you are not a high-profile target (like the family member of a supermarket chain CEO). If you are a high-profile target, you have the means AND the motivation to engage professional security services. Please look for these people and get your lifestyle assessed in terms of your safety and that of your family.

But if you are NOT a high-profile target, don’t assume you are automatically safe from kidnap. In some other countries there are such things as Express Kidnaps (I know, it sounds like some laundry delivery service) when criminals target regular people (like us) demand smaller sums of money for ransom and aim to make a significant profit based on volume. The good news is that such criminals put less effort and planning into each kidnap and would thus make foiling such attempts a lot easier for us.

In the end, please give some thought and put in some effort to prevention. A kidnapping event can lead to long-term emotional problems, just as any violent crime would. Far better to prevent this in the first place than have to deal with all the fallout later. There is now one elderly woman who has discovered the hard way that crime can happen to her (https://walkinsafety.wordpress.com/2010/06/06/newsletter-05-hindrances-to-self-defence-2/). I hope that won’t happen to us too!


JJ Huang
Founder
Walk In Safety ™

Like what you read here? I am going to start offering the women’s self-defence classes again soon, where I teach basic techniques that will give you a fighting chance against violent crime. Class slots will be very limited, so email me if you want to know when and where those classes are going to be held!

And please SHARE this post if you have found this post useful. Thanks! 🙂

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About Junjie
Musician, Martial Artist and father of two boys. Rambler, thinker and compulsive teacher.

One Response to Newsletter (14) – 6 Tips for Preventing Kidnapping

  1. chrisline says:

    Thumbs up for tis write out. 😉

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