4 Steps Security Can Take to Prevent Kidnapping

Articles | Posted by (CS)d July 1st, 2009

By Joan Goodchild , CSO , 04/08/2009

As the economic crisis continues to heat up, Chris Falkenberg believes the potential for kidnapping will, too.

“The biggest risk for kidnapping of adults is among people in the financial services business,” said Falkenberg, president of Insite Security, a New York-based consultancy that offers security services and analysis. “Particularly those who have a great deal of publicity about their wealth and their business success.” (Learn tips for what to do if you are abducted in ‘How to Act if You’re Kidnapped’)


Kidnappers are motivated by money, and potential victims are the people who make the most, said Falkenberg, who noted that executive compensation is easier than ever find thanks to SEC disclosure rules (Read ‘Six Things You Need to Know About Executive Protection’).

Assessing an organization’s risk for a potential executive or staff abduction involves several factors. While executives may be more at risk in the United States, in many other countries, all employees face danger, especially if the country is impoverished (Read ‘Employee Safety in Global Hotspots’).

Falkenberg, a former Special Agent in the U.S. Secret Service, outlines preventative measures companies can consider to minimize kidnapping risk.

Establish a counter-surveillance program

Every kidnapping is preceded by a planning stage, according to Falkenberg. An organization with an effective counter-surveillance program has good shot at intervening or detecting a threat, increasing security and motivating potential kidnappers to go elsewhere.

Counter surveillance, according to Falkenberg, basically takes the regular security guard position and “turns it inside out.” In addition to having personnel manning the gate, a counter-surveillance program has personnel who are watching to see who is watching others.

A good program could include a team that conducts surveillance at a facility, residence, or any given location, and keeps tabs on who is watching the target. This means looking for people who might be walking back in forth frequently in front of a location, taking video or photographs, counting footsteps to determine the measurements of a given location.

“Anything someone is doing from a public area to gain information which could be used in a crime and detecting who is doing that,” said Falkenberg to describe the kind of intelligence that should be gathered.

A counter-surveillance program might also use CCTV infrastructure in a proactive way, he said.

“CCTV is primarily utilized in the forensic capacity, once a crime has occurred,” said Falkenberg. “But a counter-surveillance team can use all of the intelligent video in a proactive means, particularly if you have the ability to identify cars and license plates to keep an eye out for who seems to be in your perimeter, collecting information about scheduling, comings and goings, and transportation routes.”


Utilize GPS

Falkenberg recommends companies put in place technology to be able to receive GPS transmissions from cell phones or emergency GPS transmitters. While this technology may only go so far because the device will likely be taken from the victim, in some scenarios, it could still aid in rescue. And as technology advances, GPS will become even more useful.

“There is some technology coming out in which you can program a cell phone to send out a distress signal,” said Faulkner. “What we are using with some clients is a handheld GPS transmitter which you can essentially use as a portable panic button. It triangulates to where it transmits. That can be used for a security department to learn where a kidnapping has occurred.”

Train employees on how to behave

As Falkenberg pointed out before, kidnappings are planned events. Kidnappers don’t often consider what they will do if the victim takes some drastic action to thwart the abduction.

“It’s really infrequent, in the history of kidnapping, if victim runs away, or if they make a u-turn, that kidnappers will actually pursue a victim and kidnap in a static environment.”

When an event takes place, victims find themselves forced into vehicles with commands shouted at them like “Get in the car! We are going to kill you!” While this is terrifying, it is actually much easier to turn the situation to your advantage at that point than it is once you are incarcerated, said Falkenberg.

But this kind of reaction to threats is not second nature to people, said Falkenberg. It is something that has to be learned. He recommends talking with employees about what to do if threatened and rehearsing it. It is important, he said, for people to feel comfortable that if there is a kidnapping, they can react, have some muscle memory of how to react, and have some confidence that it is the correct step.

“It is a great challenge to train people to think effectively during emergencies,” said Falkenberg. “But it is very important because you have a real chance in the beginning to terminate the situation. If you can, you are much better off than getting in the car, or the van, where the realm of outcomes becomes worse.”

Falkenberg also recommends companies train employees about how to act as hostages in the event that they are abducted. Tips include touching everything in sight to leave lots of fingerprints and talking to the kidnappers so they see you as a human, not an object. Falkenberg recommends mentioning family, children, and other personal facts that may aid in getting them to see you as a person.

Consider families, too

“It’s one thing to kidnap the president of a company,” said Falkenberg. “Who knows what will happen? But if it involves the president’s kid? That situation has to be resolved immediately and the kidnappers know it. It is a far greater danger.”

Potential vulnerabilities don’t stop with the executive. Companies need to consider the family component of protection for executives, said Falkenberg. A crisis management and continuity plan for the family outside the office is key.

However, the family component can’t really be addressed with the same techniques used for employees because families are not going to tolerate the kind of protection that c-level executives tolerate at work. Also, it is just not cost effective. But Falkenberg believes there are several ways an organization can improve security for the executive and his/her family outside of work by leveraging existing resources. Training family about potential dangers and how to behave if someone attempts to abduct them is essential. But so is training of household staff members.

“Many executive have a household staff. They can be trained in the tools and skills of counter surveillance,” said Falkenberg. “They may have more information about the comings and goings than the family, particularly because some executives have multiple homes.”

Corporate Counter-Surveillance

Articles | Posted by (CS)d June 11th, 2009


The Daily Mail reported on a new phenomenon where Corporate executives are turning to 007-style counter surveillance techniques for inspiration as competition heats up as a result of the credit crunch. Counter surveillance refers to measures adopted to prevent surveillance, such as sweeping for listening devices or bugs; counter surveillance employs a set of counter measures to reduce the risk of being spied on. And although counter-surveillance is common in the world of espionage and politics with anti-terrorist measures for example, the use of counter-surveillance techniques in the boardroom is becoming increasingly common.

Counter Surveillance: Bond in the Boardroom

The escalating credit crunch means job losses are looming as business becomes more competitive; getting the upper hand on a competitor can literally mean make or break a business. In such a context, it’s little wonder that employees are more concerned about counter surveillance measures. Spy equipment retailers have reported a boom in sales of counter surveillance and spy gadgets as credit-crunched executives take measures to safeguard their business.

Counter Surveillance: Desperate Times

As the economy worsens, counter surveillance gadgets and spy accessories are being built into tailored suits to cater to the executive market. Shirts with buttons fitted with minuscule video recording devices, or counter surveillance mobile phones are being snapped up to prevent rivals from eaves-dropping and stealing important deals. According to the Daily Mail the counter surveillance gadgets and spy accessories “would look more at home on James Bond.”


Counter Surveillance: The Competitive Edge

But as the old saying goes, knowledge is power, and having effective surveillance and counter surveillance measures in place can give businesses a much-needed competitive edge. The global credit crunch is pushing some businesses to look at ways of protecting their assets or getting the edge on their competitors – and counter surveillance equipment is a necessary part of their armour. Counter surveillance mobile phones can encrypt signals to prevent eavesdropping or rivals listening in. Intelligence and security are important for those doing business in more unstable countries – and as well as counter surveillance and spy equipment, sales of wrist watches containing radiation detectors are also increasing amongst those doing business in Eastern Europe

The Wire Trap

Articles | Posted by (CS)d June 10th, 2009


Crime and detective shows seem to rule the networks. Our love of crime seems insatiable. And where there’s a crime show, there’s a plotline revolving around audio surveillance, phone taps, wire taps or spy equipment. Whether it’s the much-lauded The Wire or more accessible TV shows such as CSI or even British crime dramas from way back when like Dempsey and Makepeace, audio surveillance has always played a dramatic role in cracking crime

Audio surveillance: Catching the criminals

Anyone who has watched any popular crime show will have seen the scenes that involve an undercover detective being wired up with sensitive audio surveillance equipment in an attempt to catch on tape evidence that can be used in a court of law. And according to the TV series The Wire, it isn’t just in fictional detective shows where audio surveillance techniques are used. The Wire is written by a mixture of renowned crime authors such as George Pelecanos and former crime reporters, such as the producer and creator, David Simon. It prides itself for being a true reflection of policing the streets of Baltimore. And many of the big undercover detective plots revolve and depend on audio surveillance.


Audio surveillance unveils intricate web

Unlike most routine crime dramas, the audio surveillance techniques in The Wire start off as being seemingly straightforward – a story of cops trying to crack the drug dealers. But the audio surveillance techniques are far more complex and reveal a fascinating insight into the city’s underworld. The use of the spy equipment reveals how ‘good’ and ‘bad’ is never straightforward, how poverty impacts on crime and the intertwined lives of all sectors of society from the politicians, police to the drug dealers and addicts.

The Wire inspired by audio surveillance techniques

The very name of the TV series reveals how integral audio surveillance is for detectives. And as The Wire was created by a former crime reporter for the Baltimore Sun and used collaborators such as Ed Burns, a former homicide detective in Baltimore, as well as crime authors who are renowned for spending time with Baltimore detectives to get their stories real, it’s clear the use of audio surveillance doesn’t just belong in the fictional world to create plot lines and drama. As one journalist noted in an interview with David Simon and Ed Burns of The Wire, walking around Baltimore feels like a TV set: “It looks and seems so much like The Wire I tell my hosts that I feel like I’m watching television. ‘The problem,’ says Ed Burns, ‘is it’s real.’ ‘All too real,’ adds David Simon with a sad smile and a slight shake of the head.”