Kidnapping rates vary from country to country, though not entirely in sync with the rates of other violent crimes around the world. Along with factors such as murder rate, frequency of rape, and whether or not a country is currently at war, kidnapping is one of the crimes that contribute to a country's rank among the world's most dangerous or most violent countries. Kidnapping takes many forms and occurs for a wide variety of reasons. It is also worth noting that the definition of kidnapping and the frequency with which it is reported and recorded may vary from one country to another.
10 Countries with the Highest Rates of Kidnapping in the World*
- Turkey — 42.669
- Turkey — 42.669
- Lebanon — 15.384
- Kuwait — 12.69
- Canada — 10.285
- Belgium — 10.245
- South Africa — 9.569
- New Zealand — 9.508
- Pakistan — 9.452
- Eswatini — 9.354
- United Kingdom (England & Wales) — 8.835
* Incidents per 100,000 people - United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime 2018
Different forms of kidnapping and the reasons why kidnappings happen.
The most common form of kidnapping in many developed countries is the abduction of a child by a parent, who is typically estranged from the other parent and does not have legal custody of the child. The parent resorts to kidnapping either to cause the other parent emotional distress, because they fear the other parent will keep the child from them, or because they feel the other parent poses a threat to the child's well being. Though much less common, there also exist instances of children being kidnapped for more nefarious purposes, such as human trafficking or sexual exploitation.
In less-develeloped countries, kidnappings are often politically or economically motivated. Some kidnappings are carried out by insurgents as an act of terrorism, an effort to draw attention to their cause, or a means of extorting the government to comply with the kidnappers' demands. Other kidnappings are performed by individuals seeking to raise funds, either by holding the abductee for ransom or selling them to human traffickers.
Famous kidnappings throughout history
Arguably the best-known and most influential kidnapping in American history was the abduction of Charles Augustus Lindbergh, Jr., the 20-month-old son of famed pilot Charles Lindbergh. The "Lindbergh baby" was taken from the family's home on March 01, 1932. Although the kidnapper repeatedly communicated that the baby was safe and the Lindberghs paid the demanded random, the child's body was found on May 12, almost 10 weeks after the kidnapping, and showed signs of having been dead for roughly eight weeks. While a perpetrator was eventually arrested and convicted, the evidence was entirely circumstantial. The Lindbergh kidnapping inspired the creation of the Federal Kidnapping Act as well as several state-level anti-kidnapping laws.
One of the more unusual kidnappings in the Western World was that of Patty Hearst, the 19-year-old heiress and descendant of publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst. Kidnapped in 1974 by a domestic terrorist group called the Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA), Hearst was abused, coerced, and brainwashed to the point that she took up the group's principles and began committing crimes. She was arrested 19 months after her abduction and convicted of bank robbery,
Another famous case of kidnapping occurred in Iran in 1979, when 52 Americans were taken hostage by fundamentalist Islamic revolutionaries. The Iranian Hostage Crisis, as it came to be known, lasted 444 days, including the entire final year of U.S. President Jimmy Carter's term, and impacted the balance of political power around the globe.
In more recent years, several kidnappings have garnered national attention in the United States. Many have led to new laws—and in one instance, a new television show.
On July 7, 1981, 10-year-old Adam Walsh was taken from a department store in Hollywood, Florida. His partial remains were discovered two weeks later. His father, John Walsh, became the host of a television show called America's Most Wanted, which showed reenactments of unsolved crimes and asked the public to call a toll-free hotline if they saw the suspects or had information pertaining to the case. The series ran for 26 seasons and, as of April 20, 2021, has helped capture more than 1,190 fugitives.
11-year-old Jaycee Dugard was kidnapped in Meyers, California on June 10, 1991 and held prisoner for more than 18 years by Phillip and Nancy Garrido. The crime, in which the Garridos kept Dugard (and eventually her two daughters, both sired by Garrido via sexual assaults) in sheds and tents in their backyard, could have been discovered multiple times, were it not for several errors in judgement and protocol by law enforcement authorities.
In 1996, nine-year-old Amber Hagerman was kidnapped from a parking lot in Arlington, Texas. Her body was recovered days later. This tragic event led to the creation of the Amber Alert system, which utilizes radio, TV, text messages, and other communication methods to quickly notify the public when an abduction has taken place and, when possible, describe the vehicle involved. The Amber Alert system has expanded to or inspired similar systems in dozens of additional countries, including Canada, Mexico, China, Russia, Australia, and 26 European nations.
In 2002, Elizabeth Smart was kidnapped from her own bedroom at the age of 14 and spent nine months at the mercy of her captors, Brian David Mitchell and Wanda Ileen Barzee. She was eventually rescued after Mitchell was recognized by a viewer who had seen the kidnapping profiled on America's Most Wanted.