Understanding captive-takers motivations, methods and targets

Jean Garner Larned


Understanding Captive-Takers Motivations, Methods and Targets is the ultimate goal in order to help those who train, manage and prevent hostage taking events which include police officers, negotiators, recovery personnel, academics and psychologists. The overall lack of literature relating to the topic of captive-taker motivations is another impetus for this dissertation. There is a dearth of scholarly material in any of the main areas of understanding kidnapping/captive-taking/hostage-taking from the perspective of the perpetrator within law enforcement, psychology, private sector or academia. It is anticipated that this research study and the data garnered from it will assist academics, psychologists, private corporations, and law enforcement agencies in developing strategies for preventing, identifying, understanding perpetrator motivations, solving crimes, and future training for situations involving captive-taking. It is clear that there is an increasing problem of captive-taking specifically in or around large urban cities close to the U.S./Mexico border. Law enforcement professionals have a need of such information and intelligence so they can learn from and understand the perpetrator, their purpose and motivations to respond accordingly to effectively combat the growing threat of captive-taking through research, education, prevention, and detection, both internationally and domestically. The assessment process began with evaluating the protocol questionnaires, interviews and the subsequent data that followed. Utilizing the hypotheses and data analysis the information was evaluated, documented and interpreted to make recommendations for future research through an individual case study format. This was identified from the results of the Pilot Project and the ensuing data retrieved from the subject interviews. The interviews were evaluated according to the Global Hostage-Taking Research and Analysis Project (GHosT-RAP) parameters and from this; case studies were performed of each subject in the study with the final individual subject evaluations highlighting patterns, trends, and significance therein. This process utilized primary and secondary data interpretation and evaluation as part of the overall dissertation process. It was apparent from the captive-taker interviews that the criminal captive-taker is anti-social, lacking in opportunities to succeed, raised or taught by criminals, associated with criminals, had criminal tendencies, somewhat mentally challenged, had substance abuse issues, wanted to be a criminal, or forced into criminality, had experienced a traumatic event, had a physiological chemical imbalance and more importantly, came from a dysfunctional background. As exploratory research, this dissertation was conducted to describe the motivations of captive-takers, to determine and assist future responses by law enforcement, psychologists, and academics. A general review of the existing literature indicates that there is an increasing problem of captive-taking specifically along the U.S. / Mexico border. Mindful that there is possible encroachment from individuals within Mexico with regards to captive-taking, making it a sensitive bureaucratic issue. The majority of individuals that were taken captive in the United States came from Phoenix, Arizona or San Diego, California and were involved in some way with illegal border crossings, human smuggling, kidnapping or the inexorable narcotics business. Along with captive-taking, increasing violence has consumed the southwest border in recent years which includes the metropolitan area of Phoenix, Arizona. With this said, this study was conducted primarily in the qualitative research tradition, using the grounded theory method proposed by Strauss and Corbin (1998). The study involved the initiation of interviews during a pilot test of the protocol questionnaires (instruments) of captive-taker subjects who were incarcerated. The pilot test was initiated and conducted by members of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Behavioral Science Unit (BSU), and other federal agencies, state, and local law enforcement personnel, as interviewers, from the different agencies at a correctional facility in the greater Phoenix, Arizona area. This dissertation and subsequent research will continue to locate, identify and interview captive-takers with the eventual goal of having a large sample size of subjects to better understand captive-taking in order to help all those involved in the prevention of this phenomenon. Prevention would constitute pre, during and post captive-taking scenarios. Each case study was the direct result of the interviews, which highlighted interesting paradigms of motivations, reasoning, circumstance and geographical significance. Moreover, the motivations of the primary participants concerning captive-taking was the primary focus of this dissertation. A demographic questionnaire and personality assessment instruments (Appendix A) were administered to participants in order to make a baseline point of reference for the case studies.