April 19, 2019

The US Department of State’s Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) added an additional risk indicator for kidnapping and/or hostage taking to their standardized travel advisories April 9. The “K” risk indicator has been established to identify countries that represent a specific threat of kidnapping and/or hostage taking, and are not necessarily applied to all high-threat countries. These risk indicators aid in determining and characterizing travel advisory ratings, are used to denote threat, and provide information and advice on various security concerns on a country-by-country basis. In many instances, the “K” indicator illustrates where kidnapping is a primary security concern. Currently, OSAC has identified 35 countries that pose a kidnapping security concern using a four-level risk-indicator system:

  • Level 1: Exercise Normal Precautions
  • Level 2: Exercise Increased Precautions
  • Level 3: Reconsider Travel
  • Level 4: Do not Travel


Why Are Kidnapping Assessments Useful? 

Political, security, and cultural landscapes differ from country to country, and in some cases, from region to region, making kidnapping a diverse security threat. While two countries may maintain the same threat rating, this does not necessarily equate to similar threats in those countries. Two countries may share a high kidnap rating stemming from different threat sources. The kidnapping threat in Mexico is high and is largely criminally motivated, while the Philippines maintains a high threat largely associated with the extremist and ideologically driven groups in the Mindanao region and the Sulu Archipelago. It should also be noted that elevated kidnap-threat areas do not necessarily constitute locations with the most reported kidnappings, but are areas assessed to present security threats conducive to kidnapping such as high crime rates, economic deprivation, political instability, and armed conflict. When assessing the nature and extent of the threat posed by kidnapping, a variety of quantitative and qualitative methodologies are employed, taking into account statistical trends, open-source material including OSAC travel advisories, and privileged information. Kidnap incident statistics, while useful in offering insight, are not a reliable means of identifying or assessing kidnapping threat dynamics, due in part to high levels of underreporting across the world.

In-depth and customized reports provide information on emerging threats, statistical trends, primary perpetrators and their tactics, likely victims, ransom demands and settlements, lethality rates, and incident durations. Threat assessments are aimed at reducing clients’ vulnerability to kidnap threats and activity. Identifying area-specific threats prior to travel aids in the implementation of risk-mitigation measures for individual travelers and organizations wanting to minimize the risks to their personnel, operations, reputation, and profitability.


WorldAware’s Kidnapping Security Assessment Rating

WorldAware has developed its kidnapping rating system, the KSAR. These ratings are used to express an established or emerging threat of kidnapping geographically. WorldAware has formulated these ratings with a view to providing a comprehensive assessment of a country or region’s kidnapping and extortion environment. KSARs are represented according to five threat levels.

  • Minimal: 1
  • Low: 2
  • Moderate: 3
  • High: 4 
  • Severe: 5

KSARs represent a baseline threat used to analyze trends and dynamics that hold the potential to impact foreign travels, employees, and business operations and interests, globally. In most elevated kidnap-threat countries, locals face the greatest threat and are predominantly affected. As such, statistics based solely on the number of reported incidents are not useful in assessing the threat to foreigners. KSARs are also useful on a micro level when assessing the threat or probability of being affected by kidnapping. The threat to individuals may vary according to their risk profile, which is taken into consideration when characterizing the threat; this is a necessary part of the analytical process due to the unique variables and human interactions at play and the complex nature of this crime type.

WorldAware considers the following criteria when formulating threat assessments: 

  • The nationality and occupational status of an individual
  • The threat to individuals, local and foreign
  • The threat to expats or long-term residents
  • The threat to those in-country on a short-term basis
  • The threat to those undertaking travel in a recreational, business, or humanitarian capacity
  • Perpetrator type
  • Geographical location
  • The motivation for the kidnapping

As you can see, kidnapping security ratings are valuable to your organization as an indicator of existing and emerging threats. Individuals and organizations in or planning travel or operations to high- and severe-threat locations should take note of the significant threat that kidnapping poses and the potential for negative and complex outcomes. Risk-mitigation strategies, including area-specific kidnap assessments, and security measures should be tailored accordingly. 

About WorldAware

WorldAware provides intelligence-driven, integrated risk management solutions that enable multinational organizations to operate globally with confidence. WorldAware’s end-to-end tailored solutions, integrated world-class threat intelligence, innovative technology, and response services help organizations mitigate risk and protect their people, assets, and reputations.