Friday, 11 December 2009

London kidnappings: 5 per week for the last three years

Below are the borough by borough figures for 2009 (1st Jan to 10th Dec):

Newham 34

Lambeth 22
Greenwich 19
Southwark 18
Redbridge 16
Tower Hamlets 16
Lewisham 15
Waltham Forest 15
Barking & Dagenham 14
Haringey 13
Croydon 12
Enfield 12
Hillingdon 11
Harrow 10
Bexley 9
Hammersmith & Fulham 8
Bromley 8
Hackney 8
Havering 8
Brent 7
W'minster 7
Camden 6
Islington 5
Wandsworth 5
Sutton 4
Kingston 3
Barnet 3
Hounslow 2
Merton 2
Richmond 1
Heathrow 1
Ealing 1
Kensington & Chelsea 0
Total 315

The reason for this freedom of information request:

Kidnapping in London is not new: The Independent in 2005: London has a kidnap everyday and more detail in the Guardian, also 2005: A Kidnap a day by foreign gangs in London.

According to the Guardian in 2005: "In as many as 80% of cases, armed officers storm the kidnappers' stronghold and rescue the victim. But bringing the kidnappers to justice is difficult, often because victims are too frightened to testify. The prosecution rate for kidnap is just 20%, although many perpetrators are jailed for related offences."

The piece said: "Kidnapping is particularly prevalent in the Chinese, Afro-Caribbean, south Asian and eastern European communities, where extreme violence and torture is common, often over relatively small amounts of money."

But you don't hear about it very often. This story from 2006 is the only one I could find in which the police had been able to prosecute despite hostages refusing to cooperate - there may well be more. Back then Detective Superintendent Alan Pughsley, from the Met's Kidnap Unit, said: "This is a prime example of a difficult prosecution where the hostages did not support the police. These kidnappers are dangerous individuals from criminal networks who are highly likely to commit these offences again. It is therefore vital that all is done to prosecute and convict these individuals."

The average annual figure of 240 kidnaps per year (both in 2007 and 2008 - with 2009 likely to be similar) means that there have been about 20 kidnaps a month in London - nearly five a week - for the last three years. In the light of Pughsley's 2006 comment that these kidnappers are "highly likely to commit these offences again" and the figures from 2005, the problem is not getting any better.

Recent concerns about a likely surge in organised crime around the sex industry in Olympic boroughs could see current levels increase. Is prostitution soaring in Hackney, who are the customers?

So how many of these kidnappings are carried out by 'professional' kidnappers? Is that what is going on in Newham?

If hostages don't cooperate is it because they are also involved in organised crime? Or is it, as the Guardian piece suggests, that the hostages do not cooperate because they fear reprisals from the kidnappers.

Another question is how much police time is spent dealing with kidnappings and is the problem starting to become more mainstream?

Offences like this recent high profile kidnapping look like the work of people who had done something similar before.

Does this sound like something a random set of inexperienced people would decide to do? "On the day of the rescue the victims' clothes were removed, they were showered, dressed in bin bags and walked to a waiting vehicle which was also cleaned."

DI Steve Wagstaff of the Met's kidnap unit said: "That is not an act of people who plan to release victims back to their lives, but only the people involved know what was going to happen."

The hostages in the example above did cooperate but how had their kidnappers developed their technique? Has the failure to prosecute led to the evolution of experienced kidnappers? How many of these 240 kidnaps per year are carried out by the same people? Many of these crimes may be completely unrelated to this issue but it would be interesting to know what proportion of them are the work of organised kidnappers. That question has not been answered here.

(Newham and other kidnap stories: 23 hour kidnap ordeal, kidnap gran jailed, kidnap and cannabis factory, Vietnamese drug/gang/kidnap story from 2005, Dec 2009 surge in 'Honour' crimes including kidnap)

Police response:

The police said: "These figures represent alleged kidnappings reported to the borough from 1/1/2009 - 10/12/2009. Following investigation these allegations may be re-classified. The borough where a report of kidnap is made does not necessarily indicate that it is the borough where the person was kidnapped. Equally, the location of the kidnap does not indicate that this is the same area where people are being held. These may involve different boroughs or even different police force areas."

The above figures were supplied on Friday 11 December. On November 11 2009 the police replied to these questions:

1. The number of kidnaps that occur annually in London.

The MPS response is: In 2007 there were 390 incidents which were initially reported as a kidnap prior to any investigation taking place to ascertain the fuller details. Of these 240 remained as a kidnap or attempted kidnap.
In 2008, 377 were reported and 240 remained as kidnaps.
In 2009, to date (03/11/2009) 325 have been reported and 213 have remained as kidnaps.

2. The number of these kidnaps that involve armed police.

The MPS response is: It is not practicable to answer this question, in order to retrieve this information it would require a detailed review of each report (of the 693 reports) in an attempt to establish if there was any participation by a firearms unit. For example the involvement, if any, of a firearms unit may take many forms from the provision of advice to being deployed to an area to an armed entry into a premises.

3. And the number of kidnaps that occur annually in which the hostages do not cooperate with the police.

There is no information held on this category. I question whether it is in the best interests of justice and future investigations to address this issue. There can be many reasons for not wishing to take an investigation further. These may include family pressure, personal reasons, not wishing to attract publicity or trauma linked to the event.

4. Which boroughs have the highest incidence of this kind of crime?

The borough where a report of kidnap is made does not necessarily indicate that it is the borough where the person was kidnapped. Equally, the location of the kidnap does not indicate that this is the same area where people are being held. These may involve different boroughs or even different police force areas.

With a modern transient population people move for work and domestic reasons and great caution must be exercised when attaching such data to an offence type.

With the above caveat regarding its relevance and accuracy, on a purely statistical basis, the most initial reports of a kidnap in 2009 have originated in Newham Borough.

We are unable to supply the information for 2007 or 2008, as the way information was recorded prior to 2009 it did not include borough codes and therefore we would need to perform a review of each report (of the 480 reports) to be able to ascertain this information. This would be an extremely time consuming and not a cost efficient use of resources.


  1. Hi,

    Sorry for the delay in responding to your request left on my blog.

    Short answer, I have no idea!

    I'll have a word with some of the local cops and see if I can get a decent answer.

    Brillant post.

  2. I hope this may be of some use: