A surge in extortion rackets organized by foreign gangs has substantially increased the number of kidnappings in the capital, with the average now running at almost one a day.
The rate of kidnappings has risen sharply in the past seven or eight years. Half of all kidnappers and victims in the capital are foreign nationals, usually from the same ethnic group. Detective Chief Superintendent Sharon Kerr, who heads Scotland Yard's serious and organized crime unit, said the growing number of foreign criminal networks carrying out kidnaps in the city led to increasingly complex and high risk situations.
"They are bringing their criminal enterprises with them and their different methodologies," she said. It was vital to gain immigrant communities' trust to help combat gangsters in their midst.
A total of 358 kidnaps were reported in London last year, according to figures released by London's Metropolitan police (Met) on Tuesday. The Met's specialist kidnap unit -- the only one in the UK -- works on about 50-80 "live" kidnaps a year. There have been 31 cases this year, 55 last year, 85 in 2003 and 79 in 2002.
In the other 300 or so cases, police are only notified after a ransom has been paid and the victim freed, and the true figure could be much higher, as many underworld-linked crimes go unreported.
The involvement of so many foreign nationals in kidnaps means the Met often works with police forces in several different jurisdictions. For example, someone might be kidnapped in London and a ransom demand made in Pakistan.
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. Last year, a group of Lithuanian men seized a young Lithuanian after overhearing his accent in the pub. They beat him senseless and then scrolled down the numbers in his mobile phone, calling friends and relatives to demand ?200 (US$364).
Police rescued the critically injured victim, who spent weeks on a life support machine.
So far, the Met kidnap unit, set up in 2001, has had a 100 percent success rate in recovering people alive. Skilled negotiators work round the clock to try to secure victims' safe release. In as many as 80 percent 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 percent, although many perpetrators are jailed for related offenses.
However, Sir Ian Blair, the Scotland Yard commissioner, said yesterday the Met is talking to the Home Office and Crown Prosecution Service to try to get more kidnap cases to court without the victims having to give evidence, in line with recent policy changes on domestic violence.
Most kidnaps are crime-related -- 29 percent are clearly linked to drugs, and another 36 percent are motivated by drugs or other crime.
But the vast majority of victims are usually innocent parties. For instance, a drug supplier may get his gang of "enforcers" to seize the younger brother of a drug dealer who owes him money.
Another 19 percent of kidnaps the Met deals with involve human trafficking, often of young east European or Asian women brought into the country illegally and then sold as sex slaves. In some cases, money is extorted from their families in China, Europe or elsewhere.
FRENCH AID: Paris has sent a navy ship and aircraft from Reunion Island with some pollution control equipment, but rough seas are spreading the oil spill The operator of a Japanese bulk carrier which ran aground off Mauritius in the Indian Ocean yesterday apologized for a major oil spill, which officials and environmentalists say is creating an ecological disaster, as police prepared to board the ship. The MV Wakashio, operated by Mitsui OSK Lines, struck the reef on Mauritius’ southeast coast on July 25. “We apologize profusely and deeply for the great trouble we have caused,” Mitsui OSK Lines executive vice president Akihiko Ono said at a news conference in Tokyo. The company would “do everything in their power to resolve the issue,” he said. At least 1,000 tonnes of
Three Micronesian sailors stranded on a remote Pacific island have been found alive and well after a rescue team spotted their giant SOS message written into the sand on a beach. Australian and US military aircraft found the three men on tiny Pikelot island, nearly 200km west of where they had set off. Rescuers said that the men were “in good condition” with no significant injuries. The men had been missing for three days after their 7m skiff ran out of fuel and strayed off course. Authorities in the US territory of Guam raised the alarm on Saturday after the men failed to complete
A cat that went missing on a family holiday on the shores of Loch Lomond, Scotland, has been identified 12 years later. Tortoiseshell-and-white Georgie spent October half term in 2008 with her owners at the Rowardennan campsite, but vanished as they were due to return home to Greater Manchester, England. After a search of the site the Davies family departed without Georgie, hoping the three-year-old microchipped feline would be located by someone. Over the intervening 12 years, she remained close to the Queen Elizabeth Forest Park site, being fed and cared for by campsite staff and holidaymakers. After the COVID-19 pandemic hit and lockdown
LIFELONG LOSS: Jiro Hamasumi, who was not quite born when an atomic bomb hit Hiroshima, lost his father and other relatives, but said he thinks about his father daily As Japan marks 75 years since the devastating attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the last generation of nuclear bomb survivors is working to ensure their message lives on after them. The “hibakusha” — literally “person affected by the bomb” — have for decades been a powerful voice calling for the abolition of nuclear weapons. There are an estimated 136,700 left, many of whom were infants or soon to be born at the time of the attacks. The average age of a survivor now is a little over 83, according to the Japanese Ministry of Health, lending an urgency as they share their testimonies