Criminologist explains motives behind child kidnappings

04 Oct 2022 09:00am
Photo for illustration purposes only - 123RF Photo
Photo for illustration purposes only - 123RF Photo

SHAH ALAM – Alleged child kidnapping cases have been on the rise these past few months, putting parents and the general public in a state of unrest.

Management and Science University (MSU) Criminologist Nadiah Syariani Md Shariff explained that children became targets of kidnapping depending on the kidnappers' motives.

She said kidnapping motives were categorised into financial, non-financial or other multiple motives.

“Kidnapping based on financial profit may involve children as a hostage or debt and there are possibilities that children were harmed, unharmed or not even returned once the ransom is paid,” she said.

Other motives like human trafficking, illegal syndicates like child adoption, beggar, child labour, organ donation and drugs-related syndicate, she said were also categorised under various motives of financial profiting in kidnapping cases.

In cases where the kidnapping was not financially motivated, Nadiah explained that perpetrators could either be the child’s own family member or just another stranger.

She said that family members who might be involved in a kidnapping usually have related issues with child custody, revenge by a former spouse, threats or attempts to instil fear among family members or could be a means to rescue a child from an abusive home environment.

Other than threatening and instilling fear in the family members, she said strangers resort to child kidnapping for reasons that could have a sexual or an abusive motive.

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“Kidnapping involving multiple motives is quite complex, but kidnapping is a beginning for other types of crime or it can lead to another crime,” she said.

She added that children were often targeted as kidnapping victims due to their small physique, which made them vulnerable and weak against the kidnapper.

However, she said the modus operandi of each kidnapper would be different based on their motives.

“They could use force or non-force methods like enticing, persuasion and manipulation as long as the child is taken away,” she said.

In the past months, the public was troubled by various reports of kidnappings that allegedly took place especially around school areas.

In Gua Musang, Kelantan, two primary students were reported to have escaped an abduction attempt at SK Sri Wangi on Sept 19 and 20, respectively.

A Perodua Myvi was said to lure these students into the car after their religious classes.

However, Kelantan police chief Datuk Muhammad Zaki Harun said upon investigation, it was found the person accused was at the school compound for legitimate reasons.

He added that a similar case was reported in Kuala Krai, which turned out the suspect to be an employee doing monthly collections for his company.

On Sept 23 in Ipoh, Perak, an eight-year old student was also claimed to be nearly abducted at SK Pengkalan. The claim was in a video showing the infamous white van, which went viral after it was posted online.

The ones who shared the video also claimed the abduction was for organ harvesting purposes.

Perak police chief Datuk Yusri Hassan Basri refuted such claims and explained the student told investigators that he faked the claims to observe how it would turn out in a real kidnapping situation.

The eight-year old student also admitted he was influenced to do so after watching similar content on TikTok, Whatsapp and Telegram.

A few days after on Sept 28 in Temerloh, Pahang, a woman posted on Facebook that an unidentified person was in front of her home with heavily-tinted vehicles for reasons of abduction.

However, investigations found that the accused person was only in the neighbourhood to deliver and change gas stoves and the woman who made the claim apologised.

On Sept 30 in Gombak, Selangor, the police received three separate reports of parents saying their children - two nine-year olds and a seven-year old - were nearly abducted outside of their school by unknown men.

Upon investigation, the police concluded that there was no decisive evidence to prove there was any abduction attempt as claimed.

Police had also refuted many claims of the alleged kidnapping cases since several news were circulated on social media and messaging platforms.