Here’s the second to last installment in Fernando’s “Thoughts on Urban Survival” essay, in which he writes about the kidnapping that ran rampant in Argentina after the collapse. This is a subject that he brought up while he was on my show last week, and one that I had never really given much thought to in relation to an economic collapse. I was surprised when I asked: “You mean they were kidnapping rich people in Argentina?” and he answered: “No, they would kidnap anybody!”. You wouldn’t think that kidnapping someone from the same socio-economic bracket (i.e. the poor) would be considered a viable solution, but when things get desperate, people do desperate things.
MORE ON SECURITY – KIDNAPPING
The theory behind kidnapping is simple to explain, yet it evolved into a complicated issue that presents itself in several forms and the survivalist should understand to better defend his family and himself. The way kidnapping just popped out of nowhere it astonishing to say the least. One day kidnapping for money is almost unheard of, and within a couple of months, after the economical collapse, everyone starts getting kidnapped. The news report of about 3 or 5, sometimes even 10 kidnaps in one day in Buenos Aires city.
As time went by, the news dropped the issue and you don’t hear much about people being kidnapped any more. Does this means that the kidnaps stopped? I don’t think so. I still hear about people getting kidnapped in my own neighborhood, express kidnaps (I’ll explain later). Since my neighborhood is “nice” compared to most of Buenos Aires, I can only conclude that kidnapping is still VERY popular, but that the media isn’t reporting about it any more because of obvious political reasons. Why did kidnaps start in the first place? In a country where there were nearly 0 cases?
Because since the economy crashed, suddenly there where lots of poor people that didn’t have enough money to feed their families. This was the main reason, but not the only reason though. After the first riots and looting, it was quite obvious that the government and police had no true control of what was going on. Obviously they were overwhelmed.
Once the veil of crime=jail is lifted and people comprehend that they will not be punished for their crimes, it’s the beginning of the end people. All of a sudden, bank robbery, stealing, kidnapping and murdering people is just a matter of personal moral values, nerve and determination, and punishment is almost left out of the equation.
1) The first kind of kidnap to appear was the most common one. People were intercepted, either when walking or driving, by the band of kidnappers. Well organized bands of at least 5 or 6 members, with battle rifles, SMG’s and communications, intercept the victim with at least 2 cars. Do not be mistaken; these guys know what they are doing. In most bands you will likely find a LEO gone bad that decided to increase the poor cop salary the gov. pays.
The victim is taken to a far away location in one of the many extremely poor neighborhoods in Buenos Aires. They call asking for a ransom, a ridiculously high one, and the negotiation starts. The person is held for a few days, maybe even a couple of weeks. If a month goes by and the person doesn’t show up, forget about it, he’s already dead. Some times they torture him too much, covered his mouth with tape “As seen on TV” and the victim chokes to death, dies of heart or health complications or they just get scared of getting caught and shot the poor guy. They get scared of getting caught not because of the police efficiency, but because most of the time one of the kidnapers KNOWS the victim. Either an employee, friend, neighbor or relative that knows that X person has money available for Y reason, either he is already wealthy, or he sold or inherited and has a large sum of cash available. These kinds of kidnap are generally very gruesome, with tapes of the victim being tortured sent to the family, fingers getting cut and other creative means of encouraging the family to pay. Survivability of this kind of kidnap is about 60%-70%, give or take. Not good.
2) The second kind of kidnap is called “Express kidnap” because it occurs fast, a smaller amount of money is asked as ransom, so that the family can come up with it within an hour or so, and if everything goes as planed the victim is released with an hour or two. This is, by far, the most popular kind of kidnap we see today in my country. Even police advice you to pay and get over with when they ask for small ransoms. The victim is chosen randomly, because of the way he/she dresses, because he/she seems to be easy to control and dominate and isn’t likely to resist the attack.
Kidnapers found out that this low profit, but fast, low risk kind of kidnap is very profitable in the long run, and does not involve the complicated and expensive logistic of long term kidnaps, where you need a place to keep the victim, feed him, someone to watch over him 24/7 , etc.
The victim of an “express kidnap” rarely leaves the car/van he/she was pulled into. The criminals Survivability is much greater than in the 1st kind of kidnap, I’d say about 90%. This doesn’t mean that the victim is in good hands. Girls are raped by the gang most of the time. Men may fare a little better, probably get beaten up a little if they are problematic. The chances of surviving are greater because kidnapers don’t know the victim most of the time, they don’t have time to worry about the “what if’s” get scared and decide to get rid of the victim, and because police is almost never involved in them. As I said, when small sums of money are asked for they recommend to just pay.
3) The third kind of kidnap isn’t nearly as dangerous as the previous ones, but you should still know about it to prepare of it better. After all, it’s all about preparing and covering as many scenarios as possible, right? “Virtual kidnaps” caught all of us by surprise. It consists on someone knowing that a wealthy person is going to be “away from town” or unable to communicate for a certain period of time and taking advantage of it. They will call the family and say that X person has been kidnapped and that they have 30-60 minutes or sometimes more to pay (depending on the time the person will be unable to communicate) The family, unable to get in contact with the family member pays, only to later realize that it was all a scam.
Some SOBs even took advantage of real kidnaps, pretending to be the kidnapers and asking for ransom before the real kidnapers got in contact. This kind of “virtual kidnap” isn’t as popular anymore, though some get caught every now and them. Most smart people make sure they always know where family members are and communicate with cell phones or tell each other when they wont be available to prevent these situations.
I dedicated some time to the kidnap issue because I firmly believe that if your country goes through an economical crisis for any given reason, desperate immoral people will find out about the fine art of kidnapping soon enough and Americans may have to face this kind of threat, which they are not used to. I personally know a man that escaped his kidnapers 3 times. Once he escaped through the roofs, by removing some sheet metal in the room, and the other two he jumped out of the moving vehicle. You must think the man is 7 feet tall, all muscle, and trained with some of the best defensive schools… of course not. He’s a short, stocky, barrel chest fellow, now in his 50s that looks like a neighborhood Italian butcher.
This man’s weapons of choice? A frag grenade and a 357 revolver. He had the grenade rolling inside the car floor among the pedals the last time I heard of him. The thing would get caught under the pedals and at least once he crashed his car because of it.
He once even shot his own mother on the hip with the 357 magnum. A patient had escaped from a mental institution and broke into the woman’s house from the back yard. The old woman called his sons and the first to arrive was “grenade guy”. As soon as he entered the house he saw the man and shot him without saying a word, missed and wounded his mother in the hip. The poor escaped patient froze right were he stood when he heard the shot.
Right after this, the woman’s other son arrived and saw his mother bleeding on the floor next to his brother, and thought that the nut case had hurt her. Thank God they stopped him before he blew the poor man’s head off. This man obviously knows nothing about the proper equipment and defensive tactics, but hey! Anyone that escapes kidnapers 3 times has my respect. So, what can we learn from this?: That even though your weapons of choice may be a little “exotic” or even down right inappropriate, DETERMINATION, MENTAL ATTITUDE, ( along with a nice dose of good old luck) is enough to make the difference. The training helps a lot, and so does the gear, but in the end it’s all about attitude.
This man gets a 0 when it comes to weapons, shooting skills and tactics, but it’s all about proper survival mentality. He’s quite the SSS (shoot, shovel and shut up guy) and for sure has a few dead bad guys on his debt, not that I’ll ever know anything about that. He managed to survive and excel in a rough business, the recycling of paper, where they deal with paper scavengers, which are not exactly Berkley college boys, if you get my meaning. His recycling company made him and his family very rich, specially now, that there are lots of poor people that scrounge paper and cardboard to survive.
Bragging about the people you kill is not a good survival attitude, and should be avoided. Seriously, if you have problems keeping your mouth shut when it comes to stuff like this, do some serious soul searching and change it. Same goes for new guns, large food supplies or new equipment you may me proud of. The word gets around fast so keep it to yourself.
And this takes us back to the kidnapping issue.
“My Scout/Squad M1A1 looks SO cool! And it shoots like a champ. They cost a fortune right now, but I was smart enough to buy it before the economy crash back in XXXX! ” You tell your mechanic, a guy you’ve known for years. Now, the guy that your friend just hired, who just happened to overhear the conversation, him you never met before. Neither do you know that he’s a problematic kind of guy that has drug problems and is always looking for expensive stuff to sell.
You are also clueless when you are held at gunpoint some days later, just when you were leaving to the office, and the first thing the guy says is “I want the guns”.
So, what can you do to protect you family and yourself from kidnapers?
1) Keep you mouth shut about everything that has economical value, or your family’s schedule. Especially be careful around people that have economical problems or drug problems, people that always need cash. Don’t trust your employees with internal business affairs. Remember, most of the time the informant is someone close to the victim.
2) Keep a low profile. I know people that even though they have the money to buy any car they want, they stick to common low profile cars. Even the private school I went to when I was a kid that has its own mandatory uniform, encouraged parents to send kids wearing regular clothes instead. Kids dressed in private school uniforms where being kidnapped all over the place.
3) Learn evasive driving. Never allow cars to cut off escape routes. Again, the use of body armor may make the difference between escaping a well organized kidnap or not.
Get yourself comfortable and fix yourself a cup of coffee because this is one long subject that calls for a book of its own. I’ll do my best to synthesize and tell how driving changed after the economical collapse. As always, crime directly affects the way you will drive after TSHTF. As will the price or availability of spare parts determine what car should you get. Another factor to consider is that, as I said before services will suffer in quality after TSHTF. This means that roads will no longer be what they used to be.
People that live in 1st world countries are used to well kept streets and roads. Let me tell you, after only a few months of no maintenance, street will look as if bombed from an airplane. Rain and temperature difference destroys the pavement very fast.
Right now in Buenos Aires there are holes in the street the size of trucks. There were cases of cars actually falling inside these craters, so you can imagine the conditions streets are in.
A low car, designed for perfect pavement should be avoided as much as possible. That’s why I said that if I could do everything all over again I would get a 4×4 SUV.
This doesn’t mean that you should buy a huge 4×4 truck to drive around the city all day long. That’s not very practical and you do need a fast, easy to maneuver vehicle that can get out of problems fast. A medium size SUV should be the ticket for both agility and 4×4 power. Getting stuck in a roadblock because your truck is to darn big to maneuver around it, then what’s the use of the 4×4?
There are many options out there. The small Suzuki 4×4 are good options, though a little bit fragile for my taste, maybe a Jeep Wrangler would be better. Anyway, just keep in mind that your vehicle should be a compromise between speed, ease of maneuver or agility, and 4×4 traction.
Ok, so now you spent some hours on the Internet, searched for the best option, and you bought your brand new SHTF 4×4 car. Now what? Is that it? Unfortunately no. Choosing the right vehicle gives you the tool, but you now have to learn how to use it, and it’s not exactly what you learned when you got your drivers license, as a matter of fact, it’s quite the opposite. I can read your mind “Go to sleep FerFAL. You are burned out and you make no sense” Let me explain.
Close your eyes. Look inside you. Find that little politically correct driver guy inside you, the one that was born the day you learned how to drive. You see him? Good! Grab him before he sneaks away. Now hit him, choke him, and kill that little PC driver guy inside you. I killed mine a couple of years ago. It took me about 2 years to drive the way I do now, to react without thinking. What does it mean? I no longer flinch, or stir the wheel when something comes close to the car; I keep driving as if nothing happens. A dog runs in front of the car and I don’t move an inch, a ball hits the windshield and nothing. I killed the little PC guy inside me, the one that used to say” Watch out! You are going to hit something/someone! Turn the other way!”. Reacting like that can get you killed after TSHTF.
Guys, you have to prepare for people throwing objects at your car, standing themselves in front of the vehicle so that you stop or crash against a light/tree/whatever, so that they can rob you. It takes time and determination, but you MUST get to a point where if the windshield blows in you can continue driving as best as you can, if someone puts twisted nails on the road and blows your tires, you keep calm and keep driving, always keep driving no matter what, until you get to a gas station or other place safe. Especially at night, or early morning you have to keep the car moving all the time. Of course this is not always possible. Sometimes there is too much traffic and you have to stop. In this case, slow down before you get to the cars, and keep the car moving slowly until the light changes, in order to always keep the car moving. Never cut away your own escape routes by getting too close to the car in front. Leave at least 5 meters or so in front of you, so that you have enough place to maneuver.
At night, no one stops at red lights in Buenos Aires. That’s why many districts decided to turn the traffic light to a permanent yellow at night, in order to reduce car accidents. There are places in Buenos Aires where you don’t stop at the traffic lights all day long. Today, when I was retuning from the University at 1.30 PM, I passed a red light right in front of a police patrol car. The cop didn’t say a word. He understands that no one stops on the Dark road (the road I take back home) unless it’s inevitable. This won’t happen over night. It will take at least a few months after TSHTF until cops and authorities understand the new reality of the country. Even now, there are those that may stop you from crossing on a red light at night. But most patrol cars will understand, even crossing the red light themselves.
Another variable that has to be dealt with on the street is people. People that live in 1st world countries have little problems and low stress compared to guys that don’t know where they are going to get money to feed their families next week, or when they are going to finally find a job.
ights among drivers in 1st world countries may end up in the beating of someone in the worst-case scenario. Over here, people are so nervous and aggressive that many times people kill each other. This should not be ignored guys, if SHTF the sheep will turn aggressive and might be dangerous. They will usually start a fight over a minor problem, just because they are nervous, or angry at the world. You can still get beat to death with a bat or bare hands you know? You car weaponry should take all of this into consideration. A handgun should be with you at all times, but it may be excessive for dealing with a mad driver. A bat and pepper spray will be enough to face an unarmed attacker, most times. I keep one canister of pepper spray and a small bat in my car at all times, apart form the 9mm pistol I may be carrying.
The pepper spray car tactic is the following:
1) Idiot driver starts a fight over XYZ.
2) Mad driver chases you, honking the horn, flashing lights and insulting.
3) I slow down, and let him place the car next to mine
4) 9 out of 10 times, the mad driver will lower the passenger window to insult you the better.
5) That’s when you grab the can of pepper spray, lower your own window as if for insulting and you spray him into his own car by surprise.
This will ensure that the mad driver will stop chasing you, and you prevent an even more violent episode where you would end up using lethal force. I had more than a couple of problems myself with other drivers. One Saturday night a guy in an armored truck chased me for several blocks, flashing lights and staying on my tail. I don’t know if he was mental, or on drugs, drunk or if he wanted to rob me. In this case having a smaller faster car allowed me to escape the nut driver. In another occasion a driver broke my right mirror. One time a guy got out of his car on a red light and started hitting my car. Of course, I didn’t get off the car. That would have been stupid and dangerous. What did I do? I had left some space between my car and the one on front. They guy was kicking my car on the right side. I put the gear on reverse, catching the guy between my car and his, and rolled him between the two like a freaking burrito. The guy fell to the ground, I never knew how bad he was hurt or not. I suppose that not too bad, because my car didn’t even show a small bump or dent, so it couldn’t have applied much force to the man’s body. I don’t care much, either. After going on reverse for a few meters, I shifted to 1st, turned left and left the place.
You should get to know your car and what it’s capable of. 180 degree turns using the hand brake isn’t that hard and after a day or two of practicing it you should be able to do it easily. If someone is chasing you and the situation is serious, suddenly hitting the brakes will bust the chasing car’s front, ruining the radiator and engine. You’ll crash you back side but your car will still work, his won’t.
Cars blocking the road (kidnapers, thieves) should be avoided with a 180 degree turn, or going on reverse fast and turning using the regular foot brake can also achieve a almost 180 degree turn. If you can’t go back because they have cars cutting the road there too, don’t crash your car as fast as you can “As seen on TV”. What you should do is: SLOWLY, place the front bumper of your car against the back wheel axis of the car blocking the road (they usually place the car ACROSS the road to cover more area) and accelerate. The trunk compartment, the back part of the car, isn’t nearly as heavy as the front part where the engine is, so it should turn quite easily when you accelerate. Shooting your handgun while maneuvering will keep them away from you while you do this.
These are just a couple of defensive driving techniques. If possible, take some defensive-dissuasive driving classes. They are almost as important as shooting classes, in my opinion. Almost forgot. As many, I like hearing music when driving, and I used to set it rather loud. I quickly found out this isn’t the smartest thing to do, since you can’t hear what is going on around you; shooting, people screaming, a car running out of control, for example. Keep the volume low so as to listen to what’s going on around you. Or turn it off completely if you are in a high risk area.
Of course windows and doors must be closed at all times. Also try to keep at least half a tank full worth of gas in jerry cans. There are times when a roadblock will force you around alternative roads that you didn’t count on. Extra fuel is nice to have. If room in the vehicle is an issue, have at least one small can. And, as always, keep eyes on the road. But not only for other cars and people, but for bumps on the street (that can sometimes be like craters) or rocks and other objects bad guys may put so as to make you crash or force you to stop. Your eyes should be focused much further away most of the time, so as to anticipate to this.