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Hostage Response: An Examination of U.S. Law Enforcement Practices Concerning Hostage Incidents

NCJ Number
W B Head
Date Published
147 pages
This study examines the characteristics of hostage incidents and the policies currently used by U.S. law enforcement personnel in handling hostage incidents.
The study explored hostagetaking in its various forms, including kidnapping, hijacking, and barricade situations. Existing typologies of hostagetakers and hostage events were analyzed, and a data base of U.S. hostage incidents occurring over a 10-year period was developed, drawing upon a number of official and unofficial sources. Descriptive analyses indicate the effectiveness of current policies for dealing with hostagetakers, and multivariate analysis attempted to develop a descriptive model to assist in the handling of future hostage incidents. The efficacy of various law enforcement tactics for dealing with hostage incidents was assessed. Data indicate that restraint which uses negotiation for the release of hostages before resorting to force is more likely than aggressive tactics to ensure the safe release of the hostages. Hostagetakers are also less likely to be injured or killed under such a strategy. 30 tables, 9 figures, and 400-item bibliography. (Author abstract modified)