Trends in Organized Crime

, Volume 16, Issue 2, pp 156–176 | Cite as

The unintended consequences of kingpin strategies: kidnap rates and the Arellano-Félix Organization

  • Nathan JonesEmail author


Kingpin strategies— the targeting of the top-levels of terrorist or drug trafficking organization hierarchies— has become a centerpiece of US and Mexican efforts to combat drug trafficking. This study addresses the unintended consequences of these strategies by assessing the impact of the arrest or deaths of Arellano Felix Organization leaders on kidnap and homicide levels from the late 1990’s to 2011. Based on the study, the arrest of important AFO “lieutenants” increased kidnap rates. Arrests or the deaths of organization “kingpins” did not result in increased homicides or kidnappings, if respected successors were ready to fill leadership vacuums. When leadership succession was in question, the arrest of “kingpins” did result in internecine conflict and thus increased homicide and kidnapping rates. Following internecine conflict, kidnap and homicide rates dropped, but not to pre-conflict levels. This is likely attributable to the use of kidnapping and homicide as a dispute resolution mechanism in the growing Tijuana consumer drug market.


AFO Arellano Felix Organization Counternarcotics Decapitation strikes High value targets Kidnapping Kingpin Mexican drug trafficking organizations Second order effects Tijuana Cartel 



I would like to take this opportunity to thank my dissertation committee members Professors Caesar Sereseres, Etel Solingen, Kamal Sadiq and Louis Desipio. I would also like to thank Steve Duncan of the California Department of Justice for opening important doors for me in the course of my research on the AFO. Finally, I would like to thank the Institute Global Conflict and Cooperation (IGCC), the UC Irvine Center for Global Peace and Conflict Studies (CGPACS) and the UC Irvine Department of Political Science for funding various phases of research on which this analysis is based.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Alfred C. Glassell III Postdoctoral Fellow in Drug PolicyRice University’s James A. Baker III Institute for Public PolicyHoustonUSA

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