Security Journal

, Volume 31, Issue 2, pp 548–569 | Cite as

Piracy for ransom: the implications for situational crime prevention

  • Jon M. ShaneEmail author
  • Eric L. Piza
  • Jason R. Silva
Original Article


Maritime piracy has been a worldwide problem for decades before starting gradual declines around 2011. Situational crime prevention (SCP) techniques have been shown to reduce successful pirate attacks (Shane and Magnuson 2014; Shane et al. 2015), suggesting that they may also be capable of reducing violent ransom hijackings. This study uses data from the International Maritime Bureau to examine (1) which vessels are most at risk of a pirate attack and ransom demand; (2) the relationship between attacks for ransom and violence; (3) which countries experience the most attacks for ransom; (4) the effect of SCP on injuries during attack; and (5) the effect of SCP on ransom demands. The findings show that SCP is a useful strategy for reducing episodes of ransom and injuries, highlighting how SCP techniques can be adapted in unique environments when other traditional crime control resources are unavailable.


Opportunity Shipping industry Situational crime prevention Vessel security Piracy for ransom 



We wish to acknowledge Dr. Bridget L. Coggins, Professor of Political Science, University of California Santa Barbara, for collating and making available part of the original data set from which we worked, and the anonymous review members who made this a stronger contribution to the literature.


This research was funded by the City University of New York (award number PSC-CUNY 69583-00-47, July 1, 2016).


  1. Bowden, A., K. Hurlburt, E. Aloyo, C. Marts, and A. Lee. 2010. The economic costs of maritime piracy. One Earth Future Foundation: Louisville.Google Scholar
  2. Bradford, J.F. 2008. Shifting the tides against piracy in Southeast Asian Waters. Asian Survey 48 (3): 473–491.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Brantingham, P., and P. Brantingham. 1975. The spatial patterning of burglary. Howard Journal of Criminal Justice 14 (2): 11–23.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Brantingham, P., and P. Brantingham. 1984. Patterns in Crime. New York: Macmillan.Google Scholar
  5. Brantingham, P., and P. Brantingham. 1993. Nodes, paths and edges: Considerations on the complexity of crime and the physical environment. Journal of Environmental Psychology 13 (1): 3–28.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Brantingham, P.L., and P.J. Brantingham. 1997. Mapping crime for analytic purposes: Location quotients, counts, and rates. In Crime Mapping and Crime Prevention: Crime Prevention Studies, vol. 8, ed. D. Weisburd, and T. McEwen, 263–288. Monsey: Criminal Justice Press.Google Scholar
  7. Burt, C. 1925. The young delinquent. London: University of London Press.Google Scholar
  8. Bryant, W., M. Townsley, and B. Leclerc. 2014. Preventing maritime pirate attacks: A conjunctive analysis of the effectiveness of ship protection measures recommended by the international maritime organization. Journal of Transportation Security 7 (1): 69–82.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Clarke, R.V. 1980. Situational crime prevention: Theory and practice. British Journal of Criminology 20 (2): 136–147.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Clarke, R.V. 1997. Situational Crime Prevention: Successful Case Studies. Albany: Harrow and Heston.Google Scholar
  11. Clarke, R.V., and J. Eck. 2005. Crime Analysis for Problem Solvers. Washington, DC: US Department of Justice, COPS Office.Google Scholar
  12. Coggins, B. 2012. Global patterns of maritime piracy, 2000–09: Introducing a new dataset. Journal of Peace Research 49 (4): 605–617.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Cohen, L.E., and M. Felson. 1979. Social change and crime rate trends: A routine activity approach. American Sociological Review 44: 588–608.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Cornish, D.B. 1994. The procedural analysis of offending and its relevance for situational prevention. Crime Prevention Studies 3: 151–196.Google Scholar
  15. Cornish, D., and R.V. Clarke (eds.). 1986. The Reasoning Criminal. New York: Springer-Verlag.Google Scholar
  16. Cornish, D., and R.V. Clarke. 2003. Opportunities, precipitators and criminal decisions: A reply to Wortley’s critique of situational crime prevention. In Theory for Situational Crime Prevention: Crime Prevention Studies, vol. 16, ed. M. Smith, and D.B. Cornish, 41–96. Monsey: Criminal Justice Press.Google Scholar
  17. Cullen, F.T., and R. Agnew. 2006. Criminological Theory Past to Present: Essential Readings, 3rd ed. Los Angeles: Roxbury.Google Scholar
  18. Davenport, T. 2012. Legal measures to combat piracy and armed robbery in the horn of Africa and in Southeast Asia: A comparison. Studies in Conflict and Terrorism 35 (7–8): 570–587.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Farrington, D.P., and B.J. Knight. 1980. Stealing from a ‘lost’ letter: Effects of victim characteristics. Criminal Justice and Behavior 7: 423–436.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Felson, M. 1994. Crime and Everyday Life: Insight and Implications for Society. Thousand Oaks: Pine Forge Press.Google Scholar
  21. Felson, M., and R.V. Clarke. 1998. Opportunity Makes the Thief: Practical Theory for Crime Prevention., Police Research Series, Paper 98 London: Home Office.Google Scholar
  22. Felson, M., and L.E. Cohen. 1980. Human ecology and crime: A routine activity approach. Human Ecology 8 (4): 389–406.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Forsyth, C.J., K.H. Gisclair, and Y.A. Forsyth. 2009. Waterborne crime: Examining contemporary piracy. Deviant Behavior 30 (8): 669–679.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Fund for Peace. 2014. Fragile States Index 2014. Washington, DC: FFP.Google Scholar
  25. Hartshorne, M., and M.A. May. 1928. Studies in the Nature of Character. New York: Macmillan.Google Scholar
  26. Hassall, C., and W.H. Trethowan. 1972. Suicide in Birmingham. British Medical Journal 1: 717–718.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Hastings, J.V. 2009. Geographies of state failure and sophistication in maritime piracy hijackings. Political Geography 28 (4): 213–223.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Ho, J. 2009. Piracy around the horn of Africa. Korean Journal of Defense Analysis 21 (4): 501–518.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Hope, T., and D. Murphy. 1983. Problems of implementing crime prevention: The experience of a demonstration project. The Howard Journal of Criminal Justice 22 (1–3): 38–50.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Huang, H. 2010. Who are sea cutthroats? A typological analysis of pirates. Crime, Law and Social Change 53: 277–298.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Jacob, H. 1984. Using Published Data. London: Sage.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Johnson, B. 2010. Multilevel analysis in the study of crime and justice. In Handbook of Quantitative Criminology, ed. A. Piquero, and D. Weisburd, 615–648. New York: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Lemieux, A., and R.V. Clarke. 2009. The international ban on ivory sales and its effect on elephant poaching in Africa. British Journal of Criminology 49: 451–471.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Lennox-Gentle, T. 2010. Piracy, sea robbery, and terrorism: Enforcing laws to deter ransom payments and hijacking. Transportation Law Journal 37 (3): 199–217.Google Scholar
  35. Marongiu, P., and R.V. Clarke. 1993. Random kidnapping in Sardinia, subcultural theory and rational choice. In Routine Activity and Rational Choice: Advances in Criminological Theory, vol. 5, ed. R.V. Clarke, and M. Felson. Transaction: New Brunswick, NJ.Google Scholar
  36. Merkling, S., and E. Davis. 2001. Kidnap & ransom insurance: A rapidly growing benefit. Compensation and Benefits Review 33 (6): 40–45.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Middleton, R. (2008) Piracy in Somalia. Chatham House, October.Google Scholar
  38. Mohamed, M.K.N. 2008. Kidnap for ransom in South East Asia. Asian Journal of Criminology 3 (1): 61–73.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Moor, M., and S. Remijnse. 2008. Kidnapping is Booming Business. IKV Pax Christi: Utrecht.Google Scholar
  40. Moorehead, C. 1980. Hostages to Fortune: A Study of Kidnapping in the World Today. New York: Atheneum.Google Scholar
  41. Murphy, M. 2008. Piracy and the exploitation of sanctuary. In Armed Groups: Studies in National Security, Terrorism, and Counterinsurgency, ed. J. Norwitz, 161–173. Newport: US Naval War College.Google Scholar
  42. Murphy, M. 2009. Small Boats, Weak States, Dirty Money: The Challenges of Piracy. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  43. Onuoha, F. 2009. Sea piracy and maritime security in the Horn of Africa: The Somali Coast and Gulf of Aden in perspective. African Security Studies 18 (3): 31–44.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Petrossian, G., and R.V. Clarke. 2014. Explaining and controlling illegal commercial fishing: An application of the CRAVED theft model. British Journal of Criminology 54: 73–90.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Pharoah, R. 2005. An unknown quantity: Kidnapping for ransom in South Africa. Crime Quarterly 14: 23–28.Google Scholar
  46. Pires, S.F., and R.V. Clarke. 2011. Sequential foraging, itinerant fences and parrot poaching in Bolivia. British Journal of Criminology 51: 314–335.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Pires, S.F., and R.V. Clarke. 2012. Are parrots CRAVED? An analysis of parrot poaching in Mexico. Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency 49: 122–146.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Pires, S.F., R.T. Guerette, and C.H. Stubbert. 2014. The crime triangle of kidnapping for ransom incidents in Columbia, South America: A ‘litmus’ test for situational crime prevention. British Journal of Criminology 54 (5): 748–808.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Piza, E., J. Caplan, and L. Kennedy. 2014. Analyzing the influence of micro-level factors on CCTV camera effect. Journal of Quantitative Criminology 30 (2): 237–264.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Ploch, L., C.M. Blanchard, R. O’Rourke, R.C. Mason, and R.O. King. 2011. Piracy of the Horn of Africa. Congressional Research Service: Report for Congress. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office.Google Scholar
  51. Psarros, G., A.F. Christiansen, R. SKjong, and G. Gravir. 2011. On the success rates of maritime piracy attacks. Journal of Transportation Security 4 (4): 309–335.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Raymond, C.Z. 2009. Piracy and armed robbery in the Malacca strait: A problem solved? Naval War College Review 62 (3): 31–42.Google Scholar
  53. Reppetto, T.A. 1974. Residential Crime. Cambridge: Ballinger.Google Scholar
  54. Salopek, P. 2013. A hidden victim of Somali pirates: Science. National Geographic News, April 25.Google Scholar
  55. Schoeman, M., and B. Haefele. 2013. The relationship between piracy and kidnapping for ransom. Insight on Africa 5 (2): 117–128.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Shane, J.M., and S. Magnuson. 2014. Successful and unsuccessful pirate attacks worldwide: A situational analysis. Justice Quarterly 33 (4): 707–862.Google Scholar
  57. Shane, J.M., E.L. Piza, and M. Mandala. 2015. Situational crime prevention and worldwide piracy: A cross-continent analysis. Crime Science 4 (21): 1–13.Google Scholar
  58. Shapiro, A.J. 2010. Counter-piracy policy: Delivering judicial consequences. Keynote Address. Paper presented at the meeting of the American University Law Review; March, Washington, DC.Google Scholar
  59. Stubbert, C.H., S.F. Pires, and R.T. Guerette. 2015. Crime science and crime epidemics in developing countries: A reflection on kidnappings for ransom in Columbia. South America. Crime Science 4 (23): 1–11.Google Scholar
  60. Sullivan, A.K. 2010. Piracy in the Horn of Africa and its effects on the global supply chain. Journal of Transportation Security 3 (4): 231–242.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Townsley, M., B. Leclerc, and P.H. Tatham. 2015. How super controllers prevent crimes: Learning from modern maritime piracy. British Journal of Criminology 56 (3): 537–557.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Twyman-Ghoshal, A.A. 2014. Contemporary piracy research in criminology: A review essay with directions for future research. International Journal of Comparative and Applied Criminal Justice 38 (3): 281–303.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Vagg, J. 1995. Rough seas? Contemporary piracy in Southeast Asia. British Journal of Criminology 35: 63–80.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Wallis, D. 2012 The business of dealing with kidnapping abroad. New York Times, May 3: F4.Google Scholar
  65. Wilkins, L.T. 1964. Social Deviance. London: Tavistock.Google Scholar
  66. Witherby Publishing Group. 2011. BMP 4: Best Management Practice for Protection Against Somali Based Piracy. Edinburgh: Witherby.Google Scholar
  67. Wolfgang, M.E., and F. Ferracuti. 1967. The Subculture of Violence: Towards an Integrated Theory in Criminology. London: Tavistock.Google Scholar
  68. Wong, M.C., and Y. Tsz Leung. 2012. Maritime piracy: An analysis of attacks and violence. International Journal of Shipping and Transport Logistics 4 (4): 306–322.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Worrall, J.L. 2000. The routine activities of maritime piracy. Security Journal 13: 35–52.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. US National Security Council. 2007. Countering piracy off the Horn of Africa: Partnership & action plan. Washington, DC: National Security Council.Google Scholar
  71. US National Security Council. 2014. United States Counter Piracy and Maritime Security Action Plan. Washington, DC: US Department of Transportation, Marine Administration.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Macmillan Publishers Ltd 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.John Jay College of Criminal JusticeNew YorkUSA

Personalised recommendations