Still from security video apparently showing a Caracas kidnapping

Footage making the rounds online purportedly shows a kidnapping taking place on the streets of Caracas, with heavily armed men threatening a group of people inside a car, before climbing in and driving them away.

The footage shows a quiet street in El Hatillo, southeast Caracas, on September 16. At 6:30 p.m. a car parks by the side of the road, and seconds later another car appears and stops in front of it. Three men carrying large guns get out, and threaten the people inside the car. They make the driver get out and sit in the back seat, and then climb in themselves. Both cars then drive away.

News reports did not identify the victims, though one journalist described it as an "express kidnapping."

InSight Crime Analysis

Kidnapping rates have shot up over the last few years in Venezuela, from some 44 in 1999, to 1,105 in 2011, according to investigative police unit the CICPC.

These figures do not include express kidnapping, a growing practice where the victim is held for as little as a few hours until the perpetrators receive a ransom. Mexico's ambassador to Caracas and his wife were the victims of an express kidnapping in February, and were held for four hours after being abucted when leaving a party. Police sources told El Universal last year that the capital alone may see up to two express kidnappings a day.

Some attribute the rise in kidnapping to the spillover of Colombian criminal gangs into Venezuela. However, this explanation fails to account for the surge of abductions in urban areas like Caracas, as Colombian groups are typically based around the border. The phenomenon is driven by local gangs and, to a lesser degree, corruption within the security forces -- one former police official told InSight Crime that as many as 70 percent of kidnappings in the capital had police involvement.