A Pitt-Bradford criminal justice professor is taking part in a two-year research project to create a database to help law enforcement handle hostage situations.
Assistant professor Dr. Tony Gaskew is working on the FBI-coordinated project, which pairs law enforcement officials with academic researchers who have experience with hostage situations.
Gaskew’s own experience in hostage situations and negotiations as a law enforcement officer dealing with drug trafficking in South Florida led to his involvement with the project.
The Global Hostage-Taking and Analysis Project (GHosT-RAP) is now in its second phase. During the first phase, researchers compiled information on hostage situations that arose from drug-trafficking. The research protocol involves interviewing actual hostage takers. The current phase is focused on domestic and school violence.
The final result will be a database that law enforcement officials can access to help them know what is likely to occur in a given hostage situation or help them decode who might be holding someone and where, based on past histories of criminal organizations.
“It provides another piece of information to assess a hostage situation,” Gaskew said. That information will be all the more valuable for small or rural law enforcement agencies that don’t have experienced SWAT teams or hostage negotiators.
With the rise in drug violence in Mexico along the United States’ border, this information “is needed more than ever now,” he said.
“It’s always wonderful being able to work with the FBI on matters of public safety,” Gaskew said. “Academics plus practitioners in the field – it’s always a winning combination.”
He has an extensive background in the field of criminal justice, which includes 18 years of professional law enforcement experience. He also worked as a member of the Southeast Asia Counterterrorism/Counterdrug Task Force in the Republic of the Philippines.
He later served as a detective in a Special Operations Unit, where he was assigned to an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force working with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, Internal Revenue Service, U.S. Customs, FBI, and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, conducting wiretap and conspiracy investigations targeting violent criminal organizations within the Middle District of Florida.
Gaskew is a certified police academy instructor, and has more than 2,000 hours of specialized criminal investigations training, which includes hostage negotiations, money laundering, advanced DEA, criminal conspiracy, and organized crime investigations.