This article explores the development of kidnapping in Mexico City. New evidence suggests that this crime has evolved from a crime that until recently targeted mostly the wealthy to one that now targets mainly middleand working-class individuals. This is counterintuitive since, arguably, kidnapping is a costly crime to plan and execute and is thus better suited for a once-off large payoff. Typical explanations of high crime rates and other criminal phenomena in Latin America argue that either a weak state or very powerful criminals explain high levels of crime and violence. I argue for a middle-ground approach that looks at the interactions between state, criminals and society to explain the changes mentioned. Using qualitative evidence, I explain this shift in kidnapping along three lines: (1) the successful destruction by the state of older, sophisticated kidnapping gangs; (2) the formal and informal strategies that wealthy individuals designed and implemented to protect themselves from crime; and (3) the failure of the state to impose a strong rule of law. The article concludes by reflecting on the importance of deep structural reform as a way to assure long-lasting drops in crime.