This article in our situational awareness series will give you the knowledge about how criminals operate so you can keep yourself and your loved ones safe. This is a subject that is not taught in school, but is a necessary life skill that is needed in today’s world especially during this difficult time.
Imagine being in this scenario:
It is 6:30AM, dark outside, and you are walking from your car to the hospital for your shift. Your hands are full, with lunch and your coat in one hand, and your bag in your other hand. It seems that out of nowhere this person appears in front of you. This person is walking quickly at you and says, “Hey, I didn’t mean to scare you. Do you have a light for my cigarette?” You get a strange feeling from this person and you are not sure how to respond.
What thoughts are going through your mind right now?
Do you know what to do?
Should you stop and answer his question?
Do you have a plan of action for a situation like this? If you answered “no” then keep on reading to learn what to do.
The first step in understanding how to keep yourself safe is awareness of the types of predators you may encounter.
There are generally three types of predators:
The Power Predator uses force to control; they will charge their intended victim much like a bear committing an attack and will only initiate an attack when they feel certain they will prevail.
The Persuasion Predator looks for vulnerable people who will allow them to be in control. This type of predator typically commits crimes against children and/or people in a vulnerable state. Sadly, many times this offender is a trusted family member or friend.
The Opportunistic Predator will commit a crime when certain circumstances arise where they can easily assault someone with a high level of certainty that they will get away with it. If others around this type of predator commit crimes then the “threshold theory” may kick in and these people can be at an elevated risk to do something unusual or heinous.
What you need to know about criminals:
Do not judge on physical appearance or profession.
Bill Oliver, a psychiatrist who worked in Super Max prisons with violent predators for 20 years says this about them, “Predators are shadow figures and they are chameleons that blend into their surroundings and they look like they should be there”. He also sums it up by saying, “The Devil does not look like the Devil”. “Some predators are charming, good looking and they lead normal lives and have a profession”. Obvious thugs are more easily identified – because they look like a criminal. The clean-cut, polite person in a suit may be evil as well, so do not judge on appearance. Although males are statistically the most violent predators in every country in the world, it is very important to remember that women can be violent as well.
Predators typically commit crimes in “fringe areas”.
A fringe area is where you are close to people, but out of range for immediate help. ATMs, parking lots, gas stations, stairwells, public bathrooms, rest stops, and sidewalks all should be considered potential danger areas. Even a separate room in a crowded house can constitute a fringe area, as many who were raped at college parties can attest. Fringe areas are where crime happens most often. The highest element of opportunity for a criminal is being alone with someone in a fringe area.
Know ominous body language signals before an attack.
- Beware of the person who is constantly staring at you and not blinking.
- Clenching and unclenching the fists and jaw are ominous signs.
- Furrowing eyebrows and squinting eyes are other noticeable signs that occur before an attack.
- Pay attention to the feet since they are the most honest part of the body. If they say they are going to leave and their feet are still pointed at you then they are lying.
- Watch for hands in pockets or behind the back.
Know predator tactics.
The following are from The Gift of Fear by Gavin De Becker-
This is an effective way to establish trust by someone relating to you. The detectable sign of forced teaming is the projection of a shared purpose where none exists. WE can get this done faster if I help you. WE’RE on the same team. Let me help you with your groceries….
Charm and Niceness
To charm is to compel and control by allure or attraction. Is the person trying to charm you or is the person charming? There is a huge difference. Skilled predators are quite charming and you can easily learn to see through this by observing the way they exaggerate their compliments or act like they “care” when they really do not. One simple way to charm someone is with a smile and an intense gaze.
Too Many Details
People who want to deceive you will often use too many details. When people tell the truth they don’t feel doubted so they don’t feel the need for additional support with more details. When people lie, it doesn’t sound credible to them, so they keep talking.
Typecasting is when you feel compelled to prove an opinion is not accurate. For instance, if someone says to you, “You’re probably too pretty to talk to a person like me.” It’s just a slight insult that makes you want to answer the person and disprove them.
Loan Sharking is when someone helps you and then you feel like you need to return the favor and help them. Remember that if a person is approaching you offering assistance, you didn’t ask for help, so don’t let them guilt you into anything in “returning” the favor.
The Unsolicited Promise
“Let me help you with those big packages. I will just carry them in your front door and be gone, I promise”! A stranger should not say “I promise”. Watch out for this one.
Discounting the Word “NO”
Anyone that ignores or discounts your “no” response is someone that you do not want to deal with. If they ignore you saying “no” even once and try to talk you into doing what they want from you then beware of what lies ahead. You are in the presence of someone who does not respect you or your right to make your own choices to maintain your boundaries or values.
Understand the predator strategy.
Criminals were interviewed in prison and they all admitted to using the strategies below when targeting their victims:
- They look for distracted or weak people: Do you look distracted and weak? This is not you! You are aware, confident and strong! Use strong eye contact and stare the person in the eyes. Remember that this sends a subconscious signal to the predator that you are a fighter.
- Easy positioning of their victims: Can the criminal get close to you without you noticing? The element of surprise is to the predator’s advantage. Do not let them get close. Remember to use your verbal commands and have strong body language.
- Testing or Interviewing: This is where they ask you a simple question. Do NOT answer the question because if you do it shows you are compliant or submissive to them and they will likely attack. This technique is also used to distract you.
- Assault: If you failed any or all the above then this may be the outcome.
Two thirds of America’s criminals are roaming the streets.
America has more people in prison than any other country. Bill Oliver also cites the following statistic: “In America about one third of criminals are in jail, one third are on parole and another one third are not caught”.
Isn’t it incredibly scary when you know how many convicts released from prison commit crimes again once out? Oliver also underscores the following facts: “Many criminals run crimes from prison and learn new ways to steal and kill while in prison only to be paroled 5 to 10 years later”. He also concluded that rehabilitation is not a realistic concept for violent criminals.
Now, back to our original story at the beginning of this blog. This situation actually happened to someone we know and here is what she did: she screamed, dropped her items, and ran. You can replace your lunch and coat, but you can not undo something traumatic that may happen to you. She absolutely did the right thing – Why? Because she was paying attention to her surroundings and noticed the guy coming out from the trees. His question to her was just a simple test to distract her so he could rob or assault her. The fact that he said, “I didn’t mean to scare you.”, is also a telling sign that he is bad.
Trust your instincts. When it comes to danger, paying attention to your “gut instincts” or intuition is absolutely vital for two important reasons:
- Your instinct is always in response to something very important that you should pay attention to.
- Your intuition ALWAYS guides you toward what’s in your best interest.
Who jumps out of the trees asking for a light??? This was ominous behavior and it’s a good thing she used her intuition to run.
Unlike worry and anxiety, your intuition will never waste your time. Learning to “trust your gut” and not doubting it will be your top safety skill.
Criminals are easy to spot if you pay attention to your surroundings and their cues.
You now understand how predators and criminals operate and the strategies they use to get their victims. Remember: Encounters are over in seconds and help is minutes away. YOU are the first responder!
Be Safe, Be Empowered and Be Loaded
To learn more about ways to proactively ensure your safety, check out our online training that is now in Hindi and Spanish.
Beth is the founder of Pretty Loaded. On a mission to install strength, awareness, and confidence, Beth began her journey as an educator and National speaker after a close encounter with a would-be predator. She has trained thousands of people in person, and through her online training around the world. Her safety videos reach millions globally! Beth is an NRA Pistol Instructor and an NRA Personal Protection in the Home Instructor. She is responsible for starting National Situational Awareness Day and this was approved by the registrar of the National Day Calendar. Beth has been featured on Consumer Reports, Elite Readers, BuzzFeed, ViralNova, and many more networks. Beth loves spending her time reading, running, cooking, and painting. She is married and has four wonderful young girls, organic chickens, and lives on an organic produce farm and vineyard.