*Avoiding Criminal Assault*
For the individual private citizen, the best defense against crime is avoidance. Simply put, don't be there or don't be the chosen victim. "Duh, Goshin," you say, "no kidding?"
Seems overly simplistic? Ah, but the devil is in the details; read on.
While a criminal assault is unquestionably the "fault" of the criminal, it is rarely mentioned that the *victim* was usually chosen because his behaviors said "I'm a good victim" to the criminal.
Let's learn how not to be a good victim then.
Don't go to places/around people/into situations where you know there is likely to be trouble. Another no-brainer? Dunno, people do it all the time. "That's my favorite [bar/restaurant/store/etc] and I'm gonna go there, I'm not afraid of those [gang members/outlaw bikers/drug dealers/etc]!!" Often famous last words. Just say no, and find another place to go. Pride is no comfort when a guy you didn't even see sticks a knife though your spine. Got a friend who's constantly in trouble? Who is always in hostile arguments and fights with people? Who always has some "enemy" he can't stop thinking about and won't stay away from or reconcile with? Does this friend have a addictive behavior problem (ie drugs/drunk/gambling)? Does he associate with known criminals or bad-attitude losers? If any of the above applies, you'd better drop him like a bad habit, otherwise he'll drag you into his troubles.
Be Aware. Pay attention, and know what to pay attention TO. A group of young men hanging around a parking lot is a bad sign, especially if they are paying more attention to passers-by than to each other. Don't walk through the middle of a group of suspicious people, or between a pair of them. Swallow your pride and go around, or leave the area entirely. Keep an eye out in all directions, especially behind you. If you think someone is following you, change directions and see if they do also; if they do, it is time to bug out! Always RUN TOWARD PEOPLE! Criminals, such as muggers and rapists, tend to hang out in areas where people are passing though, where there are victims to chose from, but a measure of isolation (mall parking lots being a prime example). Heads-up alertness and confidence will deter some criminals, but not all. If someone approaches you from behind, or tries to get too close to you approaching from the front, MOVE to keep your distance! No matter how tough you are, anyone can be sucker-punched.
Know how criminals choose a victim. For a crime to take place, there must be intent, opportunity, and ability. Marc MacYoung identified five stages of violent crime in his training video Safe in the Streets: Intent, Interview, Positioning, Attack, Reaction.
Intent: a person with intent to commit a violent crime is in an extreme mental state, and his body language gives off subtle cues. If someone "makes your antenna quiver" (gives you a nervous feeling), avoid them!
Interview: the criminal wants to know if he can attack you safely. He may come up and ask for something (match, time, change, etc) and see how you react. If you appear too agreeable, too nervous, or distracted, he will attack. Make him keep his distance, or move yourself to keep at least 5-10' away, and whatever he wants the answer is a brief "no". Keep an eye out for his partner(s). He may come up cussing and yelling, to see if he can intimidate you or get you distracted by engaging in a shouting match: Stay calm, be firm, keep your distance, stay ready, watch for his partner. A criminal may just watch you silently, or follow silently at a middle distance: keep an eye on him, but don't forget to watch for accomplices. If a criminal sees that you are alert, aware of him, ready for trouble, and your emotions are under control, he will probably target someone else.
Positioning: the criminal usually has to target you in a place where help is at least twenty seconds away, and wants to position himself to overwhelm you before you can defend yourself or escape. He may try to get very close or corner you, or get behind you, or have an accomplice "pincer" you between them. Do whatever it takes to avoid being caught in this position, because this is the final stage before the attack.
Attack: the criminal may use threats, intimidation, or display of a weapon to get you to give up your money, or to force you to go with them elsewhere; OR they may immediately assault you physically, perhaps lethally. Remember that you never want to let things get to this stage, because if the criminal didn't think he had an advantage, didn't believe he could "take you", the attack wouldn't happen. Whatever you *see*, there could be more to the situation (ie weapons, partners) than meets the eye. This is a highly dangerous moment, and if the criminal doesn't get what he wants he almost certainly WILL use violence. Don't argue with him, that's pointless: either give him your money, or run like hail, or attack with total committment. One point: I will NEVER let a criminal "take me somewhere else": this almost always means death, or worse. I hate to say, it happened to a close friend of mine.
Reaction: this is the criminal's own reaction to his own crime. He might be satisifed and walk away, or he might not: he could still, on a whim, decide to "take you off" or shoot/stab you, even if you cooperated fully. You're not out of danger until the criminal is out of sight.
Credits and thanks again to Marc "Animal" MacYoung for his "Five stages of violent crime". If you want to read more of Marc MacYoung's material, the URL of his website is: http://www.nononsenseselfdefense.com/home.html
One further point: many of us who are "into preparedness", and trained in Hand-to-Hand, weapons, self-defense and so forth, have a blind spot: overconfidence. Never let a criminal confrontation or "fight" happen, that you see coming in time to avoid, just because you figure "I can handle this punk" or "This @hole needs a lesson". Remember that no criminal is intrested in a fair fight, and they wouldn't target you if they didn't think they had a plan/weapon/help that would enable them to take you down. Pride and self-esteem seem awfully important UNTIL you're looking down the barrel of *his* gun while you're still trying to get yours out from under your shirt. Keep in mind also that even if you "win", there is the legal aftermath to deal with, and you take your chances with the law. People have defended themselves in good faith and ended up doing time in prison for lack of an honest witness, and any time violence starts you don't know how far it is going to go.
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