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5/30/12

5 tips for avoiding violence


Avoiding trouble whenever possible is your best policy, and generally works pretty well. Yep, we carry guns, knives and know how to handle ourselves, but those measures are a last resort.

Here are five quick tips that will help keep you avoid becoming a victim or having to blow away a dirt bag. Most are pretty obvious, and if you've taken a CCW or self defense course, pretty familiar sounding!

1. Don't go to the gas station at 2:30 IN THE MORNING.
One common thread that I see amongst internet-posted "after action reports" and even on the local news is that, these troubles are occurring at the gas station/truck stop/wherever way late at night. I'm sure this is shocking to you all, but a lot of strange people hit up the gas-n-gulp late at night/early in the morning, and it's probably going to be empty save you and the weirdos. Drunk/high weirdos, late at night...not exactly the kinds of people you want to be alone at the pumps with. Lots of crime happens at gas stations late at night--from robbing the gas station itself to robberies and so on.

Avoid late night Big Gulp/Red Box/smokes/beer runs and you avoid the associated problems! Shocking, I know, but apparently a revelation to many. If you have to stop--say on a road trip--then make sure it's a well lit, fairly busy gas station--bigger truck stops are usually busy 24/7.


2. Live/operate somewhere nice. 
A nice, quiet, boring community is a good place to live. If you live in a bad part of town, move. If you don't think you can afford to live somewhere decent, you may need to make a career change/get a better education or relocate to an entirely different area. Check violent crime rates and sex offenders before moving into an area. Slightly higher rent/mortgage or an extra few minutes of commute are worth it if it can get you somewhere nicer/safer.

While random violence can happen anywhere, it's statistically a lot less likely in some areas than others. Avoid areas where there's a higher risk!

3. Pay attention to your surroundings.
The average person walks around almost completely oblivious to what's happening around them. Watch people, especially potentially threatening people. Focus on hands and mannerisms--eye contact can be useful, but it can also instigate a confrontation. Nervous/drug induced fidgeting? Hands in pockets? Hands reaching for something?

Bad guys operate primarily on surprise--don't let them get the drop on you.

4. Trust your gut.
If you get weird/nervous vibes about someone or some place, trust that feeling. Your alarm bells are going off for a reason. Get out. Get in the car and drive away. Consider calling the cops to report a suspicious person.

5. Manage unknown contacts with authoritative commands and smart tactics. 
If the first 4 tips have failed you and you've got a stranger approaching you--homeless person, rough looking individual, crazy-acting person--don't let them get up-close-and-personal. That's the whole point--they'll stumble on over under some kind of pretense for needing to know the time, directions, etc. If they really did need to know the time, why would they need to walk towards you?

Challenge them with an outstretched hand and authoritative "Stop." or similar command--"Hold it right there.", "Keep your distance, bud." or an even a "I can't help you."

If you need inspiration, watch a re-run or two of Cops, see how the officers talk to suspected criminals, and then practice. Verbal skills are hugely undervalued and can be very effective.

Repeat yourself, getting louder and firmer. Advice from a former police officer friend of mine: if they've ignored you the first time, you may need to add in an expletive--some people do not respond until they've heard an F-Bomb. Seriously.

While you're using verbal commands, you want to try to generate some extra space or, perhaps even better, get an object in-between you and the contact--your vehicle, an open car door, a shopping cart. If it's some random person knocking on your door, don't open the door. Basically, you want to slow any potential attack.

Finally, you'll need to scan for other bad guys--they tend to travel in packs, and an accomplice closing in on you from another angle is a pretty sure sign that they have violence on the agenda. If there are multiples, try to maneuver so that you can see both of them, lining them up as best as possible.

Be prepared to do violence.
Avoidance may fail. Verbal deescalation may be impossible. You may be forced into a violent encounter, you need to be prepared to win that fight. Quickly and decisively. That takes skill, the proper mindset and proper equipment. If you don't have 'em, go get 'em!

18 comments :

  1. Good points! Especially about living somewhere nice. All kinds of trash was blowing around where I used to live. Drives down the value of property, increases the chance of becoming a victim of theft, violent crime. The best advice is to get as far away as possible.

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  2. You could make a list like this with thousands of points. Here are a couple more, just in case they might help someone out.

    When you get in your car, lock the doors. It can get you a few precious seconds in a bad situation.

    When you go to a drive up ATM, park a few feet away from it and get out of the vehicle to do the transaction and keep your drivers door open, vehicle running. This offers a basic one lane unobstructed approach to you and will help shield your pin code when you type it in. Leaning out of your window trying to type on a keypad can get you snatched out of the vehicle and hurt fast (it's not like you would have your seat belt on at that point).

    When traffic is stopped or you are sitting at a light/stop sign, make sure you can see the entire rear tires of the vehicle in front of you. This will often prevent you from slamming into the vehicle if you get hit from behind, and it gives you enough room to pull out into a different traffic lane if you need a fast egress.

    When leaving a store don't carry all the bags out if you that means your dominant hand will have something in it. Use the cart, and look around while you go to your vehicle and while you are loading your car. Hard to defend yourself with 3 walmart bags in each hand. It only takes about 10 seconds to get your purse snatched from the cart while you are organizing your trunk with grocery bags.

    etc.

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    1. All good points! Common sense goes a long way.

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  3. AnonymousMay 30, 2012

    Crazy stuff happens between 11:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. I remember going to Wal-Mart at 5:00 in morning (love to avoid crowds!) and there was a kid who needed some 'help' paying for his ear buds speakers at register. Okay, I don't mind a buck or two so I go to register, how much you need?

    He points at register - $22. WTF - ALL of it? Your best plan (your very best plan) was to appear at Wal-Mart at this time and expect someone to buy this for you ? "Aw c'mon Bro". Hell No, sorry but I don't have that kind of money to throw away.

    A lot of drunks and people under the influence, especially on weekends. You do have to be careful.

    #2 That works but no longer is completely valid, even 'nice' neighborhoods have some nuts living there. Especially their kids - growing up with money sure has caused some to think they have privledges to commit acts that Mom or Dad will buy them out of. Something to prove to their friends maybe ?

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    1. On point #2 - I agree. Violence can find its way anywhere. That said, you're a lot more likely to get held up at gun point in say, urban Detroit than say a nice little town with zero violent crimes last year.

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    2. Where I'm at the average break-in is just neighborhood kids looking for booze.

      I absolutely agree with getting the heck out of bad areas.

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  4. AnonymousMay 30, 2012

    Good article, and often overlooked. Don't hang with scuzzballs, don't hang around drug deals, don't mess with another mans woman (or womans man)

    Easy to get paranoid - wave of knife crime here last year but 99% of it was teens in gangs stabbing each other on the streets at 3am

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  5. Agree with all points from everyone. One thing on this issue that I always think about is home security--making your home secure so bad guys would have a very hard (or long) time getting it. Alex the Wolf has talked about this in past articles. Sure we have guns for home defense and that's an important last resort, but if a bad guy has somehow made it into your house something else has probably been over looked. If it takes a bad guy an extra two or three minutes to bust his way into your house that's another two or three minutes for you to prepare, call the cops etc. My guess is most criminals will get scared, give up, and run away if they can't kick the door down after 30 seconds or so--especially if they start hearing sirens. Not that I trust cops to always protect me but I'd much rather have them deal with the bad guy than do it myself. Since cops aren't ALWAYS going to save the day I think we often forget that the solution to MOST bad guy is still just a 911 call away.

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    1. RachelSTLMay 31, 2012

      Great tip!!! Thanks :)

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  6. My 'tip' may be an odd one. As a working female, I tend to have my radar up when I stop at the grocery store on the way home from the office (something I try to avoid). Seems like the shady guys hang out in supermarket lots after 5 pm. I keep several good-sized empty boxes(copier paper or larger, w/tops of otherwise closeable) in my trunk so it looks full. I can load groceries, etc. into the boxes when needed. Why? I've seen so many parking lot crime scene tapes of the bad guy shoving the woman into her own clean, empty trunk while she is loading groceries -- he grabs the keys and drives off w/loot and a woman. Psychology is that if it looks like the trunk is too full to shove me in, I'm not as good a target. (I also follow Max's tip on using the cart, and when loading the trunk have the cart between me and the roadway to provide more maneuver room and see trouble coming.)

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  7. I particularly like tip 5... show 'em who's boss!

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  8. As a police officer, I have to agree with your tips. We actually call gas stations "stop and robs." Yes, for the most part, nothing good happens after midnight. Most people are home and the thugs are who is left out and about. Not all the time, but a vast majority of the time. Truck stops are good as they are very busy and are well lit.

    I really think people need to follow tips 3 and 4. Many times people are oblivious. I have walked behind a lady coming out of a big box store who was putting money in her wallet with her head down. She had no idea I was there. Most importantly, you need to trust your instincts. A good book which describes that is "The Gift of Fear."

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for your comments - stay safe out there! Glad there are other people out there dealing with the scum o' the earth.

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  9. Great tips. Here's one I finally got my wife to do. When you're returning to the car after shopping, have your spouse get in the car (doors locked asap) and start the car.

    Never underestimate the "authoritative command" thing. We have all sorts roaming the parking lot begging for "spare change" (looking for a mark), hand out and "go away!" (in my "teacher voice") works. Works on middle school kids too.

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  10. Integrates well into my three "Stupid" rules:
    Don't go to stupid places with stupid people to do stupid things. This will generally keep you out of trouble.

    Josh

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  11. Mattey Austin, TXJune 07, 2012

    Awesome Tips.

    My co-worker was robbed in the parking lot of his local supermarket. The robber followed him from behind, jumped into the drivers seat when he opened the car door, and pulled out a gun demanding keys and wallet. And this was during the late afternoon!

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  12. Always pay attention to the demographics of the people who you see. If you see a bunch of Gangsta thugs, Chollo Latin Kings, or Neo Nazis and you aren't a member, switch from safe to fire and get out of there immediately.

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