Violent situations can present themselves virtually anywhere in our lives.
They can happen at your home. At work. While you’re in the mall. Or while you’re walking down the street after a dinner in a restaurant.
Certain situations present easier targets to assailants. Criminals look for a “target of opportunity” – they want you in situations where they have an advantage. Situations where the likelihood of their success is increased.
What are some of these situations?
They are generally characterized by you being alone. Here are three examples to consider:
You’ve just spent the day at the local mega-mall, and are calling it quits. You are walking to your car with your arms full of bags and boxes. You’ve parked way down at the end of the parking lot because it was nearly full when you arrived.
Criminals will often hide, crouched down between the cars, waiting for someone like you to return to their car. What can you do?
- When you reach your aisle, approach your car from one aisle away – looking between the cars as you proceed. Walk past your car so that you can circle around the from the far side and approach the car from the rear (while still scanning between the cars you pass).
- Before opening the car, peer through the windows to make sure no one is hidden in your vehicle. As soon as you are in the car, lock the doors – even before you put the keys in the ignition.
Remember: you are very vulnerable once you’re seated, as you can no longer run from an attacker, and any screams or yells will be muffled by your car’s interior.
Parks and Trails
You may like taking quiet walks in the neighborhood park, or walking your dog each morning or evening. The shrubbery and trees in the parks and trails can present excellent hiding places for criminals.
- Keep your head up, casually scanning the path in front of you. Don’t wear headphones while listening to music – they will effectively “blind” you to assailants approaching you from the rear.
- Make sure there is plenty of natural sunlight – don’t start too early in the morning or finish too late in the evening – so that you have the ability to adequately see into any bushes or trees in front of you. Don’t plan your walks according to the clock – take them according to the availability of sunlight.
With our current economic conditions, more and more homes and commercial properties have been abandoned. Real estate agents, home inspectors, repairmen, leasing agents and utility workers need to be aware that many of these properties have become occupied by squatters.
- When first approaching such a building, walk the perimeter of the property looking for signs of a break-in. Broken windows, missing door locks or handles, or tape covering locksets.
- After opening a door, look inside for signs of someone living there. Clothes, food, garbage, water, blankets. Before entering, stop for a moment and listen for sounds of movement. Call out and make it plain that you are entering the building (“Hello! Is anyone here?”).
- If you hear or see any signs of the building being occupied when it should be empty, immediately return to your vehicle, lock the doors and call the police.
- Do not attempt to remove or deal with anyone in the home by yourself.
With all of these and similar situations, always let someone know where you are and when they should expect you to return. Always carry a cell phone and defensive tool with you at all times. Take a friend whenever possible.
Recognizing these situations – along with knowing how to respond to protect yourself – are the keys to maintaining your safety. There is no need to become a recluse, hiding in your home all day. But knowing how a criminal thinks and what they look for in a victim may save your life.
Don’t become a target of opportunity!
Safety Tip: Have your self-defense tool with you at all times – in your hand if at all possible. Consider taking a key ring pepper spray and attaching a short lanyard which you slip over your wrist. It is unobtrusive, yet gives you immediate access to the spray should the situation demand its use.