Beginning with my being a NYPD detective for 20 years, now retired and currently working as a New York state private investigator, I feel that I have the knowledge and experience to share with you some valuable advice for people on how you can and should take some responsibility for keeping yourselves safer. And for those of you who want to learn more about preventing yourselves from being a victim of crime, in this day and age.
As a detective in one of the busiest and largest cities in the world, New York City, I have come across thousands of victims; many were unable to avoid their fate no matter what they did. There was a large group that would have been able to prevent themselves from becoming victims by following these simple rules.
Following is some advice you can use to minimize your risk in becoming a VICTIM of a CRIME. Much of this advice is basic common sense! In this forum I will address some of the issues and how to handle them, along with some examples for you! As I go along, you may realize and tell yourself, “I knew that!” Yes, you may then recognize what makes sense when it is pointed out, however, are you really doing it in your daily life? Are you making a conscious effort in making and keeping yourself aware, paying attention, and listening to your own ‘gut instinct?’ If you don’t, then you need to learn what to do and put it into practice, make it ‘second nature,’ or natural for you to do. The more comfortable and natural it feels for you to do, the more it will aid you in how not to be a victim!
Let me start with, be aware of your surroundings. It takes very little to be observant. While leaving, while on your way and while arriving at your destination i.e. home, office, restaurant, events, etc., take notice of who and what is around you! The main advantage a criminal has on you is the element of surprise!
If you look like a victim there is a greater chance that in fact, you will become a victim. To clarify this, the ‘bad guy’ does his homework on body language. He knows for every person that is aware of their surroundings, there will be several people following that are not paying attention to what and who is around them, and he will target those individuals, which are now the prime candidates to be one of his victims. Who do you think he will go after? Could you be his next victim?
You look like a victim when you are oblivious to your surroundings; i.e. you are always looking down instead of looking forward and around you while walking; if you are too focused on talking on your cell while walking; if you appear lost and overwhelmed; if you are tipsy and/or drunk; and if you appear timid instead of confident in what you are doing, or where you are walking. Remember; do not confuse CONFIDENCE with ARROGANCE! Being arrogant can sometimes get you into more trouble then being timid. Use a glance, do not stare him down! Being or appearing arrogant can bring on a confrontation with the ‘bad guy’ because of egos. If you carry yourself with some confidence, it can reduce your chances and the percentage of being a victim. Even, if someone isn’t really confident they should, at least, portray themselves as confident and be aware of their surroundings, to aid in their own safety, especially when they are walking, and/ or traveling, alone!
I often see many prime victims in the heart of NYC. For example, if you just stand in front of the Waldorf-Astoria at 5 p.m. on any given day you will see 90% if not higher of the women who walk by are looking down at the ground. When I’ve asked people that I know who consider themselves street smart, why they do so, they respond with, “That was to avoid conversation.” So I explain to them, that they can still keep their head up, glance at those around, but that they should just continue to walk at a quick pace and that too will help avoid conversation. I’ve also asked if they could identify anyone that they’ve walked passed or who has passed by them? Usually they reply, “no.” And I often come back with a response such as, “You might have been able to identify their sneakers!” Most of the time they, then, get my point! There is nothing more frustrating to many detectives then a victim saying I didn’t see his face and I can’t I.D. him. In the event of a crime, often, unless someone else comes forward for the most part, the criminal has gotten away with the crime.
For the most part, I tell people not to put yourself in compromising situations, which I know is at times, easier said then done. Although, if you find yourself in a unavoidable situation that makes you feel uncomfortable, or ill at ease, I have some information and advice on better ways to handle the situation, by being prepared and ready to react appropriately!
One example, of an unavoidable situation is that you are in your office building later then usual and you are going to leave and are waiting to take the elevator, when the door of the elevator opens there is an unknown lone male inside. Often a person will go ahead and get on the elevator even when she (he) gets an uneasy feeling. She (he) may think that don’t want to show fear to themselves or others; that they feel silly and embarrassed, or they feel they are ‘just being paranoid’ and ‘overreacting,’ however, those are times when a crime can be and has been committed. However, you are better off to think and to know that you are much better off being ‘safe then sorry!’ The better option really, in a case like this, is to be preventative! To think of your safety first! So you should always be prepared for and be thinking that if, or when, a scene such as this occurs, you act as if you’ve forgotten something, don’t get on the elevator and walk away, letting the elevator go on without you. Wait a bit, and then try again! It will not change your schedule that much, but it is a means to keep you safer, just in case!
More often then not, the man will not be on there the next time the door opens. However, if the same man is on the next time and he appears to be riding the elevator for no apparent reason then, DO NOT get in the elevator and do go back to your office, locking doors and phone security or call 911. You will not be the first person to call Police about a suspicious individual; in fact you could very well be stopping a crime and you being a victim. I responded to many suspicious calls and I can’t ever remember being annoyed at the person who called, if in fact they identified themselves.
Another example of being prepared and looking out for safer options is to park near the elevator or stairs if using a parking garage while at work or the office. If you weren’t able to find a space close to one of these, then I advise you to try to move your vehicle to a better space closer to one or the other, during a break or at lunchtime. However, just by being closer to the elevator or stairs does not mean you should be less aware or less prepared of your surroundings. Still be prepared when you are going to your vehicle. Have your keys out, don’t be fumbling with your pocketbook (purse), look in the windows to check the rear seats and/or back cargo area prior to entering your vehicle.
Some people have been able to get into cars and will re-lock the doors, leaving you unsuspecting. If you have mace, or another personal protection device, have it out and don’t put it away until you have entered the vehicle and are pulling out. In this day and age, many people do carry mace or some other protection with them, however, when you ask them where it is they will tell you it’s in my purse or my pocket. My reply is always the same, “Are you going to ask him for a timeout, so that you can take it out and spray him?” I don’t think he will give you the time!
In addition, you should manually lock your doors. I know that many car doors automatically lock today, so the tendency is to think they will lock on their own. One problem with that thinking is that the doors don’t lock, until the vehicle is moving at 5-15 mph. So lock them even before putting your key in the ignition.
A lonely street is another example or situation that can be problematic, and that you should take into Account while looking out for your own safety. You should have your mace with you, in your hands and ready to use if need be, for one. Also, if you find yourself walking down one and sense someone following or see someone coming towards you, crossing the street can be and is another preventative measure which just adds a few steps to your walking, but may well be what helps you stay safe. One more measure you can use is to enter 911 on your cell phone ready to push send, if need be, as a call for help. Today, many of the newer phones are equipped with a GPS chip, so the call can be located and even the phone can be tracked.
In all of the above scenarios (yes you probably will find yourself in one of them at one time or another) so BE PREPARED TO REACT! Let me explain what I mean as far as reacting. Self defense courses and martial arts are great, and yes, I believe in them very much, however, the drawback is you have to be trained in them. If it’s a passing fancy and you take just a couple of classes, or if you think that several initial classes will make you an expert that isn’t the case. I had a drill instructor who told us, “We taught you just enough martial arts to get you hurt, so don’t go downtown and confront everyone!” Many people are equipped with various protective devices (i.e. MACE, loud alarms, whistles, lighted key chains, pepper spray, etc.) this is your way of preparing to react. Just have them available and ready. BETTER SAFE THAN SORRY!
Another situation I’ve come across, which could be entitled, “you can’t tell a book by it’s cover,” A lone female just finished shopping and went to the Mall parking lot. When she got to her vehicle she had a flat tire. Just then a Well dressed Middle aged Man in a suit happened by,noticing her Flat and offered to help.Thinking that this was a nice thing and he looked safe. He went to her trunk and took out the spare tire, as he was doing this she noticed he had placed his briefcase in the trunk continuing a friendly conversation he finished and placed the flat tire back into the trunk and closed it. As She was thanking him He looked up and stated;”I must have exited the Mall at the wrong exit would it be possible to drive him to the other side of the mall. Now,this man just did you a favor by changing your tire ans you had a nice conversation. Would YOU drive him. Well she remembered that he had placed his briefcase in the trunk so she became suspicious.As a smart woman she made a claim that she had to go back into the mall to get something for her husband and then she would drive him. When she reentered the Mall she asked Security to call Police. When they arrived she went to the car and the man was gone. She opened her trunk and there was his briefcase. When the officer opened it there was Duct tape,a Large knife,rope and handcuffs. The Woman and the responding officer realized that she was very close to becoming a victim.
I know that many women tell their children not to go with any man that they don’t know when he tells them that ‘his cute little dog is lost,’ yet, there are many of you as adults, who may feel that you can handle things well enough, however, don’t you fall for these games, yourselves! Heed your own advice!
In every city, big or small, there are locations and neighborhoods that even the people who live there don’t venture out at night. Unless you have particular business in those areas, the best thing you can do is to stay clear of those areas, especially, if you are alone. However, if you feel you must go, then be aware and prepared! This is some of the advice, examples and ideas of protection devices useful aiding you, so you won’t become a victim!