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Situational awareness.

When you’re in law enforcement, you spend a lot of time looking at things through the eyes of a bad guy. This is a necessary view to have for everything from threat and risk assessments to detecting pre-attack behaviors. It’s also the way that I look at things when it comes to the personal safety of my family and me, and you should look at things through this lens, too.

When criminals look to attack you, or rob you or your home, they look for certain behaviors, mannerisms, or actions that would indicate that you are vulnerable or otherwise an easy target.

I recently read that distraction is the leading cause of auto accidents. Being distracted is also a big problem when it comes to crime as well. When you’re distracted, it lets a criminal know that you’re prime target. If I’m a bad guy and I see you walking down the street staring at your phone I can slip up behind you and you would never know I was coming. I could grab your purse out of your hand and be off running before you could react. Or I could strike a vicious blow that could render you unconscious.

Get your head up and out of your phone! Situational awareness cannot only keep you from being a victim of a petty crime, but can also save your life. There are enough times where pairs of criminals will run a game to distract you and make you their prey, don’t make it easier for them by walking around with your head down. Sometimes just looking someone in the eye is enough to deter them from attacking.

Just as you need to see to be aware of your surroundings, you also need to hear. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been out exercising and went by someone who’s earphones were so loud that I could hear them. If you’re music is that loud you would never be able to hear someone coming up behind you, or coming out of a wood line to attack you.

Here’s the rule that I go by when I exercise: I turn on my music and start running, then I snap my fingers a few times. If I can’t hear my finger snap, then the music is too loud, and I would never hear a predator approaching me. If it’s winter and I’m wearing gloves, I lightly clap my hands. Again, if I can’t hear the sound for my hands I know my music is too loud. Ask yourself, why would you turn off one of your senses and make it easier for someone to get the drop on you? If you show that you are alert and tuned in to what’s going on around you, you limit your chances of being victimized. Bad guys don't want a fight!

The final tip that I give everyone is to listen to your intuition. Part of this is just making sure you’re being observant, but if what you observe makes you uncomfortable, you need to remove yourself from the situation. Your subconscious often picks up small details that your conscious mind doesn’t see. If your subconscious detects danger, it manifests it as fear. That fear is your intuition telling you something is wrong, and you need to listen to it!

I recently read an article where a researcher interviewed 155 serial killers. One of the things that came out of that research was that for every one of their victims, a serial killer initiated contact with 31 other potential victims. There were several reasons why these potential victims never fell prey to the serial killer. Sometimes it was the chance timing of a third-party coming along, but other times it was the actions of the potential victim. They took action to get away from their potential attacker when they sensed that something was wrong. Sometimes, they authoritatively told the person to leave them alone, other times they brought a third party into the interaction. Regardless of the action that they took, they listened to their gut and reacted, and it saved their life.

Whether it’s a serial killer or a purse snatcher, all criminals are the same in that they don’t want a fight. For every purse that gets snatched, that thief probably lined up dozens of other victims, but the potential victim looked them in the eye as they approached or crossed the street, and the thief aborted their attack. This part about listening to your gut instincts can be hard to explain, and I understand that it can be hard to grasp, so just remember that it’s OK to be direct or hurt someone’s feelings if they make you feel unsafe.

I hope that these tips help you to remember to be alert so that you feel more confident as you’re out and about. If you'd like to go deeper into the topic, please consider taking one of my self defense classes. Remember, the biggest way to deter crime is to report things that seem out of the ordinary around your home or place if work. If you see something, SAY something!

SOURCE: Escaping a Serial Killer: What Science Says About Victim Strategy

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