The numbers are improving, but they’re still grim: there were 325,000 robberies in the United States in 2014, and approximately 750,000 incidents of aggravated assault. While volume and frequency of these crimes is on the decline, I still don’t like those odds; for every 100,000 Americans, there are 102-odd robberies. You may have been the target of a mugging or assault—it’s even more likely that you know someone who has.
So how can you keep yourself and those you love safe? There are no grantees, but by following a couple of fairly simple tips you can tilt the odds in your favor.
Think Like a Criminal
Let’s take a walk on the wild side and put ourselves in the mind of a potential mugger. If you were dead set on robbery, what might you do? Mostly likely you’d look for someone walking alone, in an isolated place. You’d pick a target that didn’t look like they’d resist, but also had something of value. You’d want to strike from a concealed position, use overwhelming force or the threat thereof, and have a fast avenue of retreat in the wake of your crime. By removing or avoiding these factors, you reduce your odds of becoming the target.
Head on a Swivel
Simply being aware of what’s going on around you is a big step in self-defense or personal protection. We’ve talked about situational awareness in other articles, but it’s worth mentioning again here. Pay attention to your surroundings. Note where the blind spots and corners are. Be aware of others around you and what they’re doing—what stands out? What doesn’t feel right? Who’s moving into your space? It’s fairly easy and stress-free to adopt these practices in day-to-day life, so start building good habits now.
Walk on the Sunny Side
Or, in this case, the well-lighted side. One of the best ways to avoid trouble is by not being around when it shows up. More directly put: don’t go to places where assaults or muggings are likely to happen. Dark parking decks, side streets in the bad part of town, a shortcut through an undesirable neighborhood: all places where bad things can happen, so avoid them if possible. It may be a bit inconvenient, but it’s worth it in the long run.
Navigating the Darkness
But what if you just can’t avoid it? Sometimes life takes us to dark places, but there are ways to make them safer. Follow the guidelines for situational awareness and avoid the high-danger zones (dark places, corners you can’t see around, alleys, etc). Dress down—if you don’t stand out or look well heeled you’re a less desirable target. Wear shoes you can run in, and walk with confidence, but don’t be confrontational. Even in rough neighborhoods, most folks are just trying to get on with their day.
Meeting Trouble Head-On
I said there were no guarantees, and I meant it: you can do everything right and still find yourself dealing with a mugger or a violent thug. First and foremost: try to avoid a physical altercation. Your wallet or purse isn’t worth your life—or even bodily injury. Stay calm, deliver what they want, and get out of there. I’m a big fan of tossing the wallet/purse/briefcase down and then running like hell. The goal is to get home safe, not to prove something. If you must fight, use every tool available to create enough space to flee. Don’t hold back, do what you need to do to get out of there and then get out of there. Retreat to safety and then call the police.
Again, it’s easy to start following these guidelines in everyday life, and to encourage others to do the same. I hope you never need them, so please stay safe out there.