Most attacks, robberies, kidnappings, sexual assaults and other forms of personal, confrontational crime occur after a period of observation and target selection. This can range from a period of weeks or months (or in rare cases even years) in the case of terrorist attacks to less than a minute or two in cases of a street robbery.
During this period the criminal or terrorist assesses and selects a target, determines periods of vulnerability on the part of the victim, identifies potential escape routes and considers potential obstacles to execution and escape. This is typically done by conduct surveillance even if that surveillance is very rudimentary and in some cases very compressed.
This process is in place to a greater or lesser extent in virtually every case where a victim is targeted (exceptions would be more random violence resulting from civil unrest, etc. and incidents where the victim is accidental or collateral damage).
For certain types of events there will be a longer lead time and therefore a greater opportunity to detect surveillance or other pre-operational indicators. In other cases it may be very compressed but by understanding the concepts you can apply many of the same techniques to detect it and prevent the attack from occurring or at least better defend yourself should you not be able to avoid the event.
Understanding basic surveillance detection principles can go a long way towards keeping you safe. We’ll discuss some fundamentals in the near future.