While we are discussing unsolicited approaches it’s a good time to mention the criminal “interview” that is often the precursor to a robbery or assault. The interview occurs when the criminal engages the potential victim in conversation prior to initiating a crime. This usually serves two purposes:
(1) it gives the criminal or criminals and opportunity to further assess the suitability of their target and
(2) it can serve as a distraction technique to get the potential victim to lower their guard and/or diver their attention which facilitates the attack.
The criminal usually interviews you by approaching you and asking a question – it may be for directions, the time of day or something similar. They will use this opportunity to gauge your reaction and your alertness level. Did they surprise you with their question? Did you jump back? Did you look down to consult your watch? Did you appear fearful and shrink back? All these factors will be processed in a second or two and he will make a determination whether or not to try to victimize you. Predatory criminals generally want to maximize their chances of committing their crime successfully, avoiding injury and getting away without being caught. They will usually factor this in when selecting a victim.
By demonstrating that you are alert and displaying a confident demeanor you reduce the chances that you will be selected for victimization. Notice I said “confident” and not “challenging”. You do not want to appear so confident or aggressive that the criminal feels you are challenging him, especially if he is in a group in which case he may feel the need to prove himself to save face.
Ideally you want to be practicing good situational awareness and spot the potential criminal before he approaches you and be ready. Ensure you allow sufficient physical space between yourself and the other person. Also be mindful of possible accomplices in the area so that one is not able to come up behind you while you are focused on the primary threat. Do not allow yourself to be distracted by the question or request. As with our discussion of surveillance detection principles watch for correlating movement or signs that seemingly unconnected people are communicating with each other. Someone cross a street at a diagonal in your direction or otherwise intentionally moving to cross or block your path should be an immediate warning sign.
Sometimes these approaches are innocent and the person really does want directions, to know what time it is or a light for their cigarette. Nonetheless you should be aware of these ruses and raise your alert level — without over reacting — when approached by someone you don’t know.