When you are evaluating your own personal security its very useful to take the perspective of your adversary — for most of us that is the common criminal but depending on your location it may also include terrorists, militants, members of organized criminal groups or others. Traditionally most people and most organizations have viewed their security from the inside looking out. However it might be better to look at it from the outside in – the same way a predator looks at it.
Here is a four-step process you can use:
(1) Consider your attractiveness as a target. Are you well-known, wealthy or perceived as wealthy, politically active, involved in a business dispute or is there another reason you might be specifically targeted? Beyond that are you someone who is likely to be targeted in a crime of opportunity due to your physical appearance? In 1984 Betty Grayson and Morris Stein published a now-famous study about physical signals that potential victims unwittingly to their assailants. The Grayson Stein study involved videotaping pedestrians on the streets of New York City and then subsequently showing the videos to inmates incarcerated for violent assaults. The inmates were split into different groups and told to rate the people videotaped on a scale of 1 to 10 with one being the most attractive target and 10 the least. The inmates responses were shockingly consistent with regard to who the most attractive victims were.
On further review Grayson and Stein determined that the more likely victims differed in stride, fluidity of movements, head position, etc from those who were deemed the toughest targets and not desirable. While these nonverbal cues may not be characteristics that can be readily changed – just be aware of them will be an asset in protecting yourself.
(2) Aggressor Tactics, Techniques and Procedures and Modus Operandi. After considering your attractiveness or likelihood as a potential target you should consider the methods a potential attacker might use. Look at what type of tactics are common in the area where you live or work. In a previous post we discussed common carjacking techniques in use in Nairobi. This is a good example to use. Many carjackings and armed robberies in Nairobi have occurred when the victim drove up to the vehicle gate at their home. While they are waiting for the gate to be opened another vehicle – which has either been following them or parked nearby observing their residence — will pull up and block them in. The assailants will deploy from the vehicle and rob their victim. Understanding the tactics used by criminals and threat groups in your area of operation is a critical component of this process. In a broader sense its helpful to know that targeted attacks – both assassinations and kidnappings frequently occur in the morning as the victim is leaving their residence. This is largely true worldwide. One if the more notable examples is the kidnapping of Exxon executive Sidney Reso as he left his New Jersey home in 1992.
(3) Develop a predatory mindset. This is anethmatic to most people but its one of the best ways to understand how criminals and other hostile people and groups view the world. To gain an understanding of this do a simple mental exercise: the next time you are in a public place such as a shopping district, mall, etc. try to identify people who would be good victims to assault and rob. By the way – this is not an original idea. Many instructors and writers on this topic have advocated the same exercise for the same reason. The one who comes most readily to mind is Rory Miller but there are several others as well. Once you have identified likely victims think how you would isolate and attack them in a way that would give you the best chance or success and the ability to escape. Don’t take notes — this is a mental exercise. By doing this occasionally – and in conjunction with your knowledge of assailant tactics – you will develop a greater appreciation for the adversary’s perspective and the steps he will take in selecting a victim and carrying out an attack.
(4) Look at yourself and your routine through the adversary’s eyes. Where are you vulnerable in your day-to-day life? Where are you time and place predictable? Where and when are you likely to be distracted or unaware? Where on your routes are likely attack sites? Ask yourself these questions and try to view yourself through the adversary’s perspective. Once you begin to answer these you can develop countermeasures to make yourself a harder target.