You aren’t always safe in a crowded area. Financial Predators, and Muggings. If you ask when and where people believe they’re most likely to be mugged, most will tell you “on a deserted street” or “in an alleyway late at night”. Predators go where the prey is, and the pickings are pretty slim for a mugger in locations such as these, and at such times when most people are not around – this is not to say street robberies don’t occur on lonely streets, rather that they are not the norm. Most muggers will frequent busy shopping malls, train stations and the like, at times when people carrying cash are most likely to be found e.g. a busy shopping district at 3pm on a Saturday afternoon.
For anybody to assault you, they must first synchronize/tie their movement to yours. On a deserted street, with no other people to disguise their approach, such synchronization is fairly obvious e.g. you move to the left, they mirror your movement; you move to the right, they copy you, etc.
You aren’t always safe in a crowded area
However, in a crowd this synchronization isn’t so obvious, as the people between you and your assailant will mask their movements. Rather than track a straight line when you walk through a crowd, “Zig Zag” somewhat in order to become a difficult target for a potential robber to tie their movement to yours – you’re also much more likely to pick up a person’s synchronization of movement, by doing this.
A mugger will also use the crowd, their body, and yours, to obscure what they are doing; especially if they are using a weapon. They will position/blade their body, and keep the weapon low so it is hard for people in the crowd to see what is happening – and if anyone does, they know they will have relieved you of your wallet before anyone has time to report it (and they can be pretty sure that no one will physically intervene on your behalf).
ATM`s are high risk
The areas around ATM’s (cash machines) are also a good feeding ground for financial predators, as they can watch which people withdraw money, and target these individuals. Before withdrawing money from an ATM, it may be worth walking past first, making a note of which individuals are present at the location and returning 5 minutes later, to see if those people are still there. If anyone appears out of place or has no legitimate reason to be in a location, it is best to exit that location quickly.
Mugging is a low level, low yield (and relatively low risk – how often do victims actually refuse to comply, or fight back?) crime, normally carried out to support a drug habit, and so muggers are looking for cash, rather than credit cards or other valuables that would need to be fenced; and end up yielding a relatively low return to them – what is valuable to us, is not always of great value to the criminal.
That is not to say a mugger won’t take your entire wallet, however if you hand them a roll of bills and tell them to take it because it’s all you have, they are more than likely to do this and leave the scene.
They will want the robbery to be over with as quickly as possible, as the longer they spend threatening you, usually with a weapon, the greater the chance of somebody seeing the incident and reporting it to the police.
Separate cash from credit cards and ID
It is worth separating your cash from credit cards and ID when you go out. This way, if you are mugged you can avoid having to give up a driving license and other forms of ID.
People are often reluctant to hand over these items, which may have their address and other pieces of personal information (such as where you work, if you have a swipe card to a particular company or building with you), though in truth, a mugger is a mugger, and will be unlikely to use this information to commit a burglary, etc.
They are also likely to immediately discard any items that could link them to the crime, preferring to keep the cash and dispose of the rest of the wallet, in case they are apprehended. Presenting cash is the quickest way to satisfy a mugger, and if you have a bundle of bills including a $20 and a $5 both visible along with a selection of $1’s your mugger will have enough to get their next fix.
Hand over your money
Your first strategy should always be to hand over your wallet/money – the mugger has selected you because they believe you are someone who will comply with their demands. Unless you really know how to fight, resisting will get you hurt badly.
The odds will be in their favor: you will be surprised, and they will have the means to “encourage” you to comply, either by using a weapon, or by having a number of accomplices with them, to intimidate you.
In their mind, they are leaving with your wallet, that is the one guaranteed outcome, whether you are shot, stabbed or beaten to a pulp is the variable.
You may hand over the wallet and still be stabbed, but if you don’t hand it over, you almost certainly will be – this is why you should always hand over your wallet (you should also be prepared to act physically, should your assailant not leave, after you have complied with their demand).
Not complying exactly with their demands is posturing back to them, throwing your wallet on the ground is an act of defiance, and only likely to frustrate and heighten their emotions (a mugging will involve secondary motives; anger, power and control) – this is a dangerous game to play. If a mugger asks you to hand them or give them your wallet do this, don’t throw it on the ground.
Are you a threat to their safety?
When somebody robs you, they are also “interviewing” you, trying to establish whether you are a threat to their safety (they will have done this to some degree before approaching you). They want to know that they are not going to be threatened by you, either by you drawing attention to what is happening (screaming/shouting etc.), or by attempting to physically harm them.
You should not appear either challenging or overly submissive – if you appear to be ultra-submissive and overly terrified, a mugger may believe that you are a suitable victim for a secondary crime, such as a sexual assault, and believe that they will be able to make you do whatever they want.
You don’t want to give off this impression, and so it is better to hand over your wallet/money quickly, in an assured manner, rather than trembling and begging for them not to hurt you.
Don’t look directly at your mugger – you don’t want them to think that you will be able to ID them in a line-up if they are caught. Under high stress and emotion, people often make bad decisions, and act in ways that are far in excess of what a situation may actually warrant e.g. a person holding up a 7/11 may take someone hostage when he hears police sirens and panics etc.
When you consider that most muggers are young, they may lack the emotional maturity and foresight that older and more experienced criminals have, and so make decisions based on the moment, rather than considering consequences and fully evaluating their potential actions.
Fighting back and using physical force should only be attempted when after complying, your assailant doesn’t leave the scene.
A mugger is looking for quick, easy money, and should have no interest in delaying themselves at a crime scene unless they have decided to commit a secondary crime e.g. rape, physical assault etc.
If they remain after you have handed over your wallet, you must be prepared to implement a physical solution. This is where self-defense is extremely valuable.
“Steaming” & Group Muggings
Not all muggers use a weapon, some will work in a group and use the sheer weight of numbers to intimidate you. The danger with groups is that different people within the group may have different agendas e.g. the main protagonist may simply want your cash, while lesser members of the group may feel the pressure to prove their worth and establish themselves on a higher rung of the pecking order.
The other issue with group muggings, is the group or gang may base part of their group identity and solidarity through the use of violence; that is the common experience of assaulting an individual may unify the group and help give them a shared identity. When you consider that mugging an individual is a low yield crime, sometimes only netting the group a few dollars – which would have to be shared – the group is less concerned about financial reward than the act of the mugging, itself.
Keep things simple and make sure you “recognize” the person who is controlling or leading the group. Try to confine yourself to dealing only with them, and only respond to their instructions, rather than engaging with different members of the group – do this without appearing “disrespectful”.
There are times when the group can use their numbers to increase their yield. “Steaming” is a term used in the UK to describe how a group moves through a crowd (this could be in an open environment like a shopping mall or a closed environment like a train carriage), with each member of the group acting on their own, but visibly alongside other members of the group, and robbing individuals.
To witness a armed gang get on a train carriage and move through it threatening passengers, and relieving them of possessions, before getting off at the next stop, is a frightening thing to behold.
A small gang operating this way can effectively rob a lot of people in a short period of time. “Steamers” effectively apply the threat of group violence against an individual without having to restrict their target(s) to just one person.
One of the greatest predictors of violence, is if violence has happened in a location previously. Steamers and groups tend to work in the same locations, where they know the environment.
Both are relatively low-yield crimes that go to support drug habits, rather than pay household bills etc. and so groups rarely move too far away from the places/locations that they frequent.
If a neighborhood has a bad reputation for group/gang (or any other kind of) violence, try and avoid if – sometimes this simply isn’t possible because you live or work there, etc., however by looking at police reports, you can find the exact locations and times when assaults occur, and if these follow a pattern, avoid being on a particular street at a particular time.
Learn self-defense, fighting back with no knowledge of how to `handle yourself` is a very dangerous move, and could get you injured. Self-defense can give you a fighting chance, and sometimes that’s the only chance you need to survive.