We have spent a lot of time studying Kidnap for Ransom and Human Trafficking cases around the globe and the way criminal networks, gangs, and cartels choose their victims. My comments today are as relevant in the United States as they are overseas. Our desire is to limit the ability of these groups to target others and, if possible, to prevent it. At the end of the day, are you a creature of habit? If so, you may be an easy target. Consider using some of these tips to make yourself a hardened target at home and abroad.
- Change up your routine. There are some things you cannot change like your work schedule and location. You cannot change where your address nor your car. You can vary the time you leave home every day and the routes you use for travel. Your pattern is the easiest thing to change, and the more random it seems, the harder of a target you are.
- Change up your leisure spots. Do you always go to the same bars, restaurants, and leisure locations? We recommend that although going to the same familiar places over and over again is comfortable, you broaden your horizons. Try switching up your routine regularly and randomly. Try different kinds of foods, activities, and venues. Do your research first and make sure you are not traveling through or into bad neighborhoods. You are a soft target at your favorite bar or night club. Change up the places where you go running and walking. If you are going to run or walk in a remote area, do not wear your headphones and do not run or walk alone.
- Change up the days, times, and stores where you shop. Randomize your patterns and be unpredictable.
- Learn to recognize the baseline of your neighborhood. How does a typical day look? How does it feel? How does it sound? The more time you spend identifying normal, the easier it will be to recognize how danger looks and feels.
- Learn image projection. Have you ever seen someone who looked like a tough person? How does that look? Learn to project a hard target image to those around you. Practice it. A hard target walks with their head up, is fully aware of their surroundings, and projects confidence. Project that image.
- Learn to be aware of who is around you. Situational awareness is a big part of street survival. Have you learned to feel someone’s presence behind you? Who is walking in front of you? What is going on beside you? Have you learned to use your senses? A hard target stays off their cell phone, does not wear head phones, and is tuned into their environment. One of the first things an Infantry Soldier or Special Operator learns, is to regularly conduct a security halt. The first security halt is usually a few hundred meters away from where they were dropped off by vehicles or aircraft in order to Stop, Look, Listen, and Smell (SLLS). This is repeated at every security halt to ensure fine tuning. We recommend doing your own version of this when you are out and about. You can do this without being paranoid, by making it a habit.
- Learn the habits and customs of the your area. Nothing will make you stand out more than doing something American like giving the thumbs up sign in the Middle East, or the OK Sign in Greece. Do your homework ahead of time.
- Avoid the bad areas of town. What can we say? This should be a no brainer. Do your homework ahead of time and know the high crime areas. Going to the bazaar by yourself is a good way to get mugged.
- Learn polite phrases in the local language and dialect. This even applies in the US. There are some things in every part of the US that have different meanings. Please don’t “bless anyone’s heart” in the south without knowing how and when to apply it.
- Know the local self-defense laws. Make sure you follow them. If you have a concealed carry permit for Virginia you are not allowed to take your handgun to D.C. or Maryland. If you defend yourself from an assailant in Germany, the law is not the same as it is in South Dakota. This is part of your situational awareness and helps you know how to respond to any attack. Failing to research and follow the laws, makes it easy for you to become detained by law enforcement. In Central America and other parts of the world, it may be the easy way to kidnap you.
Apply these lessons wherever you are, and become a harder target. We also recommend that you take a self-defense course and Anti Kidnapping and Hostage Survival. Knowledge is the key to staying alive.