Situational awareness: do you practice it? Recently, we covered how a good guy with a gun brought a violent, would-be armed robber to heel in Seminole, Florida. In that case, the attacker prowled a Publix parking lot for victims and found a woman sitting in her SUV to his liking.
Moving in, the attacker stabbed her repeatedly as she fought to hold on to her purse. Fortunately, she lived. Unfortunately, most sheeple don’t realize how parking lots are one of the three most likely places the average person will face an attack.
By knowing these places and taking some fairly simple, almost effortless countermeasures, you and yours can avoid victimization by amateur and professional predators alike.
Why parking lots? Simple: mindset and hiding places. Bad guys know how most people think about just about everything except bad guys as they head to or from their car. What’s more, parking lots provide a multitude of unobtrusive places to linger without a sense of purpose while watching for easy victims.
Gas stations and that last fifty feet to your front door are the other two highest-risk locations for victimization.
Filling stations have those big boxes that obscure a potential victim’s view.
Today’s pumps also make it easy to fall victim to task fixation. Credit or debit? Rewards member? Car wash today? Additives? Enter your ZIP code.
The average Joe or Jane give 100% of their attention to dutifully answering all those questions. Meanwhile, oblivious to their surroundings, they become easy marks. A bad person can easily approach them unobserved to carry out a robbery – or worse.
That last fifty feet to your front door also serves as a danger zone. People pulling into their garage or driveway and walking to their front doors usually have already switched into “home” mode. Awareness becomes obliviousness. No longer are they even remotely aware of their surroundings.
Even once inside, too often people have switched into condition white (unaware) before they’ve assessed their surroundings. For example, my ex walked into her house one day and went through two rooms before she realized she had interrupted a burglary. Scary stuff, right there.
How does one counter the increased threats in these locations?
Keep your situational awareness dialed up, especially in these places. Where possible, take a shopping cart with you as you exit larger stores. It provides a portable obstacle against potential attackers. When loading the car or putting your kids in car seats, box yourself in with obstacles. Use an open door one one end, the cart on the other and the next car beside you. This way, any ne’er-do-wells will have to negotiate obstacles to reach you, giving you time and options.
Regardless of cart availability, survey the parking lot before rushing head-long into a problem. Suspicious characters loitering? Return inside the store and ask for an escort or notify police.
Of course, you should have your keys out and ready as appropriate. Ideally, your gun hand should remain free. Using a cart, even for a handful of items, helps with this.
At fuel stations, consider making a slow circuit around the pumps in your car, watching for anyone loitering or hanging out without a sense of purpose. If you see something out-of-place, drive to the next station. If I had done this on my honeymoon, I would have not found myself narrowly missing victimhood mid-day in Montgomery, AL.
Once you’ve selected a well-lit pump, keep your eyes open. If you have a passenger, don’t let them bury their face in that glowing magic box checking social media updates. Instead, have them help out by stepping out of the car and watching for trouble while you pump – or vice versa. Maintain a confident, commanding presence in your body language – especially in sketchy locations.
I usually ride solo, so I make it a point to do a casual 360-degree scan before answering each question on the pump. By doing this, it lets anyone watching know that I make a harder target. And at the same time, it makes that distracted, skinny-jeans wearing millennial on the next pump look like a better opportunity in comparison.
Also, take a few steps away from the pump and your (locked) vehicle to survey your surroundings. This keeps a bad person from approaching undetected from behind the pump. Should someone surprise you in your personal space, casually practice poor muzzle discipline with the gas nozzle. If appropriate, hose ’em down if they act stupid. “I’m so sorry! That was an accident!”
Lastly, at home, keep your eyes open along with the rest of your senses. As you pull into your driveway or garage, don’t rush to exit the car. Watch the garage door to make sure it goes all the way down without a surprise visitor slipping into the garage with you. For apartment dwellers, look around the parking area for potential lurkers. At the same time, have your key(s) out and ready and don’t overload yourself with packages or groceries as you head inside.
Once you’ve crossed the threshold into your abode, close and lock the door. Then stop, look and listen for a few seconds for anything amiss. That’s when you can relax.
Making easy-to-implement minor changes in your routine can drastically reduce your likelihood of joining the victim class. Train the people you love to do the same. Help them stay safe and practice awareness out there.