The following guest  article was written and submitted by Cliff Montgomery
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Street Crime Survival… How To Survive An Armed Robbery

By Cliff Montgomery, Secrets Of Survival

Suppose you’ve gotten about five $20 bills from the local ATM machine and have now decided you need a few things from the grocery store. You get what you need, pay the cashier and, because your hands are full of groceries, you are still carrying your change in your hand when you walk outside into the parking lot. It’s only a few dollars, you surmise, and there’s no one here anyway. You’ll wait until you reach your car and put your groceries on the car’s roof to discreetly put your change in your wallet. You notice the young man standing next to the coke machine, but pay him no mind.

As you’re putting your recent purchases on the car’s roof and begin reaching for your wallet, the guy comes up to you asking if you have a dollar for the coke machine. You’re a bit startled – after all, he seems to have walked up on you all at once – and you mumble that you don’t really have anything. “Oh, c’mon” he says straight away, as if he’s heard that a thousand times before, “I can see you have somethin’ there to give me. Tell you what,” he says as he pulls out what appears to be a knife, “just give me what you’ve got in that wallet and we’ll call it even . . .”

What can you do? It’s a blade alright, there’s no doubt about that – nor any doubt as you look into his dead, almost soulless eyes and smell the unmistakable reek of liquor that seems to be coming from his entire body that he may well try to use it. What choice do you have? Do you have any choice now but to give him the money?

You may feel stupid, even ridiculous after the attack – “What was I thinking? How could I have been that blind, walking around and flashing my money like that?” – but that doesn’t help the fact that you’re now out almost $100. “And hey,” you begin thinking to yourself, “what if he’d turned violent, for God knows what reason?” After all, it’s possible; any time a weapon is brandished, there’s always a possibility of someone getting seriously hurt.

This short example shows how quickly you can lose control of your life by someone with a weapon who wishes to rob you. We’ll show you the best ways to survive such an encounter, and hopefully keep you from creating the very conditions that make a robbery attractive to a potential thief.

We’ll also start this series in survival techniques with a look at how we can protect ourselves against an armed robbery if – God forbid – the thief is about to become violent. Remember, no one is asking – or expecting – you to ‘teach anyone some manners’ here; in fact, most experts assert that a person should work with the robber when there is no apparent threat of imminent danger. Statistics show that a person is more likely to be hurt in an argument by a person they already know than by a stranger attempting to rob them.

Even so, you’re never totally sure of what may happen, or how the robber will behave once the robbery has begun. Should you just cooperate with an armed robber? Is there any way to fight back if you have to? Is retaliation at the right moment the answer? What about citizen ‘watchdog’ groups? Can you avoid being the victim of a robbery altogether? We’ll answer these questions below.

Both individuals and businesses can be victims of armed robbery. Apart from terrorist attacks, armed robbery is the form of retail crime most likely to cause long-term physical and/or psychological harm for citizens or employees and customers alike. Here’s a few simple but well-proven tips to help individuals and businesses minimize the threat of armed robbery and maximize the chances of having the offenders apprehended by the police.

All experts agree that the very best way to prevent an armed robbery is to eliminate the characteristic weaknesses that an intelligent or experienced robber will look for before he makes a move, and which allows all criminals to succeed. How do you eliminate the weaknesses?

Consult a security specialist

This isn’t nearly as hard or as expensive as it sounds. Most police forces run specialized Crime Prevention Units providing advice and information on all aspects of home, business and commercial security. Some conduct site analyses to appraise the security of a business. If you feel your home or business may have a weakness you haven’t considered, it would be a good idea to start here.

Limit the cash you have on hand

The less cash held on your person or on the premises, the less attractive you are as a target. Keep under $100 on you or on the premises if possible, especially at night. If you run a business, advertise the fact that you keep a minimum of cash on the premises. Providing credit facilities also reduces the amount of cash you need to hold. Electronic Fund Transfer at Point of Sale (EFTPOS) is one example.

Keep money where it can’t be reached

Deposit money in banks or secure holding units frequently. Use a cash drop box with a time delay lock and advertise this with a sign if you have a business.

Keep money out of sight

Don’t advertise your dough: never flash a large roll of bills.

Never count cash in view of customers

This one’s pretty self-explanatory. Also, if you’re really worried about robbery, adding an extra twist such as requiring exact money in transactions means you do not have to count dollars or keep open cash tills, especially at night. Robbers may tender large bills specifically to find out where you keep them. Time-controlled vaults also reduce the opportunity for theft. Advertise them with signs. Also, never discuss takings in public.

Keep in well-lit places

Only access your money at a well-lit ATM or make a purchase in a very-well-lit area, and in a location that is at least somewhat populated with individuals not traveling together. These aspects alone will intimidate all but the most brazen robbers. If a business, place your cash register where it can be seen by passers-by to increase the likelihood of identifying the robber.

Avoid routine

Do not establish a routine time and route to make transactions. If staff transport cash, do not let them wear a uniform identifying the business. Vary routes and times of transactions.

Sundry Tips

*An open and uncluttered environment which provides a clear, well-lit view of the area is a fine deterrent to armed robbers. Making the target highly visible increases the chances of someone identifying the criminal.

*Any rear access to a home or business should be fully secured with strong locks, and the outside should be illuminated if possible. Minimize curtains, posters and materials which obscure vision in these areas, as they provide cover for bandits.

*All exterior doors should be of solid construction with good quality locks. Bars on windows at businesses may be necessary. Make sure people can see into business during working hours. But if you count money at night, make sure the premises are secured and you are not visible from outside.

*Customers do not belong behind counters. Design counters to maximize space between staff and customers. Deep counters with raised floors behind make it difficult for offenders to assault staff.

*The route from the service area to the front door needs to be such that there’s an uninterrupted view, and the display stands have to be put in such a way that staff members can see clearly to the door.

*Though they may not always deter robbers, surveillance cameras often help in their apprehension. Make sure they are well-maintained and serviced regularly.

*Mirrors allow business staff to monitor otherwise blind spots, but make sure they don’t allow offenders to see behind the counter.

*Electronic sensors can alert you when anyone is entering or leaving the premises.

*If your employees handle large sums of money such as payrolls, your business might benefit from bullet-proof windows. By carrying out a risk assessment, a security consultant can help you choose the right strength.

*Staff should note any suspicious behavior and report it to the police. This can often nip an offense in the bud. Be careful about personal name tags, especially with surnames, as this can place staff at risk after a robbery. When selecting new staff, ask for references and check them out.

When staff leave, make sure you get the keys back. If keys are missing or you feel the old employee may be not be trustworthy, change the locks. It may also be wise to change locks, safe combinations and even cash-handling procedures if staff leave under difficult or strange circumstances.

No one can always prepare for every eventuality, and you may still find yourself the sudden victim of a robbery attempt. During an armed robbery, it’s most prudent to adopt the following tactics:

* do precisely as you are told, and no more;

* avoid eye contact with the robber;

* speak only when spoken to;

* tell the robber exactly what you are doing;

* make no sudden movements;

* don’t activate alarms unless it is safe to do so;

* try to remain calm and control your emotions; and

* remember as many details as possible about the bandit and the incident.

If you believe we are peddling mere passivity as someone takes away your hard-earned valuables, you’re quite wrong. There are other ways to fight other than the ‘macho’ way of the movies. Remember, one should only fight back physically as a last resort, when you feel as if your life or person (or someone with you) is, at that moment, truly in danger. After all, very few people are faster than speeding bullets in real-life.

Most robbers slip apprehension because of bad or faulty information from witnesses or from the crime scene. Many experts, such as those at the Australian Institute of Criminology or the Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE), a nonprofit organization that provides free and confidential business counseling as a community service, insist that following these procedures are some of the slickest, safest ways to ensure the police will get their man.

The most important thing is to gather and remember information that might be helpful to the police. Try to notice distinguishing traits about the thief. A business may even wish to have a recognition training course for their employees.

Try to observe characteristics like sex, age, height, weight, race, prominent or unusual features, and color of skin and eyes. In addition, noting identifying characteristics such as scars, tattoos, clothing, limps and traits of speech are all very helpful in finding the culprits.

Note behavioral characteristics: How does this person act? Worried, mad, confused, drunk? What was his speech like? Did he have an accent? Did he or others slip into a second language? If others were helping, did they use nicknames? What were the interactions with the other offenders? Was a particular person in charge?

Law officers suggest two easy ways to estimate height: compare the robber with a fixed structure of comparable size to the robber(s) in the area, or mark the door frame with various heights if you own a store or business.

Accurate descriptions of the weapon can also be a big help. Try to notice too whether the criminal touches anything: counter edges, door handles, cash register keys, etc. Don’t touch those areas until the police arrive, and keep others away as well. If you have a store, close it until police arrive. If you’re in or at a store, get help in preserving the scene from employees. Tell police what the robber might have touched.

The real reason you’re complying with the robber – other than self-preservation against a gun or knife – is that such a manner will allow you to pay attention to every detail of the robber and his methods, enabling you to be a strong witness for the police. Let the police pursue the thief. Don’t be a hero unless you have to be, especially if he’s armed with a gun. Again, very few people are faster than bullets. That’s why even the police go after such people fully armed, in large numbers, and set up dragnets.

If you have a business, raise the alarm as soon as it is safe to do so, perhaps by activating an alarm during the robbery.

Phone the police immediately, giving:

*name and address of premises you are in or near, its area and location including nearest cross street;

* number of offenders and description;

* description of weapon used;

* description of vehicle used and direction of travel. If on foot, in what direction? If in a vehicle, try to get the license number.

Make sure you call the police before you call anyone else.

The Crime Scene

After an armed robbery, do the following:

*Keep people and staff away from areas the offender was in, places he/she may have touched, and any articles left behind.

*Get witnesses to independently note down a description of the offender and the words used in the crime. First impressions are vital.

*Do not make statements to the media without clearing it with the police.

*Do not comment on how much money was involved except to the police.

*Give police all details, even those which seem insignificant to you. Remember, any small detail may help the police apprehend the offender.

To produce a computerized facial identification/photo, police may try to reconstruct the offender’s face from your description. However, the result will only be as good as the description(s) provided. Police specialists will probably ask you to describe the following parts of the face:

*hair (length and style), forehead and ears

*eyes and eyebrows (shape) nose (length and shape)

*mouth (width and shape)

*chin (length and shape).

The final success of a prosecution against armed robbery depends highly on evidence from victims and witnesses. You may therefore become involved in the prosecution process. You may be asked to view a line-up to identify the offender. If the police arrest somebody, you may have to attend a Magistrates’ Court hearing to give evidence based on your previous statement to the police. You may also be required to give evidence in a higher court before a judge and jury. In both cases, you will be represented by a police or city/county prosecutor and enjoy the total support and guidance of police investigators, who will be available to guide you through the judicial system.

Your testimony may be the only evidence in a robbery case, unless identifiable money from the crime is found in possession of the suspect. Some police departments recommend that retailers maintain a stack of “bait money” for just this purpose. Keep such money within easy reach of the register. Never give this money out as change to your customers; this pile is just for the robber. The serial number and series year of each bill are recorded and stored in a safe place, so you can relay the information to the police.

And hey, no one says individuals going out in the dead of night can’t do the same thing with the bit of money they always carry around in their pocket. Making such a little list of serial numbers and keeping them back at the house might not be a bad idea. Knowing the robber’s as good as dead the moment he tries to spend your money anywhere is a fine way to keep calm in the situation, and should be nice and satisfying for you as you hand over the bucks.

If you’d like to learn more about preventing an armed robbery from being successful – or preventing one altogether – get in touch with your local police Crime Prevention division. They’ll usually tell you what you need to know. If you’re a businessperson, you may also wish to contact the SCORE Association (Service Corps of Retired Executives). More than 12,000 volunteer business counselors donate their time and expertise to assist entrepreneurs. For a referral to the SCORE chapter nearest you, call 1 (800) 634-0245.

And remember, many businesses have insurance against armed robbery. There are various types of insurance cover for retail businesses, including insurance against the loss of money, either ‘in-transit’ or ‘on-site’. Premiums depend on the sum insured.

Who Becomes a Violent Robber?

It is possible to develop a description of the ‘typical’ robbery in which an injury to the victim occurred? We know it was usually carried out by a lone male on a person at home, in the street, or at work. The man usually used a gun or a knife, though there have been instances in which the idea of the robbery occurred to the potential robber at the spur of the moment, and therefore the thief used what appeared to be at his disposal. In these cases ordinary items such as a broken bottle or even such everyday items as a pair of scissors or something to use as a club or blunt instrument was used to threaten the person he hopes to rob from.

He was probably under the influence of a drug at the time of the robbery. The money he obtained during the robbery was almost always minimal. Two examples of this ‘typical’ robbery are outlined below.

1.) A young male goes into a supermarket to buy some milk. He’s a heroin addict and has had an injection less than 15 minutes beforehand. He notices there are only two young males serving in the shop and goes back to his car for a gun he keeps in the glove compartment. Returning to the shop he proceeds to commit the robbery. One of the shop assistants rushes him and is shot in the process. The thief escapes with little money.

2.) An older male has been drinking for about five hours. For some reason, he suddenly decides that he needs money. In a haze, he takes an almost empty bottle and goes to the house next door. After entering the house through a window, he is disturbed by a woman who lives there. He shatters the bottle against a door seal, breaking the glass and instantly creating the most brutal, makeshift instrument of destruction. He quickly grabs the woman and asks her where the money is, as the beer, (or whatever it was he was drinking) still wet on the inner part of the glass, begins to dribble onto the woman’s frightened, shaking body. She resists, he becomes frustrated and stabs the woman in the leg with the broken bottle. He gets away with about $300 in cash.

In general, robbery offenders do not appear to have much concern for the victims of their crime. They do not appear to be very aware of the effect which a robbery can have on a person, particularly the psychological effect. In addition, some offenders may apparently try to respond with physical force if their victim(s) do not do as they are told. Persons who stand in the way of a robber and his/her main objectives, money and escape, therefore can run the risk of serious physical injury.

As to what kind of weapon is used in a robbery, research indicates that a firearm was the most popular choice of weapon, both for robbers in general and for bank robbers in particular. The firearm was usually a rifle or shotgun, but revolvers, automatic pistols, and air rifles were also used. Some in fact carry no weapons but make the insinuation to the victim that they do. As it’s often very hard to tell if such a person really is armed, one should always assume they are.

Knives were not popular with bank robbers. None use this type of weapon, whereas some non-bank robbers do use a knife. Sometimes the robbery appears to have been an idea that occurred suddenly to a mind already intoxicated by some substance, and therefore the robbery has not been properly thought out. In these cases, the thief may resort to makeshift ‘weapons’ that he finds on the site at that moment. These can include imitation guns, shovels, iron bars, hammers, scissors and – in some strange cases – even broomsticks, which are, like iron bars, used as makeshift batons. They may also carry imitation guns.

Bank robbers appear to have a strong preference for firearms, generally real but sometimes imitation. On the other hand, robbers in general appear to use a greater variety of weapons. The need for bank robbers to ‘control’ a relatively large number of people probably accounts for this difference.

To sum up, weapons appear to be an integral part of robbery for most offenders. Their presence and threat of usage are used to ‘convince’ victims to part with the money or goods in their possession.

Firearms appear to be the favored choice of many offenders, probably because victims usually find them more threatening. There is probably also a perception that firearms are better for controlling groups of people during a robbery. This possibility is lent support by the finding that the vast majority of bank robberies involved a firearm or an imitation gun, while practically none involve the use of a knife.

Stricter gun laws, aimed at making it more difficult to obtain a firearm, may have some impact on the frequency of robbery. The impact would probably be greatest in the area of ‘spontaneous’ robberies, in which offenders often make a spur of the moment decision, purchase a firearm, and carry out a robbery all in a short space of time. Gun laws which prevent the ‘spontaneous’ purchase of a firearm may result in some potential offenders ‘cooling off’ and deciding against the robbery.

Real Danger?

Let’s go back to the example we used to begin this article, the thief in the parking lot. You see in his hand what surely appears to be a blade of some kind. It’s not gigantic, but no doubt big enough to cause some damage. What choice do you have? You hand him the wallet.

He rips thru the billfold, pulling out what money you have, and mutters something you can’t quite make out. Again the unmistakable stench of some liquor is hard on his breath and flares your nostrils. In fact he’s beginning to breath heavily at the moment, as if he’s exerting himself greatly by just rummaging thru your wallet, or as if he’s on some kind of wild search for something he feels he’s on the verge of finding.

As he glances back at you, then at the wallet in his hand, you’re wondering about your chances of taking him now, while he’s busy with the billfold. No, you think, that kind of action may be best for the movies, but I really shouldn’t do it unless I really have to. The way he keeps glancing back at you (and the liquor on his breath) only work to convince you that you’re right to hold back, to merely study him as best you can so you can give the cops a fine description of him later.

“This is it? You gotta have more than this,” he hisses back at you as the blade is now pushed out toward you, its razor-like edge glistening in the overhead light of the parking lot. “A guy in a car like this has gotta have more . . .” he says before trailing off, his last remark little more than a drunken slur. Even though you tell him that’s all you have, he looks at you as if you’ve now personally offended him somehow, as if you’re out to get him too, just like all the others. You can see the change in his eyes as his fingers appear to grasp the knife anew.

You realize at that moment that your life has changed, regardless of the outcome of the next few seconds. He has decided to act out all his drunken frustration on you. You feel as if the ground has dropped from beneath you, or to be more precise as if you’re passing through some imaginary barrier that has always strangely protected you, and you are now crossing into something final, inescapable. What do you do?

Not too long ago Susanna Lobez of the Australian weekly news radio program Law Report discussed the question of fighting back against an armed robber with Ray Smith, former police officer and Managing Director of Perth-based Crime Prevention Services. We found this informative interview recently in the public domain, and felt it best to share some of Smith’s insights with you.

Susanna Lobez: [O]utline for me, Ray Smith, the four categories of offenders of armed robbers.

Ray Smith: Well, we can categorize them into four broad categories. And the first is, ordinary people. People that have gambling debts, people that are unable to support themselves financially, have family problems, bills that they can’t pay; people that would not normally be motivated into an armed robbery. These are the people that would perhaps go into a building, into a premises quietly, they don’t want to make a fuss, they’re ordinary people.

Then we’ve got the drug-dependent group, which I believe are our biggest problem. They’re irrational, they’re likely to do anything, they’re unpredictable. We certainly can’t categorize their behavior to any degree, but they’re desperate.

Then we’ve got the thrill-seekers, and best described in the way I suppose, with a group of young people on a Saturday afternoon or Saturday evening; they’ve run out of money, they’ve got nothing to do, so a robbery on a liquor store sounds like a good idea, to get themselves some alcohol and some money. And then of course we’ve got the professionals, and fortunately we don’t have many of them around. Most of them are experienced armed robbers; they are looking after themselves, they’re funding more criminal activity, they could be escapees that have been out for a while and they need the money; they’re professionals.

But by far our greatest [physical] risk I believe comes from the people who are drug-dependent and need to support their habit.

Susanna Lobez: Well let’s move on to the staff, Ray Smith, you say that’s in fact one of the most important components of preventing armed robbery, and you say quite often that not only do they increase the risk of an armed robbery taking place on your premises, but if staff say the wrong thing, or do the wrong thing, or react in the wrong way, that they can increase the danger to them and the risk of being hurt.

Ray Smith: Well I can teach them that they need to dress the right way, and they need to look the right way, and they need to be alert, they need to be on the ball constantly. When people come in to their premises, they need to eyeball them, and to recognize them. They need to give the impression, even though they well may have had a hard night last night, that they’re wide awake and they’re alert. Now they owe that to their employer, they also owe it to themselves because an offender who has to pick on a premises, he’ll pick on one that has a roomful of staff that look like they’re half asleep. It’s to his advantage. It’s a psychological thing perhaps, but it’s to his advantage to deal with people that are half asleep. And more than that, if he comes in and there’s a choice of four people, he will pick on the person that looks like they are least interested in what they’re doing. So staff attitude has an enormous part to play.

Susanna Lobez: What’s the most common reaction of staff to a potential armed robbery situation?

Ray Smith: Well a lot of people, because they’re totally shocked, and they don’t have any preparation within themselves for what might happen, unfortunately tend to freeze in a lot of cases. And when they do that of course, it exacerbates the situation, because the armed offender is coming in to get the money; they are not co-operating with him, not through any fault of their own because they don’t have the capacity to deal with the shock and to overcome the fear, and to actually move. And of course he will then go into phase 2, which may be anything from jumping over the counter to actually coming into physical contact, and we can’t allow that to occur. Every time he goes onto shall we say another phase, or he takes another step towards violence, it increases the risk to the victim, and that’s just unacceptable.

Susanna Lobez: What about engaging with the armed robbery? If he comes and looks you in the eye, should you engage with him as you’re packing the money in the bag, or whatever?

Ray Smith: It would be absolutely foolish of me to advocate any sort of [initiated] intervention with any armed offender. I mean you’re already in a very risky situation. You’re standing on the other side of a counter, or in a retail premises you’ve got an irrational armed offender, they’re perhaps with a firearm. It is just simply too risky to get yourself involved. Your priority must be, must be, to get that person out the door. Now I can understand people saying ‘It’s my money, I don’t want them to have it. I’ve worked hard for it.’ But it’s up to you to take steps to minimize the amount of cash that these people are going to get in the first place should they rob it, and when they do come in, to get them out the door as quickly as possible. Try not to get involved, it is just far too dangerous. And we can replace money. I know it’s hard and it’s difficult and it goes well and truly against the grain, it gets stuck in people’s craw, but unfortunately we can’t afford to allow what could be a simple (if there is such a thing) armed robbery to turn into a serious assault or even a murder.

Susanna Lobez: So you wouldn’t advocate for instance the story I heard on the news, that a man in a fish and chip shop thwarted what I believe was an armed robbery attempt by throwing hot oil at the would-be armed robber.

Ray Smith: Every robbery is different. There are so many variables. But no, I cannot advocate people putting themselves at increased risk. On the other hand, I’m not saying to anybody if they’re being beaten, or are about to be beaten etc., to stand there and just let it happen. Now this goes against natural instinct, that people are going to try and defend themselves. However it is ridiculous to suggest that if an offender comes into your premises and you’re standing there and at this point there has been no physical violence [. . .] that you should instigate any sort of physical contact by lashing out at the person in some way. It’s called being a hero, and unfortunately there are many, many dead heroes, and it’s just not worth it.

Susanna Lobez: After 20 years in the force, now heading up Crime Prevention Services of Australia Ltd., Ray Smith.

If the Moment Comes

Hopefully you will never find yourself in a situation where you feel absolutely certain that you or someone with you is in some way at risk and you must fight back. Jackie Chan may make it look very easy in his movies, but if you’ve ever seen the outtakes he has at the end of his films, you’ve seen the several ways in which a movement did not go as planned. There’s a reason for all the outtakes.

But we also live in the real world, and we would be doing our readers a disservice if we didn’t admit that there are some times in which a person has no choice but to fight back. Self-preservation is, after all, ‘hot-wired’ into all of us; at that moment in which danger is truly imminent, all bets are off.

What is a person to do in such a situation? When is the best moment to attack? Where should I attack the assailant?

Sifu Mike Sanchez, formerly of the Mike Sanchez Martial Arts Academy in Charlotte NC, trained not only the usual students in his classes thru the week, but also ran a weekend class for the city’s police force, training them in basic self-defense methods designed for ease-of-use, practicality, and swift submission of a suspect. What advice does he normally give his students in the proper method of dealing with an armed attacker?

“Never fight with an armed person unless you feel there’s no other choice, and that you must protect yourself or those close to you. If fighting back really is the only option open, try to wait until he is within arms’ reach of you. If you try an attack before he’s within that range, he’s almost certain to get you first.”

According to Sanchez, the principal areas of weakness on a person are:

*the eyes, which can be poked by a swift, open-handed jab with the fingers, joined together and stretched out away from the hand. The whole hand should be slightly bent, making it somewhat resemble the head of a cobra about to strike (one should think of the middle finger as the ‘aiming’ finger, which is of course the longest and will help the fingers zero in on their intended target);

*the end of the nose, which should be hit with either a fist or an upturned, open palm (“Do not simply try to hit the nose, which is – with the exception of the eyes – the most sensitive and the most vulnerable part of the face, but try to hit the nose back into the skull cavity itself. The many nerve fibers bunched into the nose and the soft cartilage supporting it will make this shot very painful,” Sanchez has said);

*the ‘Adam’s apple’ found in the middle of the throat, is especially prominent in men, and should be hit with either a fist, an open palm strike (the fingers should be rolled in to protect ‘jamming’; the fingertips should not be sitting in the palm, but the fingers should merely be coiled somewhat to protect them), or – if off to the side of the attacker – the ‘Adam’s apple’ can be struck with the side of the hand. “A good strike here gets someone’s attention immediately,” Sanchez has been fond of quipping to his students.

*that perennial women’s favorite, the ol’ ‘family jewels’. Sanchez and other self-defense experts say that, when one is fighting for self-preservation, use what is open to you and use whatever works. After all, the attacker swinging around a knife or a gun is hardly ‘playing fair’. Use whatever works.

But what if the attacker lunges with a knife, or is clearly getting ready to shoot a gun at you? Above all, the important thing is to disrupt the attacker’s aim as he’s getting ready to make his attack. If he’s far away from you, throw something – anything – directly at his face, and aim for the eyes. If he is within arm’s reach of you, knock the hand holding the weapon away from both you and those with you. Never pull the weapon toward you or attempt to move it past or across your body. This is very important for obvious reasons. Also, keep your chin somewhat tucked in toward your chest, to prevent a sock on the jaw, one of the most sensitive areas of the head.

Most people may think of attempting what they see in movies: the big dramatic ‘hit’ of that hand holding the weapon, or perhaps a struggle for the weapon, and following it with a slugfest. It’s probably a sure way to get yourself killed in real-life.

The large, dramatic push of the hand leaves you wide open and gives the assailant time to counterattack. He’s not just going to stand there like they do in the movies. The best method, according to Sanchez, is to use a simple, small fan-like movement with the lower part of the arm (bicep) and hand away from the body. The upper, muscular part of the arm should stay somewhat close to the body and fairly immobile during the ‘fan’, which leaves the arm in a position to further punch or block if the need comes. Overall, once you begin you want to keep both arms in the classic ‘boxing stance’, with the upper arms somewhat in front of you, fairly close to the body for placing and protection until a punch is thrown, and the lower arms and hands ready for action.

During the ‘fan’, the thumb of the ‘fanning hand’ should be tucked in toward the palm so that the bottom part of the thumb is more or less even with the side of the hand. This keeps you from ‘jamming’ or spraining the thumb. The ‘fan’ should be almost like shooing or swatting a fly, and can be performed by either pointing the hand up and fanning the assailant’s hand away from the face, or pointing the hand and lower arm (bicep) down to fan the weapon away from the midsection. Use whichever manner seems most ‘natural’.

The body should twist with the fanning hand; so if you’re using your left hand to hit the assailant’s hand that’s holding the weapon away from you and to your left, your body should also pivot left. This normally gives the attacker less of a clear target since he is seeing your body from the side, and it separates the rest of your body even further from the assailant’s hand holding the weapon, giving you a touch more protection and perhaps an extra split-second to react.

With the other hand, hit the assailant in one of the weak spots already mentioned (a hard poke in the eye, a hard hit at the very tip of the nose with the intention of driving the nose firmly into the skull cavity, in the “Adam’s apple” or windpipe, or in the good ol’ ‘family jewels’ with either a fist, an open palm or either side of the hand at the same time you knock away the assailant’s hand holding the weapon so that the two moves are simultaneous. In fact, Sanchez is always adamant that students see the fanning away of the assailant’s hand and the attack on one of the weak centers of the body as “one flowing movement, rather than two separate moves, one after the other.” This simultaneous movement “gives your attacker no means to figure out what’s going on, and no real way to counterstrike,” according to Sanchez.

Is there anything else a person should do? “Firstly, a person should make sure to yell, holler, scream as loudly as they can,” Sanchez often tells pupils studying in the event of such an encounter with an armed robber. “The robber needs quiet, darkness; the essential thing for any robber is not to be noticed, not to be seen. The moment you cause a great amount of attention to him, to what’s going on, he has no choice but to either try to shut you up by force or to flee – and if he’s hurting, and you feel you’ve gotten the better of him for that moment, his first choice will probably be to flee.” Again, he advises however that one should only resort to such methods if the would-be attacker seems sure to attack.

Is there anything else? “A person should then use the most reliable form of self-defense if they’ve disrupted the armed robber who was about to turn violent – run away.” Getting out of the immediate area immediately and to others (who are hopefully in a populated, well-lit area) is the most important thing. Taking a few extra seconds could be all the seconds the would-be attacker needs to regroup.

Again, the all-important thing is self-preservation. That’s why we reiterate something we’ve already stated, and something also expounded by Sifu Sanchez and all other self-defense experts: Only fight back when you have no other choice. Ninety-eight percent of the time all you have to do is follow the robber’s instructions and there will be no violence involved. Remember, Jackie Chan may look cool, but in life there’s no ‘take two’. Self-preservation is always the key.

All experts assert that it’s smart to slowly and safely go thru the above move now and again with a partner, without really striking of course, so that the basic move becomes second nature if it is needed. If one wishes to go thru the move with protective gear in real-time, or wishes to better learn these and other police techniques of take-down, such as a very slick form of martial arts called “Chin-Na” based around the idea that all one need do is twist a part of the attacker’s body in such a manner that he must submit (it usually requires only a minimum of physical effort of the part of the person performing it, and is the principal method Martial Arts teachers like Sifu Sanchez teach to police across the USA), Sanchez advises taking at least a few martial arts courses from an accredited Martial Arts teacher. A professional is the best person to help you perfect a technique that you will hopefully never need.

Crime Prevention: Theory and Practice

Some of the most comprehensive studies of criminal behavior in recent years have been conducted by the Australian Institute of Criminology, which has released a worldwide, country-to-country comparison on what methods have worked best to curtail or avoid armed robberies. It advocates a model for crime prevention programs which combines physical design and flexible, quick-to-respond management in the fight against robberies. The institute sees both criminals and victims as creatures of habit, going about ‘routine activities’.

Its ‘routine activity’ approach to crime analysis specifies three elements of crime: a likely offender, a suitable target, and the absence of a capable guardian against crime or an ‘intimate handler’, i.e. a person close to the offender who is able to impose informal social control and prevent him/her from committing an offense. Crime occurs when victims and offenders converge in the absence of a guardian or intimate handler. Crime can best be prevented, says the institute, by keeping potential offenders and potential victims apart, as well as keeping potential offenders from those substances which may help in putting him/her in the mood to commit a crime.

In one paper it categorized a number of situational crime prevention strategies thrown up by successful case studies, namely reducing convergence of targets and offenders by:

*separating the elderly from teenagers and children in public housing

*restricting access to facilitates or means of committing crimes, e.g. by placing a ban on handguns to repeat offenders or ‘trouble’ juveniles;

*restricting access to disinhibitors such as alcohol which might lead some people to commit crimes, such as by banning the sale of alcohol at football games, etc. Recent studies by the US Department of Justice show that a person is more liable to commit violent behavior after drinking than after having taken any other drug.

*installing burglar-proof barriers in taxis;

*restricting access to places where crimes could be committed, such as placing entry-phones on entrances to public housing to keep out intruders, and erecting barriers at bus stops to discourage robberies;

*reducing the value of the target, by for instance inscribing belongings with identification numbers, and limiting the amount of money in cash registers;

*reducing visibility, such as not undressing in front of a lighted window;

*making sure your house or apartment looks occupied;

*increasing surveillance, real or apparent, such as Neighborhood Watch programs;

*illuminating the inside and outside of buildings at night, especially around a business and at ATM machines;

*assigning responsibility, by training employees to be on the lookout for potential offenders;

*increasing the capability to intervene, such as through radios for bus drivers.

Preventing Burglaries

What are the very best ways to ensure that you’ll probably never have to worry about being the victim of an armed burglary?

Firstly, keep in mind that burglary is a Crime of Opportunity. Burglary usually happens to those who are the least prepared. Although no security system is 100 percent effective, there are many things that you can do to reduce your risk. Burglary is not a sophisticated crime; it is a crime of opportunity. Burglars do not choose victims, they choose opportunities.

To reduce you risk, first assess your vulnerability. Use the following checklist to see how your security could improve.

Security Checklist

1. Are your windows and doors all visible from the street or from adjacent homes and/or offices? With all accesses visible, burglars are less likely to break in.

2. Is your area protected by a wall, fence, hedge or other deterrent? Fences, although not impassable, act as deterrents to burglars. A chain-link fence is a good choice, since people can see if someone is inside the premises. A wall or hedge can conceal burglars, however; therefore, a fence or wall that you can see through is best.

3. Do your exterior doors have good outside lights which are turned on at night? Well-lit entrances discourage burglary. Lights should be protected to prevent breakage or tampering.

4. Are your exterior doors and frames sturdy? Secure doors need more than good locks. The door, frame, and hardware (hinges, locks, and fasteners) form a mini-security system that is only as good as its weakest point.

5. Are windows in or near your doors protected from breakage? Windows in or near doors should be treated (safety laminated or tempered) glass, wired glass, break-resistant acrylic or polycarbonate plastic. If they are not, you should consider replacing them.

6. Can your windows or sliding doors be pried from their tracks? All fasteners and screws for tracks and frames should be inaccessible from the outside.

7. Do your ground level windows have adequate locks and solid frames? Do the windows have treated or wired glass or break-resistant plastic? Are they perhaps even protected with security bars or grills, especially if you have a business?

8. Do your walls go all the way up to the highest ceiling? Many walls only go up to the false ceiling, allowing a burglar to enter the room by climbing over the wall above the hanging ceiling.

9. Are there tools and ladders outside your area that could be used by a burglar to break in?

10. Are your valuables marked for identification and stored securely? Are important files locked away in a secure place? Do you have the serial numbers along with descriptions of your valuable items?

11. Do you leave your office or room locked even for short trips down the hall? That could be an invitation for an enterprising burglar.

We hope this section on the best ways to survive an armed robbery have been both informative and enlightening. If you follow these methods, your hopes of surviving such an encounter will be greatly enhanced.

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