When do most people do the following:
- Check email?
- Send a text?
- Check their social media status?
Most people do these things as soon as they get into their vehicle, or after they park and before they exit the vehicle. As you’ll soon see, this is a very bad idea and is why your smart phone and car can equal disaster.
A criminal needs a few very important things to successfully commit a crime. They need an established intent. In other words, they need to know what they’re after, whether it be theft of property, ego gratification, pleasure, revenge, perversion, or for some other personal reason. They also need a victim. They will specifically be looking for a soft target, such as someone who isn’t paying attention or who looks like they won’t fight back. As a seasoned law enforcement officer I witnessed or responded to a variety of crimes committed in and around vehicles.
Why is a person’s car such a common target for bad guys?
It provides a guaranteed victim for the bad guy. They know that eventually you will be driving your car, and they will quite often wait for the opportunity to attack. You are full of resources for the attacker. You return to the car with your cash, ATM card, jewelry, and a variety of other property. If they don’t want property and just want you – well, there you are.
A vehicle allows for a quick escape for the criminal after committing their crime, or immediate transportation if they want to forcibly relocate you somewhere else.
You can also be easily trapped in your vehicle. For example, another situation where you spend time sitting in your car is at a drive-thru ATM machine. You’re stuck in one spot while you wait on the machine to spit out your cash. It’s simple for someone to block you in using other vehicles and then rob you. In fact it’s very simple to just approach someone distracted at an ATM and forcibly rob or abduct them.
Criminals can also create a profile of your day-to-day activities by observing the times of day they see your vehicle. Say you get to work at 7 a.m., 30 minutes before everyone else most days. If someone with criminal intent who happens to work in the same plaza profiled you for this, it would be very simple to decide when their attack should take place.
Now that we understand how much of a target you can be in your vehicle, think about combining that with how often people will just sit there and put their head down to look at their phone.
Let’s look at this example: it’s 9:45 at night and you just left a restaurant with some friends. Everyone is talking in the parking lot and then you all part ways to your vehicles. As you get in your car, you can’t resist the blinking light on your phone so you hit the social media app to check your status. You begin to type a comment or respond to a request, and about 50 seconds goes by. With no warning, a man is at your window with a gun, and now he’s opening your door.
Freeze frame right there!
Before you went out that night you posted on your social media, “Going out with the girls, happy hour at XYZ Bar and Grill. Going to have some fun!!” Unbeknownst to you, a lifetime criminal you have never met is one of your social media friends. He comments on all your posts, knows your likes and dislikes, what you look like, your birth sign, where you live, that you’re single. And tonight he knows when and where you will be. It was all too easy, and the end of the story can play out and a variety of different ways, none of which are good for you.
Make it more difficult for any bad guy to carry out this scenario by doing the following:
- When getting in your car, the first thing you should do is lock and relocate. Simply lock your door, start your car and drive off. Avoid your cell phone until you’re somewhere different.
- If you’re with a group of friends, avoid being the last one to leave. Criminals don’t want witnesses.
- Don’t tell the world your every move on social media, especially when your time and place are not the best. Going out at night with friends during happy hour and then telling everyone your exact location just isn’t safe. Combine that with the fact that most people have no self-defense training, and the result can be disastrous.
Using Lock-Relocate and practicing situational awareness are the key principals for safety.