Thinking about Crime Scene 2

Should you get in that car?

Should you get in that car?

 

In the past we have looked at the question of when and whether you should resist a crime or not. Most authorities on personal security and most law enforcement sources will advise you to comply with a criminal in the case of an obviously economically-motivated crime. If a mugger wants your wallet or your cell phone, just give it to him. If a thief grabs your bag don’t chase him. Things can be replaced, people’s lives can’t. Most people agree, you should not put your life at risk to defend material possessions. Many, maybe most of those people would agree that in the face of a physical assault you need to escape or fight back. What about the gray area in between? What do you do when your assailants want to force you into a vehicle or otherwise move you from the place where contact first occurred (Crime Scene 1).

 
This phenomenon is called Crime Scene 2. I first learned about this concept from the book Strong on Defense written by Sandford Strong in the 1990s. Strong, a retired San Diego police officer argues you should never let yourself be taken to Crime Scene 2. Strong makes this argument for some very good reasons I think. In his perspective Crime Scene 2 is always worse. The only reason why the criminal would seek to move you to Crime Scene 2 is to get more privacy, better isolate you and have better control. What is likely to follow will be very bad – probably torture, sexual assault and often murder. Under these conditions you would likely do well to stand your ground at Crime Scene 1 and fight or try to escape even at risk of injury or death to yourself. In the US, Canada and a number of other countries this is very often a reasonable and sound strategy. In other places in the world, however it can be less clear.

 
Kidnap for ransom is a rare crime in the US and when it does occur there is a very high apprehension and prosecution rate. Express kidnapping, while perhaps more common than kidnap for ransom is still pretty rare. Therefore, many abductions in the US occur for other than financial gain and there is some real validity to Sanford Strong’s hypothesis that Crime Scene 2 is always worse than Crime Scene 1. This is especially true for women and children who are more likely to be targeted for predatory, sexually motivated crimes.

 
Once you leave the US, Canada, Western Europe, Australia and some of the more developed nations of the Pacific Rim this becomes less clear. In many places around the world, kidnap for ransom and express kidnappings are common, even rampant. In these environments people are abducted for financial reasons and frequently come through the experience alive if traumatized. In the case of express kidnapping in particular, the crime can be over relatively quickly. A quick trip to the ATM and a withdrawal of the daily maximum is often followed by the release of the victim. In some cases the victim may be held past midnight to make a withdrawal on the next day. In other situations such as kidnap for ransom, victims may be held for days, weeks and sometimes even years but are frequently eventually released. Yes – sometimes it’s not a successful outcome. As we have seen from the recent hostage executions by ISIS and the Daniel Pearl case in Pakistan that kidnappings can also end badly with the victim being executed, sometimes very brutally and publicly.

 
We discussed the question of to resist or not to resist as well as the issue of Crime Scene 2 here: https://protectiveconcepts.wordpress.com/2012/08/20/to-resist-or-not-to-resist-that-is-the-question/. It’s a difficult question that is very situationally dependent. It should depend a lot on where you are and adversary tactics in that area. It’s going to also depend on your capabilities and your mindset. There is no pat answer that will fit every person and every scenario.

Review – Left of Bang

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If you are looking for a resource to improve your ability to be aware of your environment and identity threats before an attack occurs then look no further than Left of Bang by Patrick Van Horne and Jason Riley.
While there are other books that discuss reading body language and detecting potential threats none really address it as comprehensively and in such a user-friendly, applicable way. In my opinion this is the definitive work on situational awareness, yet it also readily complements other books like Gavin De Becker’s Just 2 Seconds (which we will review separately in the future).

 
The material in Left of Bang is taken from the US Marine Corps Combat Hunter Program. The Marine Corps implemented the Combat Hunter Program to better prepare Marines for counterinsurgency environments like those found in Iraq and Afghanistan. In the counterinsurgency environment the enemy hides among the civilian population, which presents a real challenge for warfighters. The material used in the combat profiling portion of Combat Hunter is also incredibly useful for the average person in terms of their personal security.

 
The term left of bang refers to the time before a violent incident. If you are looking at a timeline and “bang” is the attack, the IED detonating, the ambush, the kidnapping or whatever, the left side is the time preceding the incident. Right of bang is the time following the incident, the reaction, the response and so forth. While it’s important to be ready to deal with the incident and its aftermath, if you can deal effectively with the time before the incident you may be able to prevent the incident from occurring or at least remove yourself from the scene before the incident occurs. Getting “left of bang” means being ahead of the threat, seeing it coming and recognizing it and taking the appropriate action, this book gives you tools to do that.

 
In the book you will learn about baselines and anomalies, the six domains of profiling, the combat rule of three and how to make decisions based on your observations and make them quickly. I have not found this level of detail or techniques that are as useful anywhere else. The book in available in paperback and e-book version through Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Left-Bang-Marine-Combat-Program/dp/1936891301/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1413499479&sr=8-1&keywords=left+of+bang

 
I also had the great opportunity to take a tactical analysis training class with Patrick Van Horne prior to the book being published and found that to be incredibly insightful as well. Van Horne’s company CP Journal (Combat Profiling Journal) now also provides an online training course now too. More information about CP Journal and their programs can be found here: http://www.cp-journal.com/.

 

Resources You Might Like – Staying Safe – a blog by Christopher Pendas

In the coming weeks Protective Concepts will highlight various resources that may be of interest to readers and will also do some additional book reviews.

 
If you find the articles on Protective Concepts interesting and helpful you will enjoy the Staying Safe blog by Christopher Pendas. Christopher takes a proactive approach to personal protection and self defense that provides the reader useful tools and ideas that can be implemented immediately. His approach to developing and enhancing situational awareness goes well beyond the usual prompts to pay attention to your surroundings that are given by so many instructors without really explaining how. In particular he makes a good use of videos to illustrate preincident indicators and other aspects in the context of a real world situation.

 
The philosophy and approach outlined on the Staying Safe blog complements our approach at Protective Concepts and is highly recommended. The blog can be found here: http://stayingsafe-selfdefense.com/ and Christopher also has a Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/stayingsafeselfdefense.

When Avoidance Fails

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When looking at personal security we constantly preach the importance of awareness, avoidance and prevention over reaction or physical response. The last article discussed the limitations of physical self defense and the importance of avoiding a situation when these types of skills might come into play.
While awareness and avoidance are the best and most proactive approach, we have to recognize that there may be times when they fail us. Maybe despite our best efforts we are still caught unawares or maybe do to good planning by our attackers or physical conditions we are not able to detect preincident indicators.
If we find ourselves in a situation where we need to defend ourselves what are the best methods to use? While Protective Concepts generally focuses on soft skills, we would be remiss not to consider what to do if preventive measures fail.
There is so much about physical self defense that is misguided or just wrong that it might be useful to look at some concepts of effective physical self defense that hopefully will assist the reader in selecting training or if already training evaluate what they are doing and whether they need to augment or adapt it. This is not a “my style/system is better than yours debate” – which is all too common when this subject comes up. Rather it is a high level discussion of principles and concepts to consider.

  • Gross motor movements: Techniques should be practiced which can be employed using only gross motor skills. Technical, fine motor techniques that may work in controlled training are not likely to work in a high stress, adrenaline – fueled event
  • Use high probability techniques and tools: Keeping with the theme of gross motor movements, techniques should also have a high probability of success while limiting vulnerability. This means having a core of tools that will work in multiple situations, are difficult to defend against and do not leave you too exposed.
  • Soft tissue targets: Attacks should target the eyes and throat and in some cases when accessible the groin. A strike to the eyes will likely cause a flinch response at the very least and create an opening for you. This does not mean you should seek pinpoint targets as this is unrealistic in a dynamic situation.
  • Train against resisting opponents: While it may be necessary to learn fundamentals by practicing in a more controlled way – as soon as possible training should be against a dynamic, resisting partner. Training partners should conduct realistic attacks to allow you to pressure test your skills.
  • Add emotional content: Role playing and introduction of realistic emotional content such as cursing, insults and aggressive body contact help replicate the feelings created in a real situation.
  • Use of preemptive striking: Train to gauge when and how to strike preemptively. There are legal and ethical as well as tactical considerations to consider but realistically striking first, when appropriate, may be the difference between success and failure and even life or death. Too many self defense programs base everything in reacting to an assailant’s attack. Many if not most times this is too late, especially against a hardened, experienced attacker.
  • Use of distraction techniques: Whether throwing hot coffee in the eyes, feigning illness or using a verbal pattern disruption – distraction techniques can provide the opening needed to launch a preemptive strike.
  • Training against multiple opponents: It’s important to recognize that in a real situation there are likely to be multiple assailants and they may be armed. This should be reflected in training scenarios.
  • Use of improvised weapons: Training should include identification of improvised weapons in your environment and their use. Improvised weapons usually fall into three categories: impact, edged and flexible although this can be expanded to include projectiles and sprays. Improvised weapons should be items you can realistically use with a minimum of training and practice. Flexible weapons as an example can be difficult to master. Conversely a palm stick or kubotan type weapon such as a pocket flashlight or pen can be employed using the same movements and body mechanics that you would use for striking with a hammer fist in empty hand combat. This allows for greater transferability and less training time.

Unfortunately good training in realistic combatives can often be difficult to find. For a variety of reasons this type of training often doesn’t translate well to the commercial environment. For that reason you may need to seek out informal groups the train in garages, basements or parks or train in a combat sport or traditional martial art and augment your training with the principles discussed here.

As always – avoidance and prevention are best – but should they fail be prepared by training as realistically as possible.

Recognizing the Limitations of Physical Self Defense

Alley

Why do many self-defense training scenarios start with a gun already at your head? Or an assailant threatening you with a knife to your throat? What happened in the moments prior to that situation and how often is that time frame covered in any depth in much of what passes for self- defense training? If you Google self-defense classes you will likely get info on a bunch of local martial arts schools and maybe a course or two offered through a Y or community center. While many of these courses will mention the need for awareness, assertiveness and in some cases de-escalation most will quickly shift the focus to physical techniques – some better than others depending on the program and the instructor.

First off let me say that I am not against training in physical self-defense techniques. I think they are useful and I love combat sports and martial arts and have done them in one form or another for most of my life up to this day. I also don’t mean to imply that there are not good self-defense teachers out there who also teach awareness, de-escalation and other non-physical proactive measures as big part of their curriculum, because there are. Our focus here is on the more common training programs that cut right to the physical with little regard for the components that lead up to a violent incident occurring.

Now – with that out of the way – let’s look at some of the real limitations of focusing exclusively or mainly on physical self-defense:

  • Many self-defense courses are taught using techniques and elements from traditional martial arts. While some traditional arts have aspects or tools that may be useful in a real confrontation for the most part many of the techniques are not applicable for a real world violent confrontation.
  • Many are taught based solely on combat sports. While this is perhaps a better fit than the traditional arts in most respects, if not properly modified there can be real shortcomings such as not considering multiple opponents, weapons, etc. We previously discussed the pros and cons of both approaches here: https://protectiveconcepts.wordpress.com/2012/11/06/combat-sports-traditional-martial-arts-and-defense/
  • Regardless of the physical techniques used many self-defense systems require a great deal of training to become proficient. There are some practical combative systems that can be learned relatively quickly but frankly they are not widely available to most people. Given the level of interest and competing commitments many if not most people will not devote the time to become proficient.
  • To train realistically requires training with intensity. This means against a resisting opponent with some level of contact that approximates a real situation. There must be enough intensity to get your adrenaline flowing as it would in a real violent encounter. A large segment of the population is not willing to train at this level.
  • Despite what many people think – size and strength are a factor. Unless you are at a very high level you will be at a disadvantage against a larger, stronger opponent. Especially if that opponent has training and experience with violence – which most assailants will have.
  • As you age your ability to be physically effective resisting a determined attacker is decreased.
  • Your assailants will choose the time and place where they attack you in most cases. They will choose a situation where the odds are in their favor and you are in a disadvantaged position.
  • Your attacker has likely committed similar violent assaults, has a game plan and knows what to expect. For you it may be the first time.
  • In many if not most cases there will be multiple assailants, weapons or both.
  • Carrying firearms or other weapons may be of no help or even counterproductive unless you train to use them under duress and have bridging techniques that allow you to get space and draw and deploy your weapon if suddenly attacked. We discussed this in our piece on the 21 foot rule: https://protectiveconcepts.wordpress.com/2012/11/25/the-21foot-rule-and-over-reliance-on-firearms/

The fact is criminal assaults don’t happen in a vacuum. There are always indicators prior to the attack and with the possible exception of some ambush-style assaults where the perpetrators are well concealed and lying in wait for a victim, you can usually detect these indicators. The key factor is you need to be watching for them and you need to be trained or have trained yourself to recognize them.

Personal security and self-defense needs to start before an incident ever begins and way before any physical techniques are needed. You need to:

Training to physically respond to a violent attack has its place but also its limitations. Training for personal protection should focus heavily on detecting and avoiding potential threats. These are things everyone can do – especially with a little training and practice – regardless of age, physical condition and so forth. It’s also completely scalable based on the person’s perceived threat level and degree of interest. Many aspects of this approach were covered in previous articles which are linked here for those who want more information and a greater understanding.

Logic of Violence: A Review

LogicofViolence

One of the key elements of personal security is to understand the threat and the adversary’s method of operation, mindset and tactics.  Rory Miller, the author of the excellent books  Meditations on Violence and Facing Violence has released an outstanding video called Logic of Violence that delves into the mindset of the criminal, how they reason, select victims and plan attacks.  Miller, a career corrections officer has great insight into how criminals think, how violence unfolds and explains how to use this information to keep yourself safe.

The three-hour video has an interesting format:  You are present for a seminar that Miller gives to four self-defense instructors.  Miller stands in front of a white board for most of the video presenting his material and engaging in a discussion with the four attendees.  There are also several brief breakouts where Miller and the four instructors go to a bar and a parking lot to walk through some of the concepts they have discussed.  Miller also discusses several techniques such as using reflective surfaces to maintain situational awareness and breaking free from a grab from behind but the video is overwhelmingly focused on concepts and understanding how criminals think, select their victims and plan their attacks.

Viewers that have read Miller’s books will see a discussion of familiar themes such as social vs. predatory violence, resource vs. process predators and so forth.  Miller spends a lot of time getting the four attendees to actively engage in exercises that force them to think like a criminal.  I strongly suggest viewing the video with a notebook and pen on hand to get the greatest value from the material by participating in the exercises and jotting down key points.

While the video is clearly geared towards instructors its really great material for anyone concerned about personal security.  My only criticism at all – and its very minor – is that some of the questions can be difficult to hear.  A couple of times I had to stop and review the video to hear what the question was.  This could easily be addressed in future videos if Miller restated the question for the “video audience” before answering.  There is also some bonus material which includes a very interesting brief presentation by one of the seminar attendees Teja Van Wicklen of Devi Protective Offense that addresses some of the particular security concerns of women and some of their vulnerability to psychological domination by predators.

Logic of Violence is highly recommended to those who seek to better understand how criminals think and operate.  Its available on Amazon.com and through YMAA (www.ymaa.com ).

Probability: Looking at Likelihood When Assessing Personal Risk

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There is a tendency to be drawn to the more exotic, spectacular or exciting threats when considering personal risk rather than the more likely but more mundane threats.  In many parts of the developing world your greatest risk is a vehicle accident.  Poorly maintained vehicles, lack or total absence of professional driver training and licensing, bad roads and sometimes a lackadaisical attitude towards safety in general make this a real concern many places.  This is often compounded in places where modern medical care is severely lacking and all but the most minor medical issues require evacuation.  In an environment like this injuries sustained in a traffic accident that might be very manageable elsewhere in the world can be fatal.

While conducting a recent threat assessment in East Africa following the Westgate Mall attack, it was difficult to get the consumers of the report to appreciate the full spectrum of threat that exists apart from terrorism.  Yes, terrorism is a very real concern and the relative success of the Westgate attack (a low tech attack using limited numbers that produced high casualties and went on for days capturing worldwide media attention) may encourage further, similar actions.  Any further attacks will likely occur at soft targets where visitors and expatriates are likely to be such as hotels, transit hubs, shopping venues and so forth.  That said, Nairobi is a city racked by violent crime and for the average visitor or resident this is a much greater risk than terrorism.  There is a much greater chance of being carjacked, and possibly murdered in the process than there is of being present during a terrorist attack.

When assessing your personal risk in a particular location and perhaps basing whether or not you will go or what mitigation measures you will put in place, it’s important to consider the full threat spectrum and consider the likelihood or probability of each type of threat so that you don’t get so caught up with the more spectacular threat that is receiving massive coverage on CNN that you ignore the more probable threats that might be right in front of you.

Self-Preservation vs. Self-Perfection

While we generally tend to focus on the less physical aspects of personal security and self-protection or the “soft skills” it’s important at times to comment on some aspects of the hard skills, especially when it comes to the need for realistic and functional training.  For those people who choose to pursue some type of physical self defense or martial arts training with a goal of improving their personal safety and security its critical to recognize the difference between self-preservation and self-perfection.  While many  instructors have noted the distinction between these two areas in many different terms I will choose to use the terminology of self-preservation vs. self-perfection used by Jeet Kune Do instructor Paul Vunak .  Regardless of what you may think of what Vunak teaches he encapsulates this concept very well.

Too many people who seek training for self defense end up pursuing self-perfection oriented training when they would be better served to acquire self-preservation skills instead – or at least acquire them first.  What is the difference between the two?  Self-preservation training gives you the skills to improve your chances of surviving a violent encounter.  These are the basic, readily employable physical skills that allow you to do damage to an assailant while hopefully limiting the damage you sustain yourself.  They do not need to be pretty and they shouldn’t be complex.  They can be employed across a spectrum of situations with little or no modification.  Self-perfection is the pursuit of mastery of physical skills and physical attributes that may or may not make you more effective at defending yourself. 

Self-preservation skills should be gross motor and can be applied under stress and pressure.  While physical strength and athleticism will always come into play, these skills should not rely totally on them.  They should be simple to learn and retain and be trained under pressure in an adrenal-induced environment.  They should not require a massive training commitment or years of training before they can be used effectively.

In contrast self-perfection is achieved through attention to detail, extensive repetition and fine tuning.  Can self-perfection training contribute to self defense capability?  Yes – probably in many cases it can and as long as it is still grounded in reality there is nothing wrong with it.  Will you be more effective if you do training that enhances your fluidity, hand speed, reaction time and body mechanics?  Very likely you will if you are concentrating on enhancing your practical self-preservation skills in the process.  If the self-perfection training is focused on unrealistic methods it’s worse than useless.

Given the limited time and interest most people have to devote to this type of training it’s important to focus on practical, combative self-preservation training first and self-perfection should take a back seat.  For those with the time and interest there is always the option to focus on self-perfection of the core skills and physical attribute development later.

 

Safe Travel Abroad is now available in Paperback

SafeTravelAbroadBookCoverPreview

We are pleased to announce that Safe Travel Abroad – previously available as a Kindle E-book is now also available in a paperback version.  You can find it on amazon.com or by clicking here: http://www.amazon.com/Safe-Travel-Abroad-Individual-Expatriates/dp/1484871987/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1370690870&sr=1-1.

The cover has a slightly different look but the content is the same.  The decision to come out with a hard copy version was based on several requests to use it as a training text, an on-the-shelf reference and by several people who just prefer a paper book or who don’t use e-readers.

The paperback version has a list price of $14.00 but is currently selling for $12.56 on Amazon.  In comparison the Kindle version is only $2.99 and is available for free loan to Amazon Prime members.

Below is a brief description:

Do you travel or live abroad? Do you know how to protect yourself from criminal and terrorist threats? How do you decide which hotel to use? What are the risks of taking taxis in some cities? What do you need to know about dealing with the police and your local contacts in foreign countries? How can seemingly innocent items you pack in your suitcase get you into trouble with local authorities? Safe Travel Abroad goes beyond what is usually found in travel security books and government issued travel information and includes new information on protecting yourself overseas. Learn about assessing the risks associated with your travel, applying surveillance detection techniques and route selection. Learn how to choose hotels and residences overseas. Discover the common myths and pitfalls associated with travel security and learn how to avoid them. Understand ways to reduce your risk through proper planning and preparation. Integrated Protective Concepts applies over 20 years of experience working and traveling in more than 50 countries on 5 continents to bring you usable information that you can apply immediately to protect yourself overseas.

Travel Security: Keeping it in Perspective – Part 2

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Continuing with the theme of keeping travel security in perspective that we introduced in the last article I’d like to stress again the need to keep a realistic and practical view of your personal security when traveling overseas and to avoid alarmist perceptions that often follow incidents like the Sarai Sierra case and the sexual assault of the Swiss tourist.   Of course it’s equally important to avoid the rose-colored glasses and happy complacency exhibited by some other travelers who may have engaged in risky behavior and done foolish things yet got through it unscathed and then proceed to tell everyone who will listen how safe it is and how important it is not to be paranoid.

So how do we find the middle ground and get as realistic as possible an idea of the risks of travel to a particular place?  The first is by conducting open source research on your destination.  Corporations and their business travelers can usually access subscription services that specialize in providing travel security information.  They also have access to organizations like the US State Department’s overseas Security Advisory Council that provide guidance to the business community.  Individual travelers don’t usually have access to these resources so we will look at more available methods.  One place to begin is government issued travel advice.  For US travelers that can be found at www.travel.state.gov .   Other nations also publish travel advice as well.  The UK Foreign office information can be found here: http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/travel-and-living-abroad/travel-advice-by-country; Australia’s is here: http://www.smartraveller.gov.au ; Canada’s is here: http://travel.gc.ca/travelling/advisories .  By looking at several different nations travel guidance for the same location you can begin to piece together common themes and trends relating to personal security.

One thing that is important to keep in mind when reviewing travel security advise for a location – whether the advice is coming from a government agency or a private sector provider-  is that most of this advice is written for a wide audience.  That means the guidance is written for the backpacker to the business traveler and everyone in between even though their individual risk profiles may vary greatly.  This is why context is so important.  For example there may be a problem with buses being hijacked en route between towns in the country where you will be traveling.  Maybe the hijackers typically take the passengers off the bus and rob them and sometimes there may be gratuitous violence even when the criminals’ demands are met.  While that is a serious security concern in a general sense and may be very relevant to a backpacker or budget traveler if you are planning a business trip to the capital city of that country, will spend the entire time either in your hotel, at meetings or at dinner and you will not be traveling in rural areas, going from town to town or using the bus it may not be particularly significant for you.

When reading travel advice please keep the notion of context in mind.  Using the above example of the business trip to the capital city imagine there is also a significant problem with taxi-related crime in that city.  In particular there is a problem with the robbery or express kidnapping of travelers arriving at the capital city’s airport.  In that case it might be very relevant to your business trip and a risk that needs to be mitigated.  You might for example mitigate this risk by arranging for transportation from a known company in advance and establish recognition protocols with the driver (not just a sign with your name on it).

After reviewing several different reports from different governments you should have an idea of crime trends and similar security issues at the location in question.  You can pursue this further by conducting internet searches on key words at various news websites to pull up accounts of specific crimes and so forth.  This may also provide you more detail and help you to understand common modus operandi.  Keep in mind however that in many locations crimes go unreported or don’t appear in the press.

You can also look at various travel websites and forums and see what other travelers and expatriates say about a particular location.  CAUTION:  It’s very important to use critical thinking when reading or listening to anecdotal accounts from other travelers.  There is a great deal of misinformation out there and nothing should be taken at face value.  That said this can be a way of building on what you already know.  This is especially if you come across recurring themes.

How much effort should you devote to this research?  It should largely be dictated by the place you are going to and the circumstances of your trip.  A solo female traveler hiking or cycling through Latin America for three months should devote much more time than two business travelers going to Paris for two days.  As you begin your research it may also become evident that you need to go further to clarify or de-conflict information that you are finding.

Additionally you should go more in depth with this research when it comes to selecting accommodations, modes of travel and other aspects of your trip.  The more you know and the more you plan the less likely you are to encounter a problem and the better you’ll deal with a problem if one should arise.

The important aspect is to maintain perspective when considering security facets of your travel.  Understand what threats exist and look at them in the context of your trip.  Don’t become unduly afraid of things that don’t pose a real risk to you and don’t be complacent or blind to things that do.