Personal Protection Tips
Part I: Your Car
I hate to think about how many of us are vulnerable as we go to, come from, or travel in, our cars. These tips will help you avoid trouble as you go to and fro. They should be considered supplemental to the Business Protection Tips also provided.
First, why should you worry about the area around your car? It’s simple if you look at it from an attacker’s point of view: where else are you guaranteed to be distracted, guaranteed to have at least 1 major asset to steal, and guaranteed to return to? All they have to do is pick you out when you get out of your car and then wait. Recently that’s exactly what happened in the D.C. metropolitan area: Some young woman was spotted and followed home by a stalker who then pushed his way into her home. Fortunately for her, her husband was there and subdued the attacker. There’s no need to speculate on what might have occurred if he hadn’t been home.
So, when you get out of your car, look around. You should do that anyway just to be sure that you know where you parked. (Haven’t you ever “lost” your car in a big parking lot?) And when you do look around, pay attention to what you see. Look at the people, the place where you parked, the shadows. Remember them because if, when you return, the same people are there, you should be alert to a possible problem. Which leads to my next point:
When you return to your car, don’t permit yourself to be distracted by the bags and baggage you are carrying or the events of the day. Pay Attention! Look around you. Be curious. And listen to your instincts. Don’t stop in front of your car and stare pensively into the air.
If, when you approach your car, there is an SUV or van parked next to it, pay attention. Are there people in it? Is the door open? This is especially true during the Holiday Season when people can be expected to be carrying extra money for presents. But if someone is stalking you this is a prime alert. It is very easy to be pulled into one of these big vehicles.
As you approach your car, walk around it to see if it has been tampered with--look down at tires for nails or other things since a quick way to catch you is to ensure you have a flat tire or, better, 2 flat tires. And while you are at it, look for leaking brake fluid too. It sounds melodramatic, but if someone wants to injure you, tampering with your brakes is an easy thing to do and very popular thanks to Hollywood.
While I think of it (especially since gas prices are so high these days) I suggest you get a locking gas cap. Sugar in the gas tank will ensure that your car will stop running at the most inconvenient time for you and the most convenient time for a potential attacker. Most cars these days have key operated hood locks too. This is a good thing and if your car doesn’t have one, you should consider it to avoid someone tampering with your engine.
When you do approach your car, it’s a truism but ... always look in back of car before you get in. You never know.
Check under the door handle of your car before grabbing it--if someone *really* doesn’t like you they could put razor blades there.
Do not fumble with your car keys after you get to the car--have them easily accessible and don’t put them on the same key ring as your house keys. There was a recent story around here about a woman who did that and the guy who valet parked her car took a copy of her house key and got her address by looking at the registration card in the car. They found him under her bed.
If you have a reason to be concerned that someone is actively trying to do you harm, never park in the same place twice. Always park in different places and most certainly in heavily populated areas where there are lots of lights and pedestrian traffic.
If someone does attempt to carjack while you are in the car, get out of the car but watch for seat/shoulder belts. Don’t get tangled in them because you can be dragged alongside. The carjacker won’t care. If you can, get out on the opposite side from the carjacker.
If you are being attacked outside the car, Never, Ever, get into a car with your attacker--do not let him/them take you away from the scene. Statistics show that the worst possible thing the victim can do is permit themselves to be taken away. The secondary scene is always worse--harder to escape from, quieter, less witnesses and so on.
Once you get in to your car, you should periodically check your rear view mirrors to observe if people or cars are following you. If you see, or think you see, someone following you, drive in circles and/or pull into a police station and/or use your cell phone to call for help.
By the way, just because -- especially at night -- a car behind you looks like a cop car doesn’t make it a cop car. It is not hard to counterfeit a cop car, especially a so-called “undercover” cop car. Believe it or not, here in Virginia there’s one undercover car they use--a Dodge Magnum--that they took from a drug dealer. They say the thing will go over 140 mph and it sure doesn’t *look* like any cop car I ever saw.
If you are being followed by a car that may or may not be an actual cop car, use your cell phone. Call “911" and tell them where you are and what’s going on. Ask them to find out if you really are being followed by a real cop car or if you are about to have a real big problem.
One last point about being followed or stopped by “police”: badges that look official (in fact “replica” badges and badge cases) are very cheap and easy to come by. Officially, they are made for collectors. Unofficially, they are a complete license to fool unsuspecting people. The solution: ask for the “credential” the document with a photograph and, again, in case of doubt, call “911" and ask.
Anyway, I hope these tips help you all stay safe. I know they seem scary but you would be surprised how easy it is to incorporate a little situational awareness into your life.