You’re standing in a parking lot reading a text on your phone.
You’re driving along, chatting with the person in the passenger’s seat.
You walk out of a store looking at your purchases to make sure everything you bought is in the bag,
After a very nice dinner, you leave the restaurant, lost in deep conversation with your dining companion.
Each of these scenarios seems to be different from the others, and each may seem innocent enough, but they have one, potentially dangerous aspect in common- they distract your attention from your surroundings. While you’re looking at your phone, chatting, checking your purchases or engaged in deep conversation, you’re not evaluating your surroundings. You may not even be aware of them.
And criminals in the area may be looking for people who are obviously not paying attention to what’s going on around them. People who are obviously distracted are the most desirable marks for criminals because they’ll be easily taken by surprise.
This isn’t to suggest that you should develop a case of paranoia, (although it does bring to mind the old adage, “Just because you are paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t after you.”) only that you should develop a mindset to be aware of your surroundings and make an effort identify who or what is in a position to do you harm. Your focus should be on being aware, NOT being afraid.
One of the benefits offered by a Ring doorbell/camera is that whether you’re at home or away, you’re alerted if someone is at or near your front door. You can then determine whether the person is a potential threat, or a friend or neighbor. Additional cameras at other potential points of entry offer enhanced security.
Some tips for when you’re out and about-
Any time you change environments, “look before you leap”. When you walk out of a store, an office, your house or any other building, you’re moving from an environment that’s known to one that’s unknown. As you walk into or out of a building, look for anything (including people) that’s unusual or out of place. This is especially important if you’re transitioning from an area that’s well-lit to one that is dark.
When preparing to enter or leave a vehicle, especially if it’s after dark, survey the area around the vehicle. If you’re in your vehicle and see something that makes you uneasy, you may want to stay in your vehicle, (with the doors locked) or better yet, drive to another location. If you’re returning to your vehicle, you may want to walk past it and come back to whichever side puts your furthest from a potential threat. When, and if appropriate, use a remote to unlock the vehicle, get in and lock the doors.
Whenever you’re driving, keep an eye on the rearview mirror and take note the vehicles that are behind you. This is especially important as you near your destination. If a vehicle behind you continues to follow after you make a turn, or a series of turns, keep a closer eye on your mirror. In almost every case, the vehicle that appears to be following you will turn off at some point. If it doesn’t, you can simply drive past your destination, or call ahead to make sure you have a “welcoming committee” on hand when you arrive. If that’s not possible, another option is to drive to the nearest police station or call and explain your situation. (It’s also helpful to have the phone number of the local police department stored in your phone. While you can always dial 9-1-1, many times, you’ll get a quicker response by calling dispatch at a local police department).
There are obviously a number of other steps you can take to minimize your chances of being a crime victim, but overall, making it a habit to consciously survey your surroundings is one of the best defenses.