Saturday, November 26, 2011

Black Friday & holiday shopping safety tips with a tactical twist

So Black Friday has come and gone with some unsurprising violent outcomes across the United States. A woman in Southern California had the bright idea to discourage other shoppers from vying for an Xbox360 by using pepper spray, injuring 10 people in the process. I give her points for ingenuity, but she sort went against some social mores, such as that little known 'do unto others' rule that keeps us from eating each other. In San Leandro, CA (East Bay)  shoppers were robbed in a Walmart parking lot as they left a 1:30 am shopping spree, leaving one shopper critically injured by a bullet wound. And  this trend towards consumer-on consumer & opportunistic predatory behavior echoed across the country over the past 24 hours.

We still have a month of shopping and that means a month of somewhat higher risk for robbery or assault given the current economic state and the fact that we're all distracted with the obligatory holiday distractions.

Below is the standard list of basic safety tips issued every year for the clueless holiday shopper. I've added what I think have been missing from this list  as well. My tips are in italic.
  • Park in well-lit areas, and always lock the car, close the  windows, and hide shopping bags and gifts in the trunk even if you only  plan to be gone for a few minutes. Do not leave valuables in plain view  inside your vehicle. Out of sight, out of mind!
  • DB- If possible, back your car into the spot. Many attackers will approach victims from behind after they've they approached their car. If you pull head on into your spot,that open door funnels you into a corner With your car backed in, an open car door can serve as a barrier between you and your would be attacker.
  • If possible, shop before dark. Coordinate shopping trips with a friend if you plan to be out late.
  • Stay alert and be aware of what’s going on around you. If you see  people “hanging around” parking garages, parking lots, or the outside of  stores, avoid the area. Notify the police or security department.  
  • DB - Situational awareness is huge! Keep an eye out for familiar faces, and ask yourself why you keep crossing paths that person or group of people. Are you being sized up for a potential robbery or worse?
  • DB - consolidate your purchases into as few bags as possible, and make that bag the lowest end store in the mall. For example, if you buy your girlfriend a Coach purse, place it in a JC Penny shopping bag. Perception is key. If you try to appear wealthy, you're a prized pig.
  • Avoid carrying large amount of cash; pay with check or credit card whenever possible.
  • Limit the amount of jewelry you wear.
  • Be extra careful with purses and wallets. Carry a purse close to  your body, not dangling by the straps. Don’t leave purses unattended in  shopping carts even for a moment.  
  • DB- Keep your wallet in your front pants pocket.
  • Deter pickpockets and purse-snatchers. Don’t overburden yourself  with packages. Have your purchases delivered whenever practical.
  • DB - Thieves often work in teams: one with distract you while the other picks your pocket. If someone bumps into you in the mall, don't stop to turn around and pardon yourself or confront the individual, keep moving.
  • Have your keys in hand when you return to your car. Always check the interior of your car before you unlock the door to get in.  
  • DB- Don't be on your mobile phone while walking to your car, scan your sector (look around by visually sweeping the field in front of you and to your sides) keep your posture erect and look pissed off. Make yourself a hard target through your body language. 
  • DB - I don't particularly condone carrying a blade if you aren't trained on basic weapon retention and use simply because introducing a weapon instantly escalates a situation in which a simple robbery turns potentially fatal. If  someone really wants you dead, they'll kill you. If they want your stuff, they'll threaten harm. Sometimes it's simply not worth the risk, and handing over your bags is the safest option. It sucks, it's better to spend the holidays with your family than in a  hospital bed.

Most importantly, if you find yourself in the midst of some crazed Walmart mob killing each other over a $2 waffle iron, maintain a wide, low stance, and remember that nice, clean, tight elbow points strategically used on soft mid sections can help move you through the crowd. Get yourself and your family/friend/partner away from the mob as quickly as possible. Look for ways out such as a nearby aisle or a gap in the crowd. That, and keep your hands on your pockets!

Happy hunting!