You may recall that I keep saying that awareness is the greatest defensive tool. None of us are always as aware as we should be. But recently, I had a student ask me to talk about the things that we should be paying attention to. So, instead of just saying, “look for things and people that don’t fit”, let’s look at some specifics.
I was once investigating a residential burglary and didn’t have a clue to go on. However, a lady in the neighborhood overheard our radio conversations, by way of her police scanner, and she called in with a vague description of a car and an accurate description of its license plate number. Within two hours we had the crooks in custody and the case solved. All thanks to a woman who had noticed a strange car driving around in the neighborhood. It took her just a moment to jot down the license number and I sure am glad that she did.
People that don’t fit might be like the guy you see wearing a raincoat, or overcoat, when the weather doesn’t call for it and is hanging around a public school, shopping mall, or other place that large numbers of people gather. That unnecessary coat might just be for the purpose of hiding a long gun or it could just be that he is a homeless person who happens to dress funny. Either way it should cause us to be in Condition Orange (potential threat) and we should keep an eye on him until the question is resolved.
When watching people, we first watch their hands but, secondly, I like to pay close attention to their waistband, looking for the tell-tale bulge of a gun. A Texas Ranger friend of mine was once doing a book signing and a man kept hanging around the table, usually slightly behind my friend who was busy signing books. I observed that this individual had a slight bulge under his coat on the right side. I quickly grabbed a uniformed officer and suggested that we check this fellow out. Fortunately, it turned out that he was an off-duty Border Patrol supervisor who was just waiting to have a word with the Ranger. No harm, no foul, but that is how you avoid what could have been a real problem.
A patrolman friend of mine once drove by a convenience store and observed a man standing out front. Nothing strange about that. The strange part was that when the officer looked at the man, the man quickly looked away. My friend drove off, circled the block, and came back to catch the man and his partner robbing the store. That quick look-away was the clue.
The key to increasing our awareness is to think about the various things that can signal that something is not right. Then we begin watching for these tell-tales throughout the day, making sort of a game out of it, if you will. Pretty soon it becomes a habit to look for this sort of thing and we have just become a harder target.
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