Complacency and a lack of preparation may be the greatest threat in an armed robbery. With muggings, robberies, and shootings on the increase, more people are at risk -- that may include you and even your children.
What I share here will hopefully keep you alive and out of harm's way.
First, Understand Criminals
When it comes to armed robbery, that's a serious crime with serious consequences. An armed robber in most cases doesn't want to be caught.
He (sometimes she) will want the safest means to strike so that he can make a clean get away.
One of the best ways to survive an armed robbery is to avoid being a target of an armed robber.
Tips for Avoiding Muggings and Purse-Snatchings
In regards to armed robberies, this article focuses on "muggings" and "purse-snatchings". Other forms of armed robberies not addressed in this article include robberies of banks, jewelery stores, department stores, armored cars, and home invasions. (We'll address these in an upcoming article; be sure to sign up for our free newsletter so that you know when the article is posted; see link at the bottom of this article).
Most Robberies are Considered Strong-Arm Robberies
Most robberies are considered "strong-arm" robberies and happen out on the street -- meaning places like a sidewalk, alley way, or in a parking lot. A mugging and a purse-snatching are essentially the same thing as a strong-arm robbery.
Criminals Use Guns More Often Than Knives
In America, when weapons are used to demand money, a gun is used more often than a knife or any other weapon.
Strong-arm robberies can also occur without a weapon -- just the threat of physical violence or an actual beating followed by the demand for money.
Why would a criminal rob someone and not use a weapon? This happens when criminals want to avoid any "weapon enhancements" adding time to their prison sentence, should they be caught.
During Times of Economic Hardship, Armed Robberies Can Come to the Suburbs
Why do the suburbs become a target? Simply because people there may be less suspecting than people in the city. At the same time, criminals may feel secure knowing that they're not known by local police in a particular suburb, offering a bit more anonymity. (For this same reason, higher-end suburbs can be targets for home-invasion robberies as well.)
A Robbery Can Happen Anywhere -- But Most Happen at Night
Though a robbery can happen almost any place and anywhere, most happen at night, after sunset and before sunrise.
Most robberies occur in major cities.
The times you may be robbed include getting off work and going to your car; stopping by a mall or grocery store in the evening hours; dining out on the weekend; going to a gym before or after work.
People who live in the city and walk to places like shopping, work, and school have increased odds of being robbed because they put themselves in more probable locations for robbery and for longer periods, giving criminals more opportunities to strike.
Avoid Being a Target of a Robbery
By deciding things like where and when you shop for groceries, where and when you go to a gym, and where you dine out on the weekends, you can put yourself in less places that are optimal conditions for a robbery.
Choose a grocery store that has a brightly lit parking lot, plenty of other shoppers coming and going, and go out of your way to get a parking spot as close to the front doors of the store as possible.
Even better, decide to shop for groceries on Saturday mornings or Sunday afternoons during daylight hours rather than at night after work, especially if you walk to and from your house to a grocery store.
Tips for Avoiding an Armed Robbery
If you live in the suburbs and commute to work in a major city, choose to do your shopping in the suburbs -- you are likely to be in an area that has a lower number of robberies.
When you dine out on the weekend consider restaurants with free valet parking and / or parking lot attendants present. Avoid restaurants with limited parking if that means you may have to park 1 or 2 blocks away.
Time your exit from a restaurant or super-market so that you're leaving at the same time other diners or shoppers are leaving. This way you're not alone as you head out to your car.
Request an Escort to Your Vehicle
If you've been invited to a restaurant you don't normally dine at and recognize that the area around the restaurant offers opportunities for an armed robber to strike, don't hesitate to ask the restaurant management to send you to your car with an escort. Most will likely agree. It might be a bus-boy or even a dishwasher that walks you to your car -- it doesn't matter -- most robberies target single individuals. Having someone with you reduces the chances you will be targeted.
Park In Areas Offering Visibility
Park in a brightly lit area (if you've chosen to do your shopping in the evening hours). Park next to small cars -- this gives the area around your vehicle more visibility, making you less of a target. If you park next to a truck or van, especially to both sides of your vehicle, these trucks and vans can provide a robber with "shielding" -- meaning, they shield you from view of witnesses, making this spot you've chosen to park a better target for a robbery than a spot with more visibility.
Exit in Groups
If you're shopping at a major mall (whether daytime or evening), loiter just inside the exit doorway, and wait for another shopper or group of shoppers that are walking in the direction of your vehicle -- especially when your car is parked in a distant area of the parking lot. Like that downtown restaurant, you are most likely to be the target of an armed robbery when you are alone and you reduce the chances of being the target of a robbery if other witnesses are present.
That doesn't mean that you are completely protected though -- some robbers may be adept at a robbery that takes place in public, even during daylight. Never let your guard down. Eye everyone you see with a confident stare -- that confident stare can make you less of a target; criminals can see that you're alert and watchful and that can make them decide to pass on you as a target. Most criminals are looking for an easy target.
Things Aren't Always What They Seem
There are two types of robberies -- most fit the bill of an average robbery with an average robber using a common setting: A way for the robber to approach you unawares and then a way for a robber to make his escape. These may often take place in areas with dark alleys and streets a short distance away.
Then there are the brazen robberies; robberies that aren't normal but happen nonetheless. It could be a 70 year old woman in Phoenix, AZ. who exits a grocery store on a bright sunny day and is pushed to the ground while her purse is snatched -- in broad daylight, with multiple witnesses.
Or the reports of a man in New York City leaving a restaurant who has a Lincoln Town Car pull along side. He hops in the back, thinking it's a taxi cab -- it's not. Crooks drive him to Harlem and take his wallet and his I-phone. He escapes with his life, but not before crooks run up several thousand dollars in charges on his bank cards.
If a Criminal Strikes
If there's nothing you can do to avoid a robbery one day and it simply happens realize that most people who cooperate with a robber are not hurt.
Sometimes you may be tempted to do something heroic, like fight back -- but if a robber has a weapon he may be overly suspicious and a nervous finger might make him quick to the trigger. Any sudden movement could end with you being shot or stabbed.
A great way to respond to an armed crook demanding your money would be to very kindly and clearly say: "Ok, I'm giving you my money. I'll give you everything I have here. I will definitely cooperate with you." Then, before you reach for your wallet, say very clearly: "I am reaching for my wallet."
Keep in mind that some armed robbers are high on drugs like crack or methamphetamine. These drugs can make people overly paranoid and overly suspicious. The last thing you want to do is alarm a crook that has pulled a weapon on you, especially a gun. A nervous finger on the trigger can end with you being shot.
As you hand forward your wallet, take a slow, careful step back, like you're giving a steak to a dangerous bear.
Slow, careful, cautious body language tells a robber that you are cooperating and that you're not resisting or about to pull your own weapon.
As he takes your wallet, continue to walk backwards very slowly. Hopefully he takes off in the other direction.
Taken Hostage to a Nearby ATM
In rare occasions, a mugging or parking lot robbery can include being taken hostage for a short period of time, where you're forced to withdraw money from an ATM. In this case, you may have no choice but to reveal that you have a second wallet in the jacket that you're wearing with your bank cards inside. At this point all you can do is cooperate, kindly, even with compassion in your voice, knowing that most armed robberies end without injury.
Worst Case Scenario: The Robber Doesn't Let You Go
Now this robbery has gone from bad to worse. He forces you into a car, or even your own car, and tells you to drive. The last thing you want to do is be taken away from a populated area.
If he's driving, and holding a gun on you, you may want to jump out at the best optimal time -- for example, when the car has stopped at a busy traffic light -- even if you risk being shot; even if he's threatening to shoot.
Car-Jacked: He's the Driver
There are two things you can say that can make him lose attentiveness to you, which will help you create the setting for an escape. If you're forced into a car, and he is the one driving the car, as the car starts rolling say: "I'm sorry, my speedometer is broken, it's about 10 miles per hour off."
At this point he may suddenly be concerned about being pulled over for speeding, causing him to spend extra attention on the speedometer -- making him a little less attentive to you.
Take advantage of the distraction you've created to help create the scene for making your escape from the vehicle. At the first populated place you stop -- a red traffic light at a busy intersection is optimal -- you're going to make your escape. As soon as you commit to this you risk being shot but realize that if you can get out of the car even while being shot you have a chance of living through this.
Better to be shot and escape with your life than driven outside town and murdered, your body dumped in a ditch.
You're the Driver
If you're the one driving however, you're going to say something different, and at the exact moment you hope to make your escape. Look for the first populated place you can find, such as a busy intersection.
Distract the armed robber by saying nonchalantly... "Should I pull over for that cop?"
For a split-second he is going to scan the surroundings, looking for a police officer. The moment he looks, make a run for it.
Throw open your car door and leap for the rear of the car, diving to the ground. Get up and run, with your head ducked down, watching out for other cars so that you're not hit, looking to put obstacles between his sight of fire and yourself, should he decide to get out of the car and take aim and shoot (unlikely though; he'll be more concerned about escaping from the scene).
When There's No Weapon, Should You Fight Back?
Many robberies also take place without a weapon -- just the physical threat of violence and sometimes an actual beating. In a situation like this you have a choice to make: Size up your opponent, factor in your size vs. his size, consider your fitness level and most importantly consider your ability to fight.
Keep in mind though: the Bible teaches "Blessed are the peacemakers". The most noble thing to do may be to simply hand over your money, which reduces the chances of being beaten or injured by a crook.
Sometimes though you may want to fight back -- being able to defend yourself can keep you from taking a beating and possibly having a nose broken, arm broken, or teeth knocked out.
Fighting off a mugger who's not carrying a weapon is an unlikely scenario, though. A mugger not carrying a weapon is likely to choose a target that looks like someone who can't defend themselves; he might choose a woman, for example, or a young college student, or someone who looks white-collar or simply like they spend more time typing on a keyboard than they do at a gym.
If you're going to fight a mugger, take a couple steps back and go into a fight stance. Raise your fists and glare. Hold your pose like a professional fighter.
Speak loudly, with authority. Speak with a tone of voice that threatens violence and shows no fear. "You're not robbing me. You better back up now and go. You chose the wrong target. Get out of here, NOW." Repeat yourself again and again.
Begin to slowly circle your mugger. Bend your knees and drop your center of gravity, your fists still raised like a boxer -- this is a common stance of trained fighters. Look your mugger over like you're a professional fighter sizing up an opponent, looking for a weakness, preparing to strike.
What you're trying to do is "psyche-out" this robber. Your goal is to look fearless and to also look dangerous.
This is a primitive intimidation tactic -- wolves use this tactic, dogs use this tactic, and gladiators and professional fighters have often used this tactic.
If you can put fear in your opponent, your opponent may decide that you're not worth the trouble and leave. At the same time, talking loudly with authority -- even shouting -- may catch the attention of other people nearby, and that in itself may scare off a crook.
Don't try to intimidate a crook who is threatening you with a gun or knife -- the potential for serious injury or death is to high. Your best move is to simply be as courteous and cooperative as possible.
Don't fight back unless you absolutely have to. It's better to hand over your belongings and avoid a beating than be beaten and left knocked out and bleeding on the street.
Caution on Alphas
On rare occasions, you may be up against a hardened ex-con that isn't phased by your tough talk. He knows the game. In fact, you might only infuriate him, rather than intimidate him. If you start shouting and he only glares in return -- he's clearly not phased -- now he's shouting at you, but louder, and meaner -- you may have bit off a lot more than you can handle.
Apologize and run -- unless you can actually defend yourself. By that I mean: You can fight and you've got plenty of training behind you, which a lot more people do nowadays than in times past.
A Word on Martial Arts
If you want to have the upper hand against a mugger who doesn't have a weapon, take classes in martial arts -- your best bet nowadays is mixed martial arts. You'll learn striking abilities as well as how to grapple and fight from the ground -- giving you a vast advantage over the average street criminal. Mixed martial arts training includes exercises that increase explosive strength and endurance -- giving you another vast advantage over the average street criminal.
Finally, knowing a few submission moves (from Brazilian jiu jitsu) can help you win a fight when the other fighter has the upper hand. Unlike professional MMA that's fought in a ring though, your goal in a mugging isn't to make the other person tap out -- if you put a person in an arm bar, you can break their arm by following through with the move. The moment that arm snaps, this fight is over.
There are self-defense instructors that teach martial arts moves for twisting joints, such as hands, fingers, wrists, and arms, in order to make a person give up. Police will often use these moves to handcuff an offender who's resisting arrest.
Mixed Martial Arts
But before you even take these classes go learn how to fight in an MMA gym. Often gyms will have classes that teach boxing, kickboxing, wrestling, and submission wrestling. If your goal is simply self-defense don't worry so much about kickboxing as you should worry more about boxing and submission wrestling.
It can take several years to become a well rounded fighter in each of these styles of fighting; if you focus on boxing though, and wrestling/submission wrestling, you can become a good street fighter in a few short months of continuous training and sparring in an MMA gym.
You might not win in a ring against a kickboxer, but out on the street you're not likely to be robbed by a kickboxer. Your boxing and wrestling, speed and power will likely give you an easy upper hand in a fight against a mugger (who's not carrying a weapon).
Women Can Learn Mixed Martial Arts
Women can learn mixed martial arts as well and become great strikers and wrestlers. While you're in a gym learning how to box, take those wrestling classes also that will be offered in most MMA gyms; the act of wrestling with an instructor and with other women (sometimes men as well, depends on the gym) can make you incredibly strong and able to easily out maneuver an armed robber (or worse, a rapist), should one strike in future months to come.
Why should women learn how to box? Once you've learned the basics to boxing, it's easy to avoid being punched and also circle out of range of an opponent, giving you an opportunity to turn and run.
If you learn a few self-defense strikes such as an open palm strike against a nose (which is not allowed in a boxing ring), these strikes will be easier to land if you've spent ample time learning how to box.
Street Fights are Dirty
In a worst case scenario, your opponent may be an experienced street fighter. That doesn't mean he knows how to box or wrestle -- it does mean that he's strong and aggressive and can throw haymakers that have knock down power. It also means that he may be willing to bite you, choke you, or claw at your eyes.
These are more reasons for spending time learning submission wrestling and striking on the ground. If you can learn how to escape and avoid being choked by another submission wrestler you will have an easier time in a street fight protecting yourself from being choked as well.
Striking the Groin, Eyes, Throat
Practice a few additional moves you can use to disable a mugger. A groin strike will drop most men, giving you a few moments to flee.
A cobra strike with your hand can blind your opponent for a minute or more as you deliver a couple fingers to an eye socket. (With your fingers pointed out and slightly bent, yet firm and unmoving, strike at your opponent's eyes multiple times; all it takes is one finger to an open eye to blind your opponent momentarily).
A punch to the Adam's apple can leave your opponent coughing and gasping for air.
There is a strike taught in Kung-fu and also Gung-fu (a style of fighting created by Bruce Lee) which enables you to throw a punch when your hand is still at your waist. Boxers are unfamiliar with a move like this; use this strike to catch your opponent by surprise, specifically when you're cornered and their fists are raised in a threatening stance. Step to the side slightly and for a moment your opponent's raised fists will interfere with his line of sight, so that he doesn't see you lift your lead arm suddenly and strike.
Before you throw this strike, take a non-threatening, relaxed stance and say something to the effect of, "Hey, I don't want any trouble." That's the exact moment you shoot your lead arm up from your waist (if you're right handed, that means you'll be using your left hand, like throwing a jab), in a straight line connecting your fist with your opponent's nose. His head should jolt backwards, if you've landed with full force, or even if he pulls his head back trying to avoid the strike -- that's when you step forward and throw a solid right, landing on the chin, hopefully with some knockout power behind it.
Turn around and run. No sense sticking around to find out if this guy's got a knife in his pocket he didn't tell you about.
Carry a Weapon for Self-Defense
If you live and work in a city, or concerned about an increase in crime coming to the suburbs, carry a weapon for self-defense. When is carrying a firearm a safe form of defense? Do you know how to properly handle a gun and have used it on thermal targets to insure your accuracy? If you're not comfortable carrying a firearm, go for high-potency pepper spray (bear pepper spray for example -- which is strong enough to deter a grizzly bear) or a taser / stun gun, which can disable even the most aggressive robbers, giving you time to flee.
If you see anyone at all that is acting suspicious, or is eyeing you as you walk to your vehicle, or is simply walking in your general direction, put your hand on your weapon. For men that may mean reaching inside your jacket. If you carry pepper spray or a taser, pull it out, let it be visible. Sometimes you may feel a bit paranoid -- but go with your gut -- especially in a major city, especially in a time that armed robberies are on the increase.
If you carry a gun, reach into your jacket or behind your back and look ready to brandish it -- that alone may scare off a robber. You look like you're armed and alert -- even if you haven't completely pulled your weapon yet.
Never pull your gun just because you're overly-alert to a possible robbery. That guy you see twenty yards away might be a plain-clothes cop and he might think that he's about to be robbed -- by you. Not a good idea; you might get shot. Plus you're likely breaking gun laws that clearly state that you can only pull a firearm when it's in self-defense and you are being threatened.
* In a time of lawlessness -- such as what may take place following a collapse of government -- gun laws may no longer exist. At a time like this, pulling a gun and keeping it visible (without pointing it at anyone) may be the right thing to do to deter would-be robbers from making any attempt on your life. That's also one reason why Western "gun slingers" from the 1800s wore visible fire-arms holstered to their side.
Keep Phones and Handheld Devices Hidden
With the increased use of handheld devices like Iphones, Ipads, Kindles, and Androids, these have become a common item stolen in a robbery nowadays. Limit your use of these devices when in public places -- in fact you may want to completely avoid using these devices in public nowadays.
Don't Look or Act Like A Tourist
Tourists are often targeted because they're not as alert to dangers typically as locals may be. They're also known to carry plenty of cash. Consider the things you might wear as a tourist and then choose clothing that blends in with what the locals are wearing.
Conning a Crook
Men: Carry your wallet in your jacket and carry an extra wallet (a "dummy" wallet) in your back pocket, which is where most men carry their wallets. If a crook demands your money you can hand over your "dummy" wallet (also called a "mugger's wallet). Have a stack of one dollar bills in it (so it looks stuffed with cash) as well as expired bank cards, grocery market club cards, pieces of paper with nothing important or identifying written on them, and even photos of people who you don't actually know.
Most criminals aren't going to take the time to inspect your wallet before they run with it. Congratulations -- you've held on to your real wallet with real I.D., bank cards, and cash and given a completely bogus one to a crook, without any identifying information in it, such as a physical address or email address.
Women: As much as possible, don't carry a purse; if you do carry a purse, keep your money, bank cards, and I.D. in a smaller wallet, and keep these in a concealed pocket, carried on you. This way if your purse is snatched, you won't lose much.
Own two kinds of purses -- if you own a nice purse, use it only on special occasions, if you even need to at all. For regular activities that take you to the grocery store or a shopping mall or even a gym, use a purse that looks a bit worn; you can even choose to wear clothing that makes you look relatively poor. Lose the jewelry, except your wedding ring, and lose the high-heels -- not unless it's important that you look nice for an event; but on those days you do have to look nice be attentive and make smart choices because you are more likely to be a target of crooks; request escorts to your vehicle.
On those days you dress down and lose the jewelry, you might not make a fashion statement, but in an increasingly dangerous world and in a nation experiencing growing economic hardship, more people are likely to turn to armed robbery, and more armed robbers are going to be more willing to rob people, possibly even turning to violence in the process; by dressing down and carrying an old purse, you help avoid being robbed and possibly losing more than just your money and your bank cards.
Better Yet -- Lose the Purse or Backpack Completely
Avoid carrying purses and backpacks and briefcases, as much as possible. You make yourself a more likely target for an armed robbery.
Stay out of the bad parts of town. If you're not sure what they are, talk to the locals, including the police.
Look like you know where you're going -- don't look like you're lost.
Consider riding a bike when you can. It is harder to rob someone moving quickly than someone walking.
Avoid looking at maps, listening to head phones, or talking on a mobile phone while walking through the city, especially in areas in or near bad parts of town. The more distracted you seem, the more of a target you can make yourself.
If You're Approached, Understand the Game
Often an armed robbery can start with a simple question, as "Hi, do you have the time?" Or "Can you spare any change?" Or, "Do you have a light?"
Anytime a stranger comes up to you and asks a question as he approaches, or as you walk by, go on alert status.
If you're asked for the time, don't look down at your watch or fumble in your pocket for your cell phone, where the time is kept. Instead, look directly and confidently at this person, step backwards or detour widely around him, and without breaking eye contact you can bring your watch to eye level and then give the person the time.
What a robber is trying to do is create a momentary distraction; if he can distract you for a moment it shows this robber that you're not prepared for a robbery. However, by you stepping back and not breaking eye contact, while speaking assertively, you show this robber that you are prepared and have some street smarts.
Give the person the time and then continue on your way, keeping a watchful eye on them as you walk away.
In this instance a crook may be likely to let you go by, deciding for an easier target.
Know Peak Robbery Times
Because the winter months mean more people shopping at night, these are a peak time for armed robberies, according to reports.
During the summer expect robberies to most often take place between the 8pm and 3am hours. With that in mind, should you really be shopping or going to the gym or running errands that late at night -- specifically when you live in a major city? Lower your chances of being robbed by planning your weekly errands with robberies in mind and when criminals are most likely to strike.
Watch for Loiterers
Robbers will typically loiter more often than they'll strike from a hiding place in the dark. If you see someone up ahead loitering -- and it looks like the perfect spot to mug someone -- turn around and head for a nearby store or public place; you can wait for a group of people walking by in the direction you're heading and join up with them (so you're not walking alone) or you can simply call a taxi. Let the store owner know you think someone may be after you and they're likely to let you hang out until the taxi arrives.
Avoid being jumped by someone hiding on a nearby porch or alley by walking near the road, while walking against traffic. (Robbers may also drive up in a car. If you're walking toward traffic, rather than with your back to traffic, they won't be able to take you by surprise, giving you a chance to make an escape).
Avoid taking public transit in the late evening and early morning hours; there are likely to be less or no other people around on public transit during those hours and you increase your chances of being mugged.
If you are mugged, pay close attention to features about the robber: Distinguishing marks, clothing, tattoos -- it may be someone that police are already on the look out for. Your police report is one more step toward bringing this guy to justice and keeping him off the streets for a long time to come.