The Most Dangerous Time in a Crime

               Violent crime of any kind is a dangerous situation and can turn worse at any moment.  There is no way of knowing what is in the mind of the suspect.  What is the real motive?  During a robbery for example, is the goal to get your money or is it to hurt you?
               In studies of robbery suspects, the goal was usually to get the goods, but most of the suspects were willing to use violence if necessary.  Some crooks may think that they need to kill the victim if they will identify them later.  (For more on surviving a robbery, click here.)
               There are so many types of crimes and criminals it is impossible for a victim to really know what is going on.  Some crooks may not even tell you what they are up to, creating doubt and uncertainty, a useful tool to keep a victim off balance.
               A serial killer or rapist may kidnap a victim and try to keep them cooperative or somewhat calm by assuring them that they will be let go later.  During a robbery, the suspect may say that no one will get hurt if the victim just cooperates without a problem.
               So how do you know when you are truly in danger?  How do you know when the time has come that you must fight back no matter what?
               If an armed suspect is demanding property, then perhaps the safest thing is to give them what they ask quickly to end the situation.  Property can always be replaced.  If you are in danger, though, the time has come to act and respond and to escape.
               A recent crime story in Denver highlights some of these dangers.  A female security officer was coming into work at Cherry Creek Mall, an area usually considered high-end and safe.  A man approached the woman in the parking garage and he forced her at gunpoint to climb into the trunk of her own car after robbing her.  She was able to release the trunk from inside and escaped a few blocks away.  Moreover, she is most certainly alive today because she did escape.  The suspect was later arrested for murdering a 73-year old male just before the kidnapping.  He had a lengthy criminal history with arrests for drug violations, robbery and vehicle theft. 
               He was clearly capable of murder and most likely going to kill the woman once somewhere more private.  He had previously killed one person and he had already robbed her and stolen her car. 
               In the same area a couple of years before, a woman jogging along a bike path was kidnapped as well.  In that case, the suspect brought her back to his mobile home and raped her, keeping her prisoner for several days.  He actually discussed his dilemma with her saying that he was going to have to kill her.  She was able to convince him that he could let her go and she would not report him.  He did let her go after a horrible and terrifying time.  Her presence of mind and being able to keep her cool and persuade him to let her go saved her life.  She was also able to identify where he lived later for the police resulting in his arrest.
               So this brings us back to the point at hand – what is the most dangerous moment during a violent crime?  The moment the suspect tries to move you from the initial crime scene, you should consider yourself in a very dangerous situation.  If the primary motive were just to steal from you or to threaten you then there would be no need to take you somewhere else.  The majority of victims moved from one location to another end up being killed. 
               Are there exceptions?  Naturally.  Kidnappings in some countries are fairly common.  The goal in those types of crimes is to recoup some kind of ransom and most kidnappers know that the victim must be living to get the ransom.  The suspects will need proof of life.  You should know ahead of time the risks when traveling to some of these countries and generally multiple suspects will carry out the kidnapping.
               For this discussion, the type of crime we are talking about is street crime, usually one suspect acting alone.  Faced with an armed suspect, what do you do?  Every situation will be different.  The most important is to keep thinking clearly and not give in to panic.  If you decide that you need to fight back, then wait for, or create, an opportunity to attack and once you start, be aggressive and violent and don’t stop until the suspect is down or you have reached safety.  An example of creating an opportunity during a robbery may be acting afraid and let your wallet or purse fall when handing it to the suspect.  Invariably, their eyes will follow the falling purse, giving you a split second to attack and take advantage of their reaction time.
               However, physical attacks may not always be the best option.  If there is the chance that other people are around and the suspect needs to get away quickly, you may be able to delay them to the point they leave without you.  Acting as if you are going to vomit or pretending to have heart problems may prompt them to give up.  You may be able to pretend that you have a bad knee or sprained ankle and cannot walk.  One word of caution – be careful about pretending to faint.  That could be easy to spot as a fake with some simple threats or painful strikes.
                 As with most reactions, you will be more successful if you have planned in advance how you will respond in a situation like some of these.  Be ready to fight back in any way you can, kicking, biting, gouging and screaming or plan another tactic, such as illness to keep yourself from being taken during a violent crime.  Or maybe simply knowing how to open your own trunk from inside it. 
               For more on self-defense and personal safety, read the post on “Fight, Flight or Freeze – You Decide!


  1. Eric,

    Thanks for sharing this information. We all get lulled into complacency thinking that these types of events won't happen to us. As your examples show, crime and malicious intent happens more often than we like to admit. I agree that it is much better to be proactive, than reactive in any situation and the outcomes are certainly better. I needed this reminder and am certain your post will save many from unhappy endings. Thanks for for having the courage to address this ugly issue. J. Chauza, Risk Management Specialist

  2. Thanks for the feedback. I'm glad this post was helpful.