Families and couples provide different advantages and disadvantages when dealing with violent crime. It’s important to have a plan in place BEFORE you’re face to make tough decisions.
Become a Tough Target.
These are a few tactics you can use right now to discourage criminals from targeting you.
- Awareness. Look around at your environment. Try to identify possible hiding places. Is the area you are in well lit and heavily traveled? Try to park and walk in places of high visibility. See and be seen.
- Safety in Numbers. Family units with two adults are good, but they also present vulnerabilities. If given the opportunity, most criminals will look for single women and elderly persons.
- Use Technology. Personal alarms and pepper sprays (check local laws) are fantastic tools if trained properly. Make sure you have one item in your hand when you are in places of opportunity. Have your cell phone at the ready to hit the Emergency Call button.
- Avoid the places you are most likely to be ambushed:
- Parking Lots and Garages
- Empty Office Buildings
- Hallways, Doorways and Alleyways
- Next to Delivery Trucks or Vans
- Parks and Fields. Wide open spaces are often hotbeds of criminal activity due to the low traffic volume.
Criminals look for targets of opportunity and take the path of least resistance. Their decision is based on desire, opportunity and ability. If they feel the risk is worth the reward, they will attack. Fortunately there are a few things you can do right now to make yourself a challenging target.
- Exploit Every Criminal’s Weakness.
All criminals fear being caught, being identified or being captured. The greater the chance one of these three things will happen, the less likely you are going to be a victim. Your first line of defense is to present a challenge to them.
- Report Suspicious Activity.
The police and security can’t be everywhere. Make yourself an extension of law enforcement. It’s up to you to report anything “strange” like parked cars, people loitering even broken down vehicles.
- Have a Plan.
Remember where you parked, write it down or text it to yourself. When loading the car, secure the children first and the packages second. Put the kids in the car from youngest to oldest. Older kids can climb in by themselves, younger kids are put in. Make sure the kids are secured and lock the doors. Put the packages in the car through the only open door. Get in the car and drive away.
- Stay connected.
When you are walking, stay connected to your child. Hold hands, put them in a stroller or even have them tethered to you. In order to ensure their safety they must be physically connected to you. If you have kids from different ages, one gets pushed in the stroller while the other kids walk next to the stroller with their hands on the stroller. If all of the children are older, create a “human chain” and have the kids simply hold hands.
- Don’t Wait.
If something feels unusual, it probably is. You are more perceptive than you think. Contact security or police, go into a store and stay in a public area. Wait for help to arrive.
- Take a Self Defense Class.
A class will help you devise a plan and raise your level of awareness and confidence. This will help you develop a plan of prevention and defense and connect your mental readiness with physical action.
What to do if you’re approached?
- Leave the scene.
- Call the police.
Always leave the scene, even when faced with an armed assailant.
If you are with another adult, separate. Have one stay and the other leave to call for help.
For example: a family unit with two adults is approached. One adult leaves the scene with the children while the other stays. This will cause the attacker to pause and probably leave knowing that someone is going to call for help. Couples and families should decide NOW who is staying and who is going for help BEFORE the time comes.
Carjacking with a child in the vehicle.
- Always make sure you leave enough space in front of your car to pull out in a hurry.
- Always check mirrors and your surroundings when parked.
If approached in your car, just get out and leave.
If you have a child in the car, tell them.
A car thief might not want to face a kidnapping charge. Tell him he can have the car; just take the time to get the baby.
If you have no choice, try to stick with your child and look for the first opportunity to escape. Always make sure that you have your child secure in their seat in case you must get into a minor accident to draw attention to your situation.
After the crime has been committed.
- Make sure you and your family are safe.
- Contact the police immediately and wait.
- Don’t touch anything. They will need to process you and the scene. They will ask you questions and it will probably take an hour or so.
- Call friends and loved ones to let them know what happened.
Agencies that are here to help you:
National Center for Victims of Crime
Downloadable “GetHelp” bulletins on all types of crime and victimization, victims’ rights, compensation, and civil justice, among many others. Toll-free helpline and email address for victims to receive information and referrals to services. Special information for teen victims of crime.
National Coalition Against Domestic Violence
Information for victims on safety planning, violence at the workplace, internet safety, and identity theft.
National Organization for Victim Assistance
Information on victimization, trauma, and how to find help. Specific information on crime victims with disabilities, elderly victims, and domestic violence. Criminal justice system glossary. Links to national and state victim resources.
National Sexual Violence Resource Center
Articles and other materials about sexual violence. Links to other victim resources.