This post is universally applicable to the person who wants to decrease a criminal’s ability to close space and gain positional dominance via maneuver and avenues of approach, while simultaneously increasing their own ability to maintain reactionary space, preserve positional dominance and set them self up for an uneventful departure after the shopping is done.
The goal is to make predatory movements more obvious. We are looking for odd behaviors from unknown contacts. For instance, someone rapidly changing direction when you do, stopping when you do, or anything else that makes your spider sense tingle. The better we can observe and control our positioning in the public space, the more obvious a predatory movement will appear.
‘Nowhere’ isn’t the name of a bad part of town where all the crooks live, it’s where people come from when we lose our situational awareness and are task fixated by the myriad distractions we encounter daily.
With some simple games and positioning techniques, you will see more than the average iPhone fixated member of our society. You will be the harder prey, and the predators will choose to hunt those that don’t see it coming. The most likely time for an ambush (according to my private security detail friends) is when you’re either parking or leaving in your vehicle. For parents (Joe Six-Packs) like us, I would go on a limb to say that leaving is the most vulnerable time we spend in the public space. In order to have a safer departure, we can position our vehicles upon arriving at the parking lot to set ourselves up for success.
Nothing is as common place as the leisurely walk you take to the grocery store to fill your shopping cart up with the diapers, milk, and eggs you need for the week. Contemplating the next meal, it’s easy to let your mind wander. With a little one in the buggy, it’s also easy to be focused on them while trying to dodge traffic in a busy parking lot. Depending on where you live, you might find yourself shopping at a big box grocer, a gas station, a mom and pop store, whatever. You might park in an open parking lot, a dank parking deck, or next to a gas pump. I’ll lay out some best practices on positioning and parking to maximize your reactionary gap and therefor maximize the time you have to make decisions. Regardless of where you are forced to park, the guidelines are similar.
- Picking a parking spot. This topic could be divided into several scenarios (light conditions, area of town, parking structure, etc). But really it’s not necessary. The goal should be to park in such a way that positions you as far from hard corners (e.g. dumpsters, corners of gas stations, cement pillars, stairwells) as is reasonable. When possible, you want to keep the ‘angle of threat’ to a minimum. That is, if you park far enough away from a gas station that you can see both sides of the building within your peripheral vision, you’re in good shape. You want distance from large visual obstructions that would limit your view of the area immediately surrounding your car (box vans and the like).
- I prefer to park NEAR a cart corral now that I shop with my son regularly. The corral disallows another vehicle to park next to me, AND it is a quick walk to drop my cart off without leaving my son unattended, or making him walk with me across a busy parking lot.
- When feasible, ‘combat park’ your vehicle. That is, back into your parking space so that when it’s time to leave, you’re driving straight ahead and can do so quickly (H/T Marc S.) Going forward is always easier than backing up, and quicker too!
- Reminder: I’m a realist. Ideally we would drive around the parking lot scoping for a perfect spot and mean-mugging all the people who make us feel uneasy, but eventually we just have to follow some guidelines and get on with our lives. Do your best with this and at least make it part of your considerations for day to day life. Some days there won’t be any spaces near light posts or shrub dividers. That’s OK. Use some of these guidelines. Just being aware of these principles will give you a distinct advantage.
- Entering a store (specifically a gas station), always park at the pumps whether you need gas or not. By positioning here, you can see all of the hard corners of the building, the dumpsters, and any loiterers that look out of place. Also, Avoid RedBox DVD rentals on the outside of convenience stores. These seem to be the new ATM robbery zones. Task fixation will allow someone to ‘come out of nowhere’ and take your money, or worse.
Upon entering a store, make a direct line to the deepest corner of the store. Turn around and take a quick view of who is there, where they are, and what they’re doing. Don’t need to be obvious, just give it a few seconds. You’ll notice quickly if something is out of place. Look for the main bad guy and possibly a seeded back-up guy. They’re cowards and often run in pairs. Make it a game and eventually it won’t feel like a chore. Then, shop as normal.
- When parking in a large open parking lot, some similar rules apply. When possible, park near light posts (especially in the dark) as well as cement/bush dividing areas. You’ve eliminated an easy approach from a flank and you will quickly realize if someone is circumventing the natural obstacle to close distance with you. You also will have the time to maneuver yourself to keep cars between you and an unknown contact. You have all but eliminated 180 degrees of approachable avenue and increased your reaction time as well as your ability to determine if someone is up to no-good.
This post is more generic in that it applies to anyone. Not just parents with children. The same principles should be used regardless of who you have with you. Having your partner (spouse, significant other) with you makes these logistics much easier. More ‘switched-on’ observers help to increase avoidance and de-select you as potential prey.
The next installment of this topic will include how to get back to your vehicle after the shopping is done.
If you find any useful info in this rambling, please share it with your friends and encourage them to share. I just want to get this information out there because I want people to think and keep themselves and their families safe.