By Sifu Lawrence Hochobeb
LAST week we had a look at danger signs that one has to be aware of to prevent robbery. Let’s take the scenario in parking areas. There is no place more likely for you to be robbed than in parking area, especially an undercover one.
Parking areas are breeding grounds for carjacking and robberies. Here criminals have enough people to choose vulnerable victims from. They are isolated enough that a victim will be beyond immediate help when attacked.
Most people do not pay attention to what is going on around them while passing through a parking area. This makes it easy for robbers to set them up for a violent assault or robbery. In addition, the areas offer easy escape routes for the criminal(s) in that they have easy access to streets and they can obstruct your view, jump into a getaway car and speed away.
You need to know what the normal behaviour of people, especially in a parking area, is. Before you can accurately assess when something is wrong, you need to have a recognised standard of what is right.
While that may sound obvious, most people have never really thought about it. When people see something is out of the ordinary, the best they can say is, “I don’t know what is wrong, but I know something is not right”. It is during this confusion that the criminal gets into position to successfully attack.
Now, what is the normal behaviour of people in a parking area? The answer “walking to and from cars” is so obvious that it is hard to recognise something so basic.
Parking areas are transitional places: You are either walking or driving in/out of them. You are not loitering. If someone is not moving, there is usually an immediately identifiable reason. If the car bonnet is up, they are offloading/ loading their shopping bags, preparing to drive or gathering something up, getting something out of the boot or bother with a problem before they walk out of the parking area.
Another pointer to normal behaviour is “how do people walk through parking areas?” Generally pedestrians will follow the driveways. If they do cut between cars, it will be consistent with their goal and is a “short-cut” to that goal.
What is important to realise is that they still have that firm sighting on their destination. A person who is winding or changing his/her course to intercept you is not acting in a normal manner for the place and should be considered dangerous.
What is then abnormal or suspicious behaviour for a parking area? It is not normal to hang around in parking areas, except under very specific circumstances. People will walk to a car and spend a few moments talking before departing. These are common and normal for the average parking area. You see them so often that you probably don’t even pay attention to them anymore.
First of all, someone hanging around is showing wrong behaviour for a parking area, especially if he doesn’t have an immediately identifiable reason for being there. People who are waiting for someone tend to wait next to or in their car.
People don’t generally wait for other people to pick them up in a parking area. Usually they wait inside/next to a building or on a street corner. If they do wait in a parking area, it is either near their broken down car or at the driveway for easy pick up and in plain sight from the street. You don’t loiter in a “generalised way” in a parking area. That shows something is not quite right.
This is why someone who is wandering through a parking lot, looking into cars stands out like a sore thumb. While casual glances at cars occur, a systematic search is clearly obvious.
When you walk into a parking area and a group of thugs are lined up against the wall and watching people pass, something is wrong. Normal people tend to gather together. While they may glance at you, they quickly return their attention to the group, dismissing you as unimportant. If they don’t, something is wrong and you better not walk into the middle of it. This is why watching who is watching you is an important robbery avoidance tip.
We unconsciously know what is “normal” for many situations. We see it every day. In fact, we see it so much that we don’t see it anymore. Unfortunately, it has become so common that we have forgotten why abnormal behaviour in a situation is unusual and we know it isn’t right, but we don’t know why. It isn’t until we consciously think about it that we can gradually explain what it was that we saw and knew but couldn’t figure out in time. If you think about it, there is nothing you didn’t already know.
We unconsciously know these things but because we take them for granted, however, we are often at a loss when things go wrong. There are many other situations and locations that you need to review – especially the ones you regularly find yourself in.
Sifu Lawrence Hochobeb is the Founder and Chief Instructor of Namibia Wing Chun Kung Fu Academy.