When I used to work in the city, my office location was not in the best area of town. Frequently, there were questionable people walking around. At the time, there had been an increase of violent crimes and some vehicles had been carjacked in the area. Needless to say, I did not want to be the next victim. As an added safety measure I walked with a group out to my car and always had my keys ready. I was lucky to never be a victim of of such heinous crimes, but I was always on the lookout.
Little did I know criminals use multiple ploys to get their victims out of the car. I believe there are ways to prepare for this type of personal crises and it all starts with good old-fashioned common sense and avoidance.
Victims Are Always Chosen With Certain Traits
In a recent article on self-defense, I discussed how victims are not randomly selected. They are observed and picked because they are perceived to be weak. In a study regarding how predators selected their victims, pedestrians were videotaped walking down a street and had incarcerated convicts view them. Within seven seconds of viewing the pedestrians the convicts had selected their targets. Selections were not based on gender, size, age or race, but rather on the body language exhibited. The convicts identified the following body language cues used as their basis for victim selection:
Posture: People that walked with shoulders slouched or slumped were selected as victims as opposed to those who walked with their chin up.
Gaze: Those avoiding eye contact were chosen as victims because of the perception that they were preoccupied. Making eye contact naturally communicates confidence.
Stride: People who walked with a stride that was too long or too short, or those who shuffled or dragged their feet, were selected over those who had a smooth and natural gait.
Rate: Those who walked slowly with no apparent purpose, and those who walked fast as if they were uncomfortable, were selected over those who walked naturally and deliberately.
Fluidity: Those who demonstrated awkwardness in their movements were chosen over those who seemed to glide as they walked.
Wholeness: Those who swung their arms wildly while walking were selected over those who moved from their center, with coordination and balance.
The #1 Way to Avoid Being Carjacked
In a SHTF scenario, many urbanites who are bugging out of the city could easily find themselves in a carjacking situation. In times of crisis, you have to face the fact that people will kill you, if necessary, for what you have, and do anything they can to get you out of your car – even trick you. In a bug out scenario, you will have valuables, computer gear, survival items – these could all be worth taking a life for. They will choose their life over yours’, so keep that in mind. In desperate times, you have to assume the worse and make every priority to keep your family safe. Situational awareness is the number one way to avoid being carjacked.
Situational Awareness Checklist
- Try to guess what individuals around you are thinking or doing.
- Look for odd behavior or things that seem out of place.
- Determine where you would go if you had to seek immediate cover from an explosion or gunshots.
- Find the closest exit.
- Determine whether someone is following you or taking an unusual interest in you.
Understanding where the most likely places for this type of crime are can help you avoid and prepare for the likelihood of what you may come face to face with. For instance, did you know that two out of three vehicles are carjacked at night? Pay extra attention to your surroundings when it’s dark; especially in the more likely carjacking strike locations: gas stations, ATM machines, parking lots and shopping centers. As well, keep these other areas in mind.
- High-crime areas
- Lesser traveled roads (rural areas)
- Intersections where you must stop
- Residential driveways and gates
- Traffic jams or congested areas
- Suspicious roadblocks
- Areas that could easily hide a group of criminals so they blitz you all at once.
Carjacking Tricks that Criminals Use. Don’t Fall for These!
Make no mistake, the entire purpose that carjackers want is to get you out of the car while the keys are in the ignition. There are many tricks used to get you out of your car. Here are a few of their favorite ploys:
Bump and Rob – One of the most common tricks these criminals use a technique called the bump and rob. Criminals will intentionally bump into your car as a tactic to get you out of your car. What to Do: Instead of getting out of your car, take notice of their license plate number, type it into your cell phone or quickly write it down on a piece of paper and drive to the nearest police station. Do not get out of your car if you suspect ill will is at play. If you are bumped from behind or if someone tries to alert you to a problem with your vehicle, pull over only when you reach a safe public place.
Good Samaritan—The attacker(s) stage what appears to be an accident. They may simulate an injury. The victim stops to assist, and the vehicle is taken. Think before stopping to assist in an accident. What to Do: It may be safer to call and report the location, number of cars involved, and any injuries you observed.
The Ruse—The vehicle behind the victim flashes its lights or the driver waves to get the victim’s attention. The attacker tries to indicate that there is a problem with the victim’s car. The victim pulls over and the vehicle is taken. What to Do: Do not get out of your car. Call and report the incident to the authorities.
The Trap—Carjackers use surveillance to follow the victim home. When the victim pulls into his or her driveway waiting for the gate to open, the attacker pulls up behind and blocks the victim’s car. What to Do: If you are driving into a gated community, call ahead to have the gate opened. Otherwise wait on the street until the gate is open before turning in and possibly getting trapped.
Another common trick that could be used is if you are alone on the highway and come across a car blocking the highway or have cones up in order for you to slow down, someone may be trying to carjack your car.
Ever had a promotional paper placed under your windshield? Don’t get out of your car to remove it. It’s another trick being used. Read more here.
In the following video, more tactics that carjackers use trick drivers is discussed. A police officer goes on to discuss how you can get out of that particular situation. He emphasizes that the key to survival is to always stay mobile. Keep that in mind when watching the video.
Don’t Make Yourself an Easy Target
Remember, in many cases, predators watch their potential victims before they strike making sure they are too weak or not paying attention. Staying alert will prevent a carjacking from taking place because you know what is going on in your environment. Here’s what you need to know to stay safe:
- Keeping your door locked at all times and make every effort to keep your window up, especially when stuck in stop and go traffic.
- Leave space between your car and the car in front of you when stopped so you have room to escape if someone tries to carjack your car. A good rule of thumb is if you can look over the hood of your car you can see the wheels of the car in front of you touch the pavement, then you have room to go around.
- Choose well-lit areas to park your vehicle and avoid remote parking areas.
- When you are returning to your car, always have your keys in hand when you approach so you are not fumbling around your car door. Having mace or pepper spray in hand would also be advantageous.
- If you feel that you are trapped, trust your instincts and escape from the situation.
- Mobility is key. If your car is stopped and can’t move, crooks will see an opportunity to get you out of the car.
- Do not try and talk to the criminals. That includes arguing or fighting with them. Leave the situation immediately.
Much of this information is good common sense, but there are times when unavoidable situations arise and it’s paramount to be ready for them. Avoidance is the easiest solution to preventing a carjackings. That said, if you find yourself in a questionable area of town, make sure you are aware of the situation you are going into.