In the third article of our Personal Safety series, Andy Neal follows his previous article on the Contact Approach Method with more advice on avoiding street crime. Sign up at the bottom of this article to receive all 5 articles, offers and more in your inbox.

The Contact Approach Method is a technique used by street criminals to assess and instigate street crime. It is a set of verbal and behavioural cues in an approach to street crime. In general, street criminals are opportunistic and will target victims, as we saw previously, based on factors such as commercial potential, how a victim appears and how switched on they are. With that in mind, how can you make yourself less of a target, either on business or in your private life?

It’s the way that you walk

The pace of a sightseeing tourist as they walk is considerably different to business people or locals. Their slow pace makes them vulnerable to approaches and a victim of their environment. They exude non-verbal signs that are very much within the boundaries of both opportunity and commercial potential.

The business person usually is more fixated on getting to a destination, whether that’s a workplace or a meeting place, and therefore generally has the ‘don’t mess with me’ look. This may well be coupled with a more assertive demeanour, purposeful dress and a general manner that will brook no approach.

Remove the suit and replace it with a tourist’s clothes, and suddenly the demeanour is gone. That person then needs to be much more vigilant in their surroundings. This could be any of us!

Your demeanour

I’ve mentioned non-verbal signals previously, and if you can cultivate some of the more positive ones you will be halfway there to avoiding many street confrontations. Whether you are on the streets of London, Manila, Mexico City or in some seemingly benign sleepy backwater, you need to look self-assured. Maintain an upright stance, purposeful stride and exude an aura of alertness.

Easier said than done, but these are fundamental prerequisites of avoidance planning. Here are some simple tips to get you thinking:

  • Carry yourself with confidence even when lost
  • Walk tall and keep your feet slightly apart for a good balance
  • Good posture shows purpose
  • Your eyes show vulnerability and weakness. Avoid this by concentrating on your destination
  • Carry bags ‘self-consciously’. Let them fall in front of you, not behind or to the side

Woman is attacked by street criminal

How are you perceived?

Switch on and what is more important, look as if you are switched on. Body language is the most important, subjective self-protection message that you emit.

You should send out signals that tell others you are aware, confident, in control, know where you are going and will be difficult to take by surprise. Walk aware, briskly and with purpose – don’t display vulnerability.

Placing your hands in front of your torso can greatly reduce you being viewed as a potential victim.

Always walk with speed. It’s impossible to run alongside someone and demand a wallet. Walk fast and walk with purpose.

Conversely, someone who has stopped, is looking around, is obviously lost or holding their wallet or map, will be easy to mug.

Positional tactics

Further to this, it’s important that you understand positional tactics so that you can minimise confrontations and put distance between yourself and others. This is about understanding your place in your environment and how you can use the environment to work in your favour.

Physical distance: In order to avoid street crime, you must understand your place in the environment.

Use your full reactive area and your full peripheral vision. During any ‘first contact’ it is essential to maintain enough distance from the person so that you are always able to see their head and feet. So be aware of your environment and your place in it.

In doing this, you will be able to carry out your person assessment (click for information on conducting this assessment) while maintaining a ‘safe’ distance until your assessment is complete and you have decided how you will approach them.

Positioning skills are one of the most important personal safety tips you can learn. The key to positioning is to give yourself the best possible observation skills and reduce the physical capability of someone compromising you. Keeping someone’s head and feet in your range of vision and standing out of their natural arc will support you in any approach.

  • Maintain a distance of at least two arms’ lengths away
  • Always prevent the tendency to stand inside the fighting arc
  • Use a relaxed pose with a side-on position. This offers exit strategies both ways

These positioning methods will aid you in defusing potentially dangerous situations which may allow you to move from a high-risk level to a lower risk level. In order to be at the lowest risk level, the location must have no potential risks and/or be a previously known safe location. Keep in mind that some locations may never be reduced to the lowest risk level.

This is the third article of a series of pieces we’re doing on personal safety. Next time we look at what you need to pack for travelling! Sign up here to receive the rest of our articles directly to your inbox as we get them, a Personal Safety PDF and guide.

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