Don't Be a Victim of Crime
There are a number of things you can do to avoid being a victim
of crime. You can choose not to flash large wads of cash around
or walk at night in dark and dangerous parts of cities. That
much is common sense. But the scientific field of victimology
is finding that people often give off clues to criminals without
realizing it; clues that mark them as good targets.
This does not suggest that you are responsible for a crime
happening if you become a victim. Not only are you not aware
of these more-subtle signals that criminals pick up on, but even
when you consciously choose to walk at night in a rough part
of town you are may simply willing to take a risk in order to
enjoy the evening. And should you be attacked, you are certainly
not to blame.
Of course if you want to avoid being a victim as much as possible
you will choose to engage in risky behavior only when it is worth
it. But what if you don't know what you are doing to attract
criminals? Then perhaps it is time to learn.
Criminologists tell us that criminals prey on those whom they
judge to be vulnerable. Like mountain lions which can spot a
weak deer (or a limping hiker), street criminals can judge who
will be an easy target. They rarely choose their victims randomly.
A mugger, just like a predator in the wild, does not want to
get hurt in the process, so he might target older people and
small women, and anyone else who seems vulnerable. Your posture,
walking style, and even how you look at passing people (or don't
look), are all potential clues to a seasoned criminal.
This goes beyond just street crime. According to an article in Psychology Today;
The cues add up to what David Buss terms "exploitability."
An evolutionary psychologist at the University of Texas, Buss
is examining a catalogue of traits that seem to invite some people
to exploit others. There's cheatability (cues you can be duped
in social exchange), sexual-exploitability (cues you can be sexually
manipulated), as well as mugability, robability, killability,
stalkability, and even sexual-assaultability.
The victim selection process is not as simple as you might
think either. The article continues;
In a classic study, researchers Betty Grayson and Morris
I. Stein asked convicted criminals to view a video of pedestrians
walking down a busy New York City sidewalk, unaware they were
being taped. The convicts had been to prison for violent offenses
such as armed robbery, rape, and murder.
Within a few seconds, the convicts identified which pedestrians
they would have been likely to target. What startled the researchers
was that there was a clear consensus among the criminals about
whom they would have picked as victimsand their choices
were not based on gender, race, or age. Some petite, physically
slight women were not selected as potential victims, while some
large men were.
So what are the selection criteria, and what can you do to
prevent becoming a victim of crime? To start with, let's look
at some of the things criminals are looking at. These include
posture, how fast you are walking, the length of your stride,
general body language, and awareness of your environment. The
way these are used is not even necessarily something the criminals
themselves consciously understand. It is an intuitive process
that develops with experience. For example, if you casually lay
your coat or purse on a bench in a park and don't watch it, a
thief might pick up on that and follow you, intuiting that you'll
provide an opportunity for a theft.
In general, if you want to avoid being a victim of crime,
try the following:
Act confidently. Criminologists note that even small
women are less likely to be attacked if they walk confidently
and act as though they have no fear.
Walk quickly. Don't walk so fast that you look nervous,
but when choosing who to victimize criminals often go after those
who are the slower people in a given setting. This may be in
part because slow walkers are easier to follow, but it is also
thought that a faster pace might indicate self-confidence. If
you can't walk quickly, take other precautions, like traveling
with friends when in riskier areas.
Avoid distractions. Talking on a cell phone or listening
to an MP3 player signals criminals that you are more likely to
provide an opportunity for an attack, because you are paying
less attention to your surroundings.
Look at people. Don't stare or hold eye contact long
enough to prompt anger, but do not look down when others look
at you. Predators pick up on this as a sign of submissiveness
Avoid getting drunk in public. This should be an obvious
one, but you present yourself as a more likely target for crime
if you are staggering down the street.
Leave false clues. When at home, leave clues suggesting
that a "tough target" lives there. Stickers announcing
alarm systems can help (even if there is no system), and one
rapist who was interviewed even suggested that single women should
leave an old pair of men's work boots outside the front door.
Researchers have also found that resentment is a motivating
factor for many robbers. They feel that life has been unfair,
and when they see people flaunting their wealth, they get angry.
To avoid being a victim of crime, then, you might want to limit
how often and where you show off fancy jewelry or electronics
or other symbols of wealth. It has been found that even acting
as though you are superior can trigger criminals to attack. According
to criminologists, a criminal often has to "work himself
up to it" by finding reasons why someone deserves to be
a victim. Avoid giving them reasons.
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