A Nurse with a Gun

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Recognizing Threats

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post on the realities of surviving a gunfight. Much of my writing focused on the need to avoid the conflict. Many believe that they can avoid conflict by avoiding particular areas. This is not always the case. A person must go about one's life, and the criminal element does the same. A person may be more likely to be attacked in certain areas, but they can be victimized virtually anywhere. Indeed, they are often less prepared in their own element. Conflict avoidance requires threat recognition.

To recognize threats, one has to understand how the criminal mind works. The criminal is a predator. He (or she) sees the world as having two types of people.....Other predators and prey. Many honest gun owners like to think of themselves as "sheepdogs" but to the criminal, the sheepdog is simply another brand of predator. Like other beasts, it is a matter of survival for the criminal to prey on those weaker than themselves. To select the wrong victim is to become prey. If you want to survive in the criminal's world, you must be seen as a superior predator. Once you understand the criminal's thought processes, most attacks can be avoided simply by removing oneself from the victim selection process. There are several steps to victimization.

This is when the criminal decides to commit a crime. He likely has not selected a victim yet. Internally, however, the criminal has made the decision that he must fill a need, whether it be money to pay off his grandma's medicine bill, or cash to buy a bit of crack. He has decided to go to work. He may work alone, or with others, but like anyone else who goes to work, the working criminal's body language and demeanor changes. The criminal must disguise his intent, however, lest he be snared by the ultimate predator, the police. Thus, the working criminal lies in wait, like a lion in the grass, waiting for suitable prey. He is observant, and he will toss out bait to potential prey to see if he gets a nibble. Often, a criminal team will place the least threatening member in view to test potential prey while the others on the team remain hidden. He is not a fisherman, however, he does not require a nibble. The criminal is a predator. Failure to nibble at the bait is also a sign of potential prey. Remember, the only way to be left alone by this predator, or team of predators, is to be seen as a superior predator.
A superior predator may not attack, but they will always recognize other predators. If the criminal is recognized by someone he sees as an equal or superior predator, he will stay in the shadows as long as he or his territory is not threatened. If the recognition comes from someone he sees as prey, however, he begins to work in earnest.

The criminal, once he has observed a potential victim, will send out some test runs to determine if the person is indeed prey, or predator. These tests may be asking for a match, the time, or change. The initial tests all have one thing in common. They violate boundaries, and determine if the selected person will allow their space and generosity to be violated. The predator is mimicking a common panhandler to get in close, test the waters and position himself for attack. All of these persons are easily recognized by their inappropriate behavior and boundary violations. Like the fish who fails to recognize the moray eel on the reef, the person who fumbles for change with a predator has sealed their fate. The ruses are many and varied. I have seen crackheads target tourists and ask to get their pictures taken. I have seen balloon ladies that had accomplices working in the shadows. I have seen young women toss out lewd comments as their male accomplices tried to blend into the landscape. I have seen kids sitting on trash cans in housing projects while older gang members waited around the corner. I have even seen one teen lay on the side of the road in the projects waiting for a good Samaritan as his accomplices hid behind a dumpster. Like the anglerfish, these predators actively dangle lures to allow them to catch prey. To be seen as a potentially superior predator, one must simply recognize the threat, refuse to engage, and continue without alarm.

If the predator is engaged, a request for change quickly becomes a demand for a dollar, then a twenty, then a blow to the head as soon as the victim refuses. This kind of escalation is common with young gangs who quickly befuddle their prey with unrelated questions and demands from all directions. As the victim struggles with the insistent demands and questions, the gang will begin positioning itself for attack. These criminals work like sharks, first brushing their victim, then bumping it, and finally going after the victim is a swirl of blood and gore as others also jump in.

The most feared predator is the one who uses the silent selection process. This criminal watches the parade of people passing by, while trying to blend into the scenery. He wants to be neither seen or remembered. Once he recognizes and selects a victim, he knows he needs the right time and place to launch his attack. He may follow his selected victim to a more promising location. If he follows his victim, he knows that he must go unrecognized as a predator. He is the tiger in the jungle, relying on stealth to get close enough to quickly subdue his prey. Like the tiger, he leaves his lair to hunt. He may stalk his victim for long periods of time. He may lose interest in a selected victim that never knew he was there. He may follow the victim until the victim enters an area where an attack can be successful. If the time and place are already in his favor when the victim is selected, however, the victim will be like the fly who fails to recognize the chameleon among the leaves. Thankfully, these predators who use the silent selection process are not as common as other predators. They are, however, highly effective, giving the victim very little warning. The key to recognizing them is the last chance of conflict avoidance.

The final indicator of an impending attack is positioning. Once positioning commences, the victim has been selected, and an attack is imminent unless immediate action is taken. Positioning is recognizable by escape routes being cut off if the attacker is alone. In the case of multiple predators, attackers will both surround and approach from vulnerable angles. This is the jackal approach to the hunt. Once it occurs, the only choice the victim has is to either fight for their life or pray for the predator's generosity. If the predator moves into position, he has already decided that his victim is prey. He will attack. The only thing that will stop the attack is the sudden realization he has made a fatal error and chosen a superior predator. Proof of this mentality is the many incarcerated criminals who believe their last victim somehow victimized them instead.

And this, finally, is where citizens arming themselves against criminals need to focus. Armed citizens like to think of themselves as sheepdogs. However, inside every sheepdog is a lineage that can be tracked back to the wolf. The sheepdog understands the wolf because he is a wolf with another purpose. He is a predator as well.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

A tour de force!

9:50 AM  
Blogger Ben said...

Thank you.

2:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Thank you for that post. You may well have saved me from a LOT of trouble by being able to recognize dangerous situations better.

While your post was written from the perspective that armed defense is the best defense in case a situation does escalate, this may not always be an option.

A lady who is dear to me refuses to have anything to do with handguns, but has agreed to carry a can of goblin repellent. Earlier tonight, I had to back our car up a downtown street and turn around to avoid a group fight that had spilled out into the street. This made quite an impression. There is, however, a bewildering array of options available: pepper spray, tear gas, UV dye, and I don't know enough to make an informed choice.

Since you are so well informed, I was wondering if you had any wisdom that you could share on this subject.


1:04 AM  
Blogger Xavier said...

When it comes to the sprays, I do not know much, and I am not a fan. I always carried OC for several years, because it will work on dogs too. Dogs are a constant threat in my line of work. I kept my can of OC on theconsole so I could grab it and go to patient's doors and discreetly pocket it as soon as the door opened.

After about 8 months, I needed that can of OC. It let out a stream that ressembled a man with prostate cancer peeing. I was not impressed. Neiher was the dog.

I do not know if storage on a car console affected the OC. The main thing is, a person places a hell of a lot of trust in an untested weapon each time they buy these disposable products. I am no longer willing to place that kind of trust in a self defense tool that I cannot test regularly.

That's my two cents.......

6:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

excellent analysis!

8:21 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

FWIW, i have heard claims (on websites selling OC sprays, it must be said) that the smallest, keychain-sized cans of OC are prone to losing propellant pressure over time.

supposedly the best "workaround" is to buy a larger, 2- to 4-ounce can instead of the keychain-size units, as the larger ones were said to leak less. i have no real experience of this myself, however.

10:06 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well done! Excellent!

8:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

thank you for your information
god bless

11:14 PM  
Blogger Manfred said...

It's the best article I've ever read about human threats in the street.

Well done !

In most cases I've seen, attackers main goal was to hurt rather than getting something, do you think they have the same state of mind than those you describes ?

5:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you're buying a spray, gun or whatever to defend yourself with, always, always, ALWAYS practice with the thing a lot, so you know what it does. Where pepper spray is concerned, buy several cans and test-fire one or two so that you know they work. Oh, and spare a thought for those of us in the Peoples' Republic of Britain, who aren't allowed such dangerous things as pepper spray lest we work out how to defend ourselves...

10:00 AM  

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