Although violent crime in the U.S. has been on the decline since 1990, nearly 300,000 robberies are still committed each year. Despite the overall decrease, robberies remain particularly common especially if you live in a larger city. And with numbers like these, it’s best to take every possible precaution to avoid becoming a victim.
There are several types of robberies like car theft, property theft and burglaries, but in this article we’ll focus on a particularly common type of robbery: mugging. The textbook definition of a mugging is “an assault or threat of violence upon a person, especially with intent to rob.” This is different from simple thievery like pickpocketing, since robberies involve the threat, or actual use, of force.
To avoid getting mugged, one must know how muggers choose their targets, and how to avoid being one.
What Muggers Look For
There are actually several signs that muggers look for in their victims before they strike. There is of course no real “handbook” that muggers use to guide them in search of their victims, although there is a loose set of rules gleaned from repeatedly mugging people. They also get groomed for the job by their more experienced “mentors” if they’re already part of a gang, or if they join one while in prison.
These are some of the characteristics they look for in people before they strike:
The “Weird Walkers”
When picking a potential victim, muggers will first look at the way a person walks. Much like the way predators scope their target from a herd of prey animals, muggers look for anyone who walks in an “unusual” way, one that denotes weakness. This includes slouching, dragging feet, or eyes that are cast downward instead of eye-level.
The key to not being targeted is to appear as “normal” as possible. Walk confidently but not arrogantly, avoiding any unusual movements like shuffling, nervous or jerky movements, skipping or any otherwise “weird” or unusual mannerisms. Walk and act naturally – these not only project confidence, but allow you to blend anonymously among pedestrian traffic.
Cruel as it is, muggers will always look for and prey on the elderly. They’re one of the easiest targets and won’t or can’t put up a fight. When mugging the elderly, sometimes the mere threat of violence is enough for a mugger to successfully and effortlessly walk away with their victim’s phone, cash, jewelry and other valuables.
Muggers know that some students carry a decent amount of cash, along with electronics worth fencing. Some muggers aren’t above taking a student’s fancy shoes, smartphone and laptop if the opportunity presents itself.
This simply means muggers are more likely to go for men, and actually hesitate to target and attack women. Muggers favor picking men as their targets as they’re less likely to scream or yell for help. Muggers will avoid targeting women, despite their stereotypically-perceived fragility; women are more likely to yell for help, run or generally cause a scene. Male victims often stay quiet and submit; some may even be too proud to admit to being mugged, so the crime may even go unreported.
Even if you live in an affluent, “safe” part of town, you can still be targeted and mugged if you take public transportation. Virtually anyone who wears fancy clothes, carries an expensive smartphone, jewelry or accessories or looks “flashy” in other words, is a prime target for muggers.
The Distracted and “Lost”
If you’re the type to be constantly on your phone you’re a perfect target. A mugger will tail you if they see you are either consistently transfixed on your phone’s screen or calling someone while walking. Such behavior indicates a lack of situational awareness, which they will use to their advantage by waiting for the right opportunity when you are alone on the sidewalk and striking unexpectedly.
Muggers will always prefer to focus and rob a single target, as muggings are usually a one-on-one situation. Rarely do muggers go after couples, as the woman will usually scream and attract unwanted attention, or worse, have a can of mace and use it on them. If you’re in a public place or densely-populated area like a subway station, stay close to people and don’t meander off to any secluded or dark areas. The rule of never wandering off alone or walking alone in a dark, out-of-the-way alley is always a sound strategy.
2 Unexpected Places to Get Mugged
Apart from the obvious dark, isolated alley in any “dangerous” part of a big city, you’d be surprised to know there are at least two other places where you’re likely to get mugged:
1. Right on Your Own Driveway
Some experienced muggers choose to lie in wait right outside your house as it is one of the least expected places. The modus of these seasoned thieves is to wait for you to drive up and get out of your car, then strike. Oftentimes they’ll have at least one accomplice to back them up and may even have their getaway car idling nearby, or worse, take your car to get away. Look around before you drive up, and always be wary before opening your car door… even if you’re only steps away from your front door.
2. The Subway Platform
Never stand too close to the tracks or stand anywhere on the platform alone. Stay close to crowds of other commuters, remain aware of your surroundings, and don’t “bury” yourself in your phone. Muggers don’t even have to use a weapon if they get to you here, the threat of pushing you onto the tracks is enough motivation to fork over your cash.
When You’re Most likely to Get Mugged
There are a couple days of the month when you’re most likely to get mugged, and those are the two paydays. Muggers take note of paydays, and the most likely day of the week when you can get mugged is on a Friday. These rogues are aware that many people have just withdrawn extra cash to pay bills or go out on a night on the town.
How it Usually Happens
Muggers will hardly ever announce their intentions straight away. More often than not, a mugger will appear to be just like you, appear as an ordinary man or woman and ask for the time. Asking the time should ring alarm bells, as most people have phones. If this is how you’re approached as you’re walking, don’t break step, keep the pace while answering them confidently and looking them in the eye.
You may also be stopped by a mugger and they’ll “ask for directions”. If this is their approach, create some distance, then answer their questions while continuing to walk away. Head for the nearest densely-populated area. If you see any shady-looking characters about and feel uneasy, trust your instincts and leave the area.
Apart from these loose “rules” that muggers live by, there are a few things they won’t tell you about how they ply their terrifying trade.
You can use these “tips” taken from statistics, and from one skilled mugger:
- Muggers aren’t in the habit of hurting anyone if possible, as it takes time and possibly invites unwanted attention.
- 1 in 3 muggings entail assaulting the victim.
- Muggers want their crimes done quick, quiet and clean; they mostly want to take what they can from their victims, then flee from the scene in the quickest way possible.
- Most “successful” muggings are accomplished with the mere threat of violence.
- Most muggings begin with the mugger approaching and asking their would-be victims the time or directions. Keep your distance and leave the area.
- Muggers will always avoid unwanted attention and will often run away if you bring attention to yourself.
- The most favored “weapon” for a mugger is “strong-arming” or merely threatening their victims; in most cases this is enough to get victims to hand over cash and valuables.
- Firearms are the next most popular weapons used by muggers, followed by knives.
- Some muggers are bold and skilled enough to mug you right outside your home, and in broad daylight.
- You don’t have to lose any belongings to a mugger for it to be considered a “mugging”; getting threatened with the intent to rob is tantamount to mugging.
- Whatever it is you’re losing to a mugger isn’t worth getting hurt or losing your life over; if you can’t escape the situation, hand over your valuables then let the mugger leave. Report the incident to the authorities.
- The item you had on your person that the mugger took can be replaced if it’s not recovered.
- Don’t try to fight unless you’re a good fighter and you’re sure you can defeat the mugger. Remember, some of these thieves are hardened criminals and aren’t the type to shy away from a physical challenge.
- If you happen to be carrying, know the laws in your state on how far you can go to defend yourself, since not all places have established “stand-your-ground” laws.
There are simple and obvious steps you can take to avoid becoming a target for muggers and getting mugged. First and foremost, never “appear” to be an easy target. Walk and act as normal as anyone else, don’t flash money or valuables around, and don’t dress fancily; be a “gray man (or woman)” and leave the jewelry at home. Be inconspicuous– no expensive watches, cufflinks or designer shoes if possible. Never assume that you’re in a “safe” part of town, as some muggers will even accost you in your very own driveway, even if you live in the suburbs. Take extra care during Fridays and paydays and avoid carrying extra cash if possible. Never venture into any area alone and avoid dark and isolated areas at all times. Stay close to densely-populated places and crowds, especially when waiting for your train or subway.
Don’t be distracted by your phone and always be on alert and aware of your surroundings. If you think you’re lost and need directions, use your phone’s GPS in a well-lit area with lots of people around. If you need to ask anyone for directions, look for reputable people like police officers, security guards or doormen.
If you are cornered by a mugger, try to talk your way out of the situation or run away. Fighting is best reserved as a last resort and not your first option. Making noise by yelling for help or using an air horn or whistle can be effective in scaring off a mugger, but do so if no weapons are being waved at you. Using mace is a good strategy, but the can has to be in your hand already to be of any real use.
The worst-case scenario is you have to hand over your cash and valuables, and there’s no shame in doing that. Remember that any amount of money or valuables you lose can be replaced, and it’s not worth risking your health or your life over. Dust yourself off and report the incident to the proper authorities.