Why Criminals Choose You

Look at yourself through the eyes of an attacker. You’ll see what makes you the perfect target and how you can change that.

February 5, 2015

As a speaker and trainer on the topic of personal safety and self-defense, I’m often asked by real estate professionals to address their biggest safety concern: surviving a violent attack. While I enjoy teaching how to use the body as a “human weapon” and the unconditional survival response of the “warrior mindset,” my focus is always on preventing a crime as opposed to surviving one. You will survive 100 percent of the attacks you are not involved in.

I believe the key to avoiding a violent attack is to better understand the mind of the attacker. The violent criminal will act without compassion or hesitation. He will do whatever is necessary to meet his need or satisfy his desire without any remorse. But most importantly to know is that his victims are not chosen at random. Just like predators in the wild animal kingdom who select prey that will be the easiest to bring down, violent criminals go through a similar process when choosing their victims.

 This process can include the following five stages:

  1. Observation: Criminals seek out the person they feel is the most vulnerable to an assault. In real estate, that’s an agent working alone or one who provides a financial motive — someone who carries the appearance of wealth. Women are usually chosen over men, as they are perceived to be weaker and less likely to have the ability to defend themselves. When the man arrested for the murder of Arkansas agent Beverly Carter last year was questioned by a reporter about why he attacked her, he stated: “She was a woman who worked alone. She was a rich broker.”
  2. Testing: This stage can also be called “target assessment.” There are some occasions where attackers may engage their intended victim in conversation to gather information, or they may just stand or walk really close to a possible victim to gauge the victim’s reaction. For example, does their potential victim look at them right in the eyes and establish personal boundaries, or does the victim’s body language broadcast fear and uncertainty? The criminal may also ask questions at a showing or over the phone: Are any other buyers expected to be there? Are you working alone today? Is it a vacant property? Questions like these serve to assist in evaluating how vulnerable their target is.
  3. Selection: Criminals choose a person they feel they will be able to control, intimidate, or overpower without strong resistance. While the violent criminal may be without any moral compass and be totally void of sound judgment, they do understand quite clearly that their criminal acts are wrong — and they don’t want to get caught. Based on their observations and testing, whoever appears the weakest and the most likely to comply with their demands will be selected.
  4. Isolation: To avoid discovery from others, criminals will attempt to entrap their victim in an isolated area or move that person to an isolated location of their choice. The property you list that offers “great privacy” can translate to “great opportunity” for the criminal. The more secluded the property, the better the opportunity. Neighbors or pedestrian traffic can be a deterrent to the criminal’s plan, and darkness is always preferred to daylight or well-lit communities.
  5. Attack: In this final stage, the criminal will act on his or her plan. The plan could include robbery, sexual assault, murder, or other actions.

The chances of you being a victim of an assault are statistically very slim, but you can take measures to make those chances even less. Crime happens where a criminal and opportunity meet. How aware of your surroundings are you? Does your body language communicate confidence? Are there steps you can take to make yourself less vulnerable and remove the perception of opportunity? Make an honest assessment of your lifestyle both on and off the job today. Looking at yourself through the eyes of a criminal can greatly improve your chances of never becoming a victim.

Keith James is the founder and president of James Security Associates. He provides personal safety seminars and self-defense workshops across North America. Find additional information on his background and services at KeithJamesOnline.com.