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Written by a Cop


Claim:   List of safety tips offers effective counters to being victimized in random violent crimes.

MIXTURE OF TRUE AND FALSE INFORMATION

Example:   [Collected on the Internet, 2005]

WRITTEN BY A COP: Everyone should take 5 minutes to read this. It may save your life or a loved one's life. In daylight hours, refresh yourself of these things to do in an emergency situation... This is for you, and for you to share with your wife, your children, & everyone you know. After reading these 9 crucial tips, forward them to someone you care about. It never hurts to be careful in this crazy world we live in.

1. Tip from Tae Kwon Do: The elbow is the strongest point on your body. If you are close enough to use it, do!

2. Learned this from a tourist guide in New Orleans. If a robber asks for your wallet and/or purse, DO NOT HAND IT TO HIM. Toss it away from you....chances are that he is more interested in your wallet and/or purse than you, and he will go for the wallet/purse. RUN LIKE MAD IN THE OTHER DIRECTION!

3. If you are ever thrown into the trunk of a car, kick out the back tail lights and stick your arm out the hole and start waving like crazy. The driver won't see you, but everybody else will. This has saved lives.

4. Women have a tendency to get into their cars after shopping, eating, working, etc., and just sit (doing their checkbook, or making a list, etc. DON'T DO THIS!) The predator will be watching you, and this is the perfect opportunity for him to get in on the passenger side, put a gun to your head, and tell you where to go. AS SOON AS YOU GET INTO YOUR CAR, LOCK THE DOORS AND LEAVE.
a. If someone is in the car with a gun to your head DO NOT DRIVE OFF, repeat: DO NOT DRIVE OFF! Instead gun the engine and speed into anything, wrecking the car. Your Air Bag will save you. If the person is in the back seat they will get the worst of it. As soon as the car crashes bail out and run. It is better than having them find your body in a remote location.

5. A few notes about getting into your car in a parking lot, or parking garage:
A.) Be aware: look around you, look into your car, at the passenger side floor, and in the back seat.
B.) If you are parked next to a big van, enter your car from the passenger door. Most serial killers attack their victims by pulling them into their vans while the women are attempting to get into their cars.
C.) Look at the car parked on the driver's side of your vehicle, and the passenger side. If a male is sitting alone in the seat nearest your car, you may want to walk back into the mall, or work, and get a guard/policeman to walk you back out.
IT IS ALWAYS BETTER TO BE SAFE THAN SORRY. (And better paranoid than dead.)

6. ALWAYS take the elevator instead of the stairs. (Stairwells are horrible places to be alone and the perfect crime spot. This is especially true at NIGHT!)

7. If the predator has a gun and you are not under his control, ALWAYS RUN! The predator will only hit you (a running target) 4 in 100 times; And even then, it most likely WILL NOT be a vital organ. RUN, Preferably in a zig-zag pattern!

8. As women, we are always trying to be sympathetic: STOP. It may get you raped, or killed. Ted Bundy, the serial killer, was a good-looking, well-educated man, who ALWAYS played on the sympathies of unsuspecting women. He walked with a cane, or a limp, and often asked "for help" into his vehicle or with his vehicle, which is when he abducted his next victim.

9. Another Safety Point: Someone just told me that her friend heard a crying baby on her porch the night before last, and she called the police because it was late and she thought it was weird. The police told her "Whatever you do, DO NOT open the door."

The lady then said that it sounded like the baby had crawled near a window, and she was worried that it would crawl to the street and get run over. The policeman said, "We already have a unit on the way, whatever you do, DO NOT open the door." He told her that they think a serial killer has a baby's cry recorded and uses it to coax women out of their homes thinking that someone dropped off a baby. He said they have not verified it, but have had several calls by women saying that they hear baby's cries outside their doors when they're home alone at night.

Please pass this on and DO NOT open the door for a crying baby — This e-mail should probably be taken seriously because the Crying Baby theory was mentioned on America's Most Wanted this past Saturday when they profiled the serial killer in Louisiana. I'd like you to forward this to all the women you know. It may save a life. A candle is not dimmed by lighting another candle. I was going to send this to the ladies only, but guys, if you love your mothers, wives, sisters, daughters, etc., you may want to pass it onto them, as well.

Send this to any woman you know that may need to be reminded that the world we live in has a lot of crazies in it and it's better to be safe than sorry.
 


While the above list is often titled "Safety Tips For Women" or similar, its advice is intended for members of both sexes, as is the advice offered in this article.

Origins:   We first encountered versions of this list of crime safety tips in 2001, and it has since been widely circulated under titles such as "Safety Tips for Women" and "Written by a Cop." It actually began as a summary of the teachings of Pat Malone, a personal safety expert and former bodyguard who instructs on defensive and survival tactics, and the much-longer original (which is displayed on a number of web sites) appears to have been penned by someone who attended one of Mr. Malone's seminars and so might not accurately reflect what had been presented in that class. The advice provided should therefore not be viewed as "the teachings of a self-defense expert" or something "written by a cop" but as "the teachings of a self-defense expert, as remembered by someone else."

Pat Malone's seminars are described as "self-protection from predators, without self-defense or weapons"
and "not self-defense classes." On his web site, he offers for sale a video entitled "Taking Control," which he represents as "A self-protection training program using common sense as a weapon."

Over the intervening years, the e-mailed list of crime avoidance tips has been edited by various anonymous folks whose cyber hands it has passed through, being severely pared down from its original form and then padded with extraneous material in a number of places. It has thus become even less reliable in terms of the quality of advice being offered than it was in 2001, and even then it would have had to have been regarded as suspect.

The tips the e-mailed list has currently devolved to include some information that might be useful in a general sense. But much of the information presented is not very useful because it is wrong, pertains to situations that are extremely unlikely to arise, or dangerously applies absolutes to scenarios that are highly situational.
1. Tip from Tae Kwon Do: The elbow is the strongest point on your body. If you are close enough to use it, do!
Right off the bat we have an instance of dangerously trying to apply an absolute to a highly situational scenario, a course which may be far more likely to increase (rather than lessen) a victim's chances of being physically harmed.

Yes, if you're confronted by a threatening presence, you might be able to get in a good blow by using your elbow, but then what? Are you going to be able incapacitate him with that single blow? If not, what are you going to do next? Will you be able to escape to safety or summon help before he recovers and reacts? Are you going to be able to overpower him in a physical confrontation? If he has a weapon, will he still be able to wield it? Engaging in hand-to-hand combat with a threat should probably be an option of last resort unless you are very well trained in self-defense.

And for accuracy's sake, we note that while the elbow is one of your body parts that can be used effectively in a fight, it is not the strongest: that honor goes to the humble knee.
2. Learned this from a tourist guide in New Orleans. If a robber asks for your wallet and/or purse, DO NOT HAND IT TO HIM. Toss it away from you ... chances are that he is more interested in your wallet and/or purse than you, and he will go for the wallet/purse. RUN LIKE MAD IN THE OTHER DIRECTION!
This is another situational scenario. Yes, if you toss your purse or wallet some distance away rather than handing it to a mugger, that might give you time to start running while he retrieves it ... but is that always a good idea? If a robber is "truly more interested in your wallet and/or purse than you," isn't it more likely that he's going to simply grab your valuables and skedaddle anyway rather than stick around to inflict physical harm that won't garner him any further monetary gain? Is it possible that your deliberately tossing away your wallet rather than handing it over could be perceived by your assailant as a form of non-cooperation or disrespect that might provoke him into attacking you when he otherwise would have let you go unharmed? And if your assailant's objective included something other than a mugging (e.g., kidnapping, rape, murder), throwing your handbag away might do nothing other than rid you of an item you could have used as a defensive weapon.
3. If you are ever thrown into the trunk of a car, kick out the back tail lights and stick your arm out the hole and start waving like crazy. The driver won't see you, but everybody else will. This has saved lives.
The chances that the average person is ever going to find himself locked in the trunk of a car by an abductor are slim to begin with, much less so when one includes the presumption that the victim would be placed there with hands and feet unbound (or somehow manage to free himself from such bonds). In any case, the tail lights of most modern vehicles are not accessible from the trunk, so even if one's arms and legs were free there would be nothing to kick out to create an opening for waving at others.

A better plan might be to look for the glow-in-the-dark trunk release tabs incorporated into many newer vehicles. Also, the back seats of many recent models fold down to accommodate the transport of larger items, so going deep into the trunk and pushing on the rear of the back seats (feeling about for knobs or levers to unlatch folding seats if necessary) might create an opening large enough for egress from a trunk.
4. Women have a tendency to get into their cars after shopping, eating, working, etc., and just sit (doing their checkbook, or making a list, etc. DON'T DO THIS!) The predator will be watching you, and this is the perfect opportunity for him to get in on the passenger side, put a gun to your head, and tell you where to go. AS SOON AS YOU GET INTO YOUR CAR, LOCK THE DOORS AND LEAVE.
This list's assessment of the behavior of women who have just entered their cars is unfortunately accurate: most women we've observed do indeed settle their purses on the passenger seats, sling briefcases, jackets, and packages into the back seat area, get out their car keys, rummage about in their handbags for various items (e.g., lipstick, cell phone, address book) which they might or might not use right then, put their keys in the ignition, fasten their seat belts, and only then get around to locking their doors. During that interval they are indeed vulnerable to someone's getting into the car with them or pulling open the driver's side door. A good habit to get into is immediately locking your car's doors as soon as you are in your vehicle. Train yourself so that it becomes one smooth motion that you don't even have to think about — your rump's landing on the seat should trigger your hand to reach out and hit the lock button.

Driving away immediately rather than taking a moment to make out this year's Christmas card list is also advice worthy of following, especially in locations such as parking garages (because the structure prevents others not in your immediate area from seeing what might be happening at your car) and open air parking lots that are somewhat deserted rather than teeming with other folks coming and going.
a. If someone is in the car with a gun to your head DO NOT DRIVE OFF, repeat: DO NOT DRIVE OFF! Instead gun the engine and speed into anything, wrecking the car. Your Air Bag will save you. If the person is in the back seat they will get the worst of it. As soon as the car crashes bail out and run. It is better than having them find your body in a remote location.
If the assailant has gotten into the passenger seat, the passenger's side air bag (a standard feature in most newer model cars) will also protect him from the crash, so banking on his getting the worst of a car crash might not be a good idea. It's still possible, if not necessarily likely, that the element of surprise (you'll know the collision is coming long before he does) might enable you to bail out of the car before your assailant can react, but disentangling yourself from a deployed air bag isn't necessarily quick or easy (and very few people have a chance to practice such a maneuver).
5. A few notes about getting into your car in a parking lot, or parking garage:
A.) Be aware: look around you, look into your car, at the passenger side floor, and in the back seat.
This list is correct in suggesting that taking a moment before going to your car to look about and see who else is around is a good habit to adopt. Pause for a few seconds to judge your surroundings rather than unthinkingly heading for your vehicle with your eyes down and your mind occupied with other matters. Once you arrive at your vehicle, but before entering it, give its back seat a quick glance to ensure no one is hiding there.

B.) If you are parked next to a big van, enter your car from the passenger door. Most serial killers attack their victims by pulling them into their vans while the women are attempting to get into their cars.
This claim is wrong. Most serial killers do not grab women from parking lots and thrust them into vans; they hunt for potential victims according to their personal killing rituals, with each murderer following his own personal script. Some drive about looking for lone hitchhikers. Others seek out solitary travelers who have paused in their journeys to use the facilities at rest stops along the interstate highways. Others go after late night gas station and convenience store clerks who are working alone and unprotected. Yet others troll areas known to be frequented by streetwalkers, presenting themselves as customers interested in buying the prostitutes' services. Others break into houses they have minutes or hours earlier seen their desired victims enter. Some place ads in newspapers, luring their victims to them with promises of great bargains on desired items or offers of employment. Yet others frequent lonely spots that have personal meaning to them, preying upon whoever attempts to traverse these areas. Each serial killer has his own method of acquiring victims, and it is unique unto him.
C.) Look at the car parked on the driver's side of your vehicle, and the passenger side. If a male is sitting alone in the seat nearest your car, you may want to walk back into the mall, or work, and get a guard/policeman to walk you back out.
The proffered advice makes the assumption that every man sitting in a car parked next to yours is a would-be attacker, but someone trolling for a victim at a mall is rather unlikely to be doing so by waiting patiently within his own vehicle for whoever is parked beside him to return. He could be left twiddling his thumbs for hours only to discover his intended target comes back accompanied by three friends she met up with inside or returns at a moment when the lot is awash with other people getting in and out of their cars.

Moreover, this item contradicts the advice which immediately precedes it: if you need to be wary of cars parked on either side of your vehicle, then entering your car through the passenger-side door is no guarantor of safety.
6. ALWAYS take the elevator instead of the stairs. (Stairwells are horrible places to be alone and the perfect crime spot. This is especially true at NIGHT!)
Stairwells are typically far less trafficked than other public areas of buildings and offer areas where would-be attackers can lurk out of sight, which does make them more risky places to traverse. When taking the stairs alone, stay alert to the presence of others rather than allowing yourself to become lost in your thoughts and losing focus on your surroundings. When at all uncertain about the behavior of someone else in the stairwell, exit onto the nearest floor. Never use a stairwell unaccompanied where the doors lock behind you, thereby preventing you from exiting anywhere other than the ground-floor egress.

Elevators also pose risk, but since they are better trafficked and more public, the possibility of being harmed while using one is much reduced. Still, unlike a stairway, an elevator does not allow for escape: once those doors close, you're trapped inside with whoever else might be in the car until those doors open again. Therefore, don't get onto an elevator car unaccompanied if you are at all uncertain of the car's current occupants or someone else who is also waiting to enter — if something strikes you as not quite right, wait for the next car.
7. If the predator has a gun and you are not under his control, ALWAYS RUN! The predator will only hit you (a running target) 4 in 100 times; And even then, it most likely WILL NOT be a vital organ. RUN, Preferably in a zig-zag pattern!
We don't know the origin of the claim that someone shooting at you "will only hit you 4 in 100 times", but we're highly skeptical of the notion that a gun-wielding bad guy in relatively close proximity to a human target hits what he's aiming at only once out of 25 times (even if the target is a moving one). And just because the shooter may not hit a "vital organ" doesn't mean the victim is going to get away — a gunshot to just about any body part will usually inflict enough pain or physical damage to hamper the escape of someone fleeing on foot.
8. As women, we are always trying to be sympathetic: STOP. It may get you raped, or killed. Ted Bundy, the serial killer, was a good-looking, well educated man, who ALWAYS played on the sympathies of unsuspecting women. He walked with a cane, or a limp, and often asked "for help" into his vehicle or with his vehicle, which is when he abducted his next victim.
While Ted Bundy did trick some of his victims into going with him by appearing injured and in need of assistance (e.g., putting his arm in a sling and attempting to hoist a canoe onto the roof of his car), he picked up other victims while they were hitchhiking, and he also attacked victims in their homes while they were sleeping — there was no "ALWAYS" to his methodology. Bundy is regarded by those who study criminals as a highly unusual serial killer because he was intelligent, charming, had well-honed people skills, and varied his mode of securing victims. It is therefore a mistake to assess the threat posed by those who murder random victims for the thrill of it by using Ted Bundy as a yardstick.

However, it is not a mistake to keep in mind people aren't always what they appear to be, and that someone who looks disabled or encumbered might well be entirely able-bodied. Stay alert when you are around strangers and allow for the possibility of being the target of deception rather than let yourself be lulled into a false sense of security by the other party's apparent limitations.
9. Another Safety Point: Someone just told me that her friend heard a crying baby on her porch the night before last, and she called the police because it was late and she thought it was weird. The police told her "Whatever you do, DO NOT open the door."
A more lengthy debunking of the "crying baby" lure can be found in our article on that topic, but in a nutshell it's a hoax: no serial killer used that ruse, and the story about helpful policemen who instructed the woman who heard such cries to stay inside and not open her door is fiction. The "audio tape of a baby's cries used by a murderer to draw women from their homes" fabrication was born of the anxiety surrounding the hunt for the Baton Rouge serial killer in 2002. That case was profiled on America's Most Wanted in September 2002 and again in January 2003, but neither airing made any mention of the purported "crying baby" theory.
10. Water scam! If you wake up in the middle of the night to hear all your taps outside running or what you think is a burst pipe, DO NOT GO OUT TO INVESTIGATE! These people turn on all your outside taps full blast so that you will go out to investigate and then attack.
This item was a later addition to the original list of nine tips, and it's not particularly helpful. Of all the ways home intruders might gain entry to a house, turning on the outside taps in the middle of the night to lure someone outside is quite a rare approach, and the homeowner who ignores the sound of a running tap or burst pipe in the night is most likely going to awaken to a flooded yard or house. If some circumstance (whatever it might be) prompts the need for you to examine something outside your home when it's too dark to safely check the surrounding area, call the local non-emergency police number and report a suspicious noise, then wait until a patrol car arrives to go outside and make your investigation.

While we've hopefully assisted readers in making sense of which of these tips contain good advice that should be followed and which should be regarded as codswallop, the overall tenor of its recommendations is for the reader to make like Wonder Woman or Captain America when confronted by someone intent upon doing him or her harm. As stated earlier, engaging in hand-to-hand combat with an attacker should be an option of last resort unless you are very well trained in self-defense.

A far better counter is to avoid becoming the victim of random violent crime in the first place, which the following tips will help with:

Avoid potentially dangerous places. The more isolated and devoid of other people a location is, the more potentially dangerous it is. Hence, stairwells are generally more perilous than elevators, underground parking garages more risky a proposition than open air parking lots. As a rule of thumb, anywhere other people aren't is a good place for you not to be either.

One mistake folks do make time and again is letting their sense of familiarity with a place lull them into a presumption of security. Though you may know the parking lot at the local grocery store like the back of your hand and have never experienced any problems there, you should still regard it as a potentially dangerous location if your plan is to park there at midnight on a Sunday while you reprogram the buttons on your car's radio. A location that can be perfectly innocuous during the day when there are all sorts of other people around is not necessarily just as safe in the dead of night when the place is empty.

Stay aware of your surroundings. Get into the habit of noticing not only the details of your physical surroundings (such as where exits are located) but who else is there with you. Maintain focus on the here and now instead of letting it drift to where and what you will be doing ten minutes from now. If trying to do two things at once, strive to stay alert to what is going on around you. Rather than wander towards your car with your head down while you're yakking on your cell phone, take a break from the conversation to look about. The same goes for getting into an elevator: look at the other people in the car before getting in yourself.

Also, as stated in "Assaulted Tale" (our debunking of a widely-circulated list about what rapists supposedly look for), not only is it important to see trouble coming before it gets to you and avoid it, but maintaining an alert stance can help discourage a would-be attacker. Those looking to prey upon others — whether their aim is robbery, rape, or mayhem — generally choose as victims those who appear preoccupied or tentative in preference to those who exude a sense of purpose. Or, as I was told long ago, "Always look like you know exactly where you're going and move like you're expected to be there at exactly a certain time." Mooning about aimlessly can make you a statistic.

Do not get into vehicles with strangers or allow them into yours. A murderer is not going to approach you by saying, "Hi, I'm interested in killing you; please get into my car." Rather, it's going to be, "Please, miss; can you help me? My little boy has been in an accident and I have to get to the hospital but I can't find the place. No, don't give me directions because I'll just get turned around; come with me, and I'll pay for a cab to get you back here afterwards." Or, "I'm the new minister in town. My car broke down a few miles back, so I walked here to call the tow truck. Can you give me a lift back to my car? My wife is there, and I don't like leaving her out there all alone for any longer than I have to, her being pregnant and all."

Also, be wary of helping strangers when you are unaccompanied. Don't help them load packages into vans or trot over to them like a good little Girl Scout when summoned to give directions by someone you don't know. Save your helpful impulses for when you have other people with you, but when on your own keep walking even as you call out, "Nope, sorry, can't" back over your shoulder.

Do not let strangers into your home. If someone appears at your door saying his car quit running and he needs to call a tow truck, offer through the closed door to make the call for him. If he says his wife is ill and asks if he can have a glass of water for her, offer, once again through the closed door, to call 911 for him. If someone dressed in work clothes says he's been sent by the building superintendent, your homeowners association, the electric company, the city, or anything else, leave him standing outside until you've called that entity and ascertained it has sent that person and does indeed vouch for him.

The world is not awash with rapists, murderers, thieves, and kidnappers, but a bit of common sense routinely applied can help you avoid meeting up with any of the handful that are actually out there. Rather than fret about how to properly throw an elbow, or whether you should run from someone holding a gun on you, or how to crash a car into a barrier so as to incapacitate an attacker but leave yourself unharmed, learn these three tips by heart: Keep away from deserted places, stay alert to what is going on around you, and when something feels the slightest bit wrong, get out of there. While there's nothing of Lynda Carter or Steven Seagal in those three tips, they will serve to keep you out of a pine box far better than all the more flashy "saw it on the Lifetime Movie of the Week" moves put together.

Barbara "learn how not to be where the trouble is" Mikkelson

Last updated:   14 March 2014

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