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How to Avoid Being a Victim of Crime, Part I

David L. Battle, CFE

Many crimes committed against financial institutions, as well as personal crimes in general, can be prevented by simple preventive measures. Most crime prevention measures require potential victims to increase a would-be criminal's risk so that his/her efforts would be detected or avoided, and would result in identification, apprehension, conviction, or even result in the criminal's injury or death. Most criminals choose victims who are quick, easy and low risk.

Therefore, increasing risk to would-be criminals is our greatest advantage - one that can be accomplished if we control our environment and practice personal precaution techniques.

Choke Points
Some areas of criminal activity that are more controllable than others are referred to as "choke points" - places were we feel safer and are more at ease due to our environment and surroundings. Choke points include home, work/office, and automobiles.

Home: We feel in control of our home environment especially when we have taken steps to secure our homes through the use of proper security hardware. On the other hand, if we have not taken advantage of improving our interior/exterior lighting, door/window locks and intrusion detection systems, we risk being victimized.

Work/Office: Under FED, OSHA and its state counterparts, an employer has an obligation to provide its employees with a safe and helpful place to work [29 U.S.C. 654 (a)(1)]. Some industries are also required by regulation (i.e., Bank Protection Act of 1968) to adopt security procedures and ensure that they are properly implemented. Employees/occupants generally feel safe at work as a result of work- place security policies and procedures, even when not all policies and procedures are practiced and/or enforced. However, it is important to note that failure to adhere to policies and procedures by every employee has led to many workplace crimes.

Automobiles: A well maintained (or at least operable), running, locked (and for some, the larger, the better) vehicle gives its driver a sense of security (real or perceived). Drivers rely upon their ability to wheel and maneuver in and out of traffic jams and tight spots, and as a result, they may feel they are invulnerable to criminal attacks. This attitude may often lead to defiance and self-delusion, which are elements of sabotaging ones' personal safety.

We are at risk if home, work/office and automobile safety is ignored, forgotten and/or non-existing. However, when we employ and adhere to recommended security practices, both at work and in our personal lives, we are less likely to become a target or victim of crime. While most employers have little to no control over an employee's personal life, their security procedures often recommend applying security precautions to our daily lives.

Other Vulnerable Points
As noted, choke points can be safe havens or invitations to crime. The choice depends on one's willingness to follow security precautions. Even if security precautions are followed at choke points, what about those paths to and from choke points? Often, we are more at risk when approaching or entering and exiting or departing places of safety, such as your home, work/office, or automobile. Precautions to address these areas are referred to as, "Safe Approach & Entry Procedures" and "Safe Exit & Departure Procedures."

These procedures are defined as recommended practices that offer security from harm, danger, injury or risk as one approaches and enters or exits and departs a means of access (ingress/egress) of an enclosed space (i.e., a vehicle or a building) and should include, but are not limited to, the following:

SAFE APPROACH/DEPARTURE - Building and/or Vehicle
Be prepared before exiting one building or automobile to enter another by having keys needed for accessing the building or auto in hand.

Carry as few other items as possible (purse, briefcase, backpack, etc.). Other items should be kept at a minimum so you can move quickly if such movement becomes necessary.

Be alert to any unusual circumstances and situations while walking to/from the building or vehicle of your destination.

Walk Alert. Avoid suspicious vehicles, situations and individuals. Stay out of "arm's reach" of bushes, dumpsters, parked cars, alleys, doorways and people.

Do not become distracted from your surroundings. Stay focused, even when a distraction occurs at a distance. Such distraction may be a ploy to divert your attention.

Avoid complacency that results from repetitive trips (i.e., daily arrival, parking and entering/exiting the same location). No matter how often a path is traveled, danger can occur.

If being approached by an unknown or suspicious individual(s), return to the building/vehicle that you just left or walk toward other people and/or a well-lighted area where you can be observed.

If being followed by someone walking, hurry to your destination or walk toward other people and/or a well-lighted area.

If being followed by someone driving, turn around and walk in the other direction. Return to the building/vehicle that you just left or walk toward other people and/or a well-lighted area .

SAFE ENTRY/EXIT - Building and/or Vehicle
Be prepared to enter as soon as you approach, by having keys in hand.

Check for "all clear" signals (if applicable) before entering. If the predetermined signal is not seen, return to your vehicle or walk toward other people and/or a well-lighted area.

Inspect the door and the area around it for signs of tampering, or unidentified, unmarked packages, before attempting to enter.

Look inside, if possible, for anything out of the ordinary before entering building.Check back seat and floor board of the vehicle before unlocking the door.Lock the building door immediately upon entering. Lock all vehicle doors and keep them locked while driving.

Look before exiting. Check all visible sides of building and around the vehicle. Also, avoid blind parking spots (i.e., larger vehicles, trees, poles, corner of walls, dumpsters, dark areas, other obstructions).

Lock the door after exiting and proceed immediately to building or vehicle. Avoid delays and be prepared to enter building or vehicle by having keys in hand. (To Be Continued)

David L. Battle, CFE, Principal of DAVID BATTLE RESOURCES (DBR), is a security practitioner and nationwide lecturer, specializing in Security & Loss Prevention Management Workshops and crime specific seminars for bankers and law enforcement.. Author of the Security Policies & Procedures Manual, he serves as an investigator and consultant for financial institutions, industry, attorneys, law enforcement and media. DBR services financial institutions in areas of training, investigations, security surveys/vulnerability assessments, policies/procedures manual review, etc. Contact David at (314)355-6642 or

Copyright © 2005 Bankers' Hotline. Originally appeared in Bankers' Hotline, Vol. 15, No. 4, 5/05

First published on 05/01/2005

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