Recently in Los Angeles, a young girl was kidnapped from the streets in broad daylight in her own vehicle and forced to drive around to various ATMs while the male, ex-con suspect attempted to access her bank account as he physically maintained control of her. This is all evidenced by captured video footage of the parking lot from which she and the suspect initially emerged in the victim’s vehicle, as well as that provided by each of the ATMs he attempted to access.
Her body was discovered in her vehicle the next morning in a remote area. She was a young woman with a bright future who was simply guilty of running an errand for her mother, an errand from which she never returned.
The evening of the abduction, officers from Metropolitan Division had coincidentally arrested the suspect on Skid Row on unrelated charges. He had a total of about $30 on his person, along with clearly evidenced bloodstained clothing. The suspect was an ex-con with a lengthy rap sheet and had been released from a nearby drug diversion program right down the street from the scene of the crime under false pretense—which the authorities had apparently never verified. There was no need for it, really.
Simple errors on the victim ’s behalf, coupled with a random placement of the suspect on the other, took her life.
Simple errors on the victim’s behalf, coupled with a random placement of the suspect on the other, took her life. The victim’s mother was a law professor and the victim had been quite successful in her brief young life.
My wife, Brett McQueen, the Director of Training for ITTS, teaches our Defensive Handgun I class as well as our All Women’s class. Brett is extremely adept at teaching students how not to become victims. Her instruction has averted many potentially deadly situations which have in turn been related back to her. In addition, Brett and I have five children who have all managed to avoid bad situations while growing up in Los Angeles. Here is Brett’s take on the subject:
As you read this, there are no doubt similar crimes being committed to the one Scott mentioned, a recent example being the Yale University medical student who was found murdered in a school laboratory on her wedding day.
Some of these stories will be sensationalized on the news, but there are many others we will never hear about. I received an email recently about a friend who was in the parking lot of a grocery store midday in an upscale, relatively “safe” neighborhood, when a strange man with a hood over his face came out of nowhere, grabbed her from her car and proceeded to punch her repeatedly in the face. She screamed loudly, attracting attention, and he ran away. He was never caught and it’s not clear what his motive was. This kind of thing happens every day and most of us never hear about it. It becomes a statistic and nothing more.
In the course of teaching others to be aware of their surroundings and simple precautions to take to not become victims, I have heard many of these stories from my students. It has made me realize just how fragile life can be— and how it can be taken from us in the blink of an eye.
Many students, both men and women, have come to us after being victims of violent crimes. The stories they have shared have driven home the point that unless we take precautions to safeguard our loved ones and educate them about the potential predators out there, we leave ourselves and them open to being assaulted, raped and even murdered.
Most of us will never be exposed to the “dark side” in the way Scott was as a police officer working the streets for many years and seeing the worst elements of society. It is important nonetheless to take heed of the fact that bad things can and do happen to good people through no real fault of their own. Sometimes victims of violent crimes are simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. Here are some suggestions that I make to my students:
Inform your significant other and your children that there are some bad people out there—not all people, but some. Tell them what high-crime areas of the city to avoid and if they can’t avoid them, don’t go there at night. They should always carry cell phones with them and keep cell phone chargers in their vehicles. They should let you know when and where they are going and call you when they get there—not because you want to check up on them, but simply to ensure that they made it safely.
You should know your children’s friends (invite them over for dinner or an informal get-together) and have emergency phone numbers for them as well. If your son or daughter doesn’t come home one night, at least you have phone numbers to call, which more often than not will explain where they are.
They should also always let you know who they are meeting and who they are going out with. This can be a sore subject with some children, who feel like you are invading their privacy! This is not about being invasive; it is about letting someone know where they are and with whom for their own safety.
Another security measure that we have implemented is that our cars have GPS tracking devices, so that if someone is unaccounted for, we can track where their vehicle is. This has proven invaluable to those of us whose children “forget to call home” past their curfew.
If the child is old enough and responsible enough, they might consider carrying pepper spray, and they should take a course to learn how to use it safely. It’s also a good idea to carry a small whistle on a key chain, and a car panic button can be used to attract attention in a potentially compromising situation.
Self-defense lessons should also be encouraged. Krav Maga is a good discipline because it is easy to learn and can be implemented after only a few lessons.
Everyone should know where their local police and fire stations are in case of an emergency, and also know that in the event of an accident, they should go to a well-lit area where there are people around. They should travel with others at night and always park in a well-lit area. Reliable flashlights with spare batteries should be in every car in the family.
Ask for a security guard or even a storeowner to watch them if there are suspicious-looking individuals around or even escort them to their car at night. If they are ever followed, they should go to an area with people and not be shy about asking for help, as most good people are more than willing to do so. They should be instructed to listen to their instincts when something does not feel quite right. Most people want to be helpful in giving directions, answering a question or even giving some spare change to someone in need, but not at the risk of their own safety. This point needs to be driven home to every family member.
They should be instructed to listen to their instincts when something does not feel quite right.
The Internet is another potential vehicle for predators seeking out boys or girls. Make certain that kids understand that not everyone in that chat room they frequent or every Facebook “friend” is who they say they are. Make it clear that they are never to meet anyone in person with whom they have had a cyber relationship, unless you are present, and that they are never to give out their address or phone number, because these people are strangers.
We don’t have to exist in a state of paranoia or practice low-crawling to our cars in the morning, but a few simple precautions can avert potentially life-threatening situations. Knowledge is power. Promising young lives being extinguished by subhuman predators are tragedies that can be avoided. The onus is on us to keep our loved ones safe.
Implementing some basic safety measures can make the difference between their returning home and becoming another statistic.
[Scott Reitz is a 30-year veteran of the Los Angeles Police Department and the director of the highly acclaimed International Tactical Training Seminars. Course information and schedules are available at their website at www.internationaltactical.com. Looking Back, a free monthly newsletter, is available by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.]