Looming Danger: Your Ultimate Guide to Not Being a Mugging Victim
Someone almost mugged my boyfriend and me– twice– on a trip to Vegas just months ago.
Ok, hold up. Let me rewind for a moment to set the tone for why “almost” thankfully didn’t turn into “totally.”
I was born and raised in Newark, New Jersey. It was once called, by some reports, one of the most dangerous cities in the U.S.
Really, I just saw it as home. I still do actually whenever I go to visit my family. Newark isn’t a perfect place by any means, but no area really is.
Every town, city, and state has its positives and negatives, and its own kinds of dangers.
That doesn’t mean you have to live in constant fear or avoid visiting somewhere.
“Don’t let them catch you slipping,” as one of my cousins often says.
A mugger is a coward.
They want to take your money and belongings. They want to do this with as little effort as possible. They’re often hoping that you don’t put up much of a fight, and that you don’t see them coming.
Prove them wrong.
My mother instilled in me at an early age that the main way to not end up the victim of shady behavior is to play it smart and aware.
Aware is key. Aware can be the difference between “almost” and “totally.”
So, to continue the story, someone almost mugged my boyfriend and me– twice– on our trip to Las Vegas.
The first night was perhaps the scariest. We had driven from Los Angeles to Vegas for over 5 hours, stopping occasionally to see some of the sights along the way. We were hungry and tired by the time we reached our hotel room.
Unfortunately it was well past 10pm on a Sunday night, and although Vegas is a happening place, there weren’t any restaurants open in our actual hotel.
Now, any other regular city I probably would have just made the sacrifice of having us go to the vending machine, grab some chocolate bars, and plan to head out in the morning for a super early breakfast.
But I thought, “this is Vegas! The strip is always on and poppin’! There’s going to be plenty of people still out, so we can quickly walk to one of the restaurants.” I also had the audacity to have us actually SIT in the restaurant instead of ordering to go.
I know, I know. I was already playing with fire.
So fast forward to us sitting in a diner, and even ordering a few alcoholic beverages, well past midnight. We finished our meal and walked out a little buzzed, feeling excited about the beginning of our four day trip.
The cold January wind hit us with a quickness, sending chills through both of our bodies that helped to wake us up even though we were fighting exhaustion.
My boyfriend said some silly joke that made me laugh really loud as we walked back quickly towards our hotel.
That’s when our eyes met.
My eyes didn’t meet with my boyfriend’s.
My eyes met with the stranger we were walking towards.
He stood up, looked back at us, and my eyes met his.
And it was NOT a good feeling.
Suddenly the chill hitting my body had nothing to do with the January frigid night air.
My boyfriend was still talking, seemingly unaware of the bad feeling I had gotten. Why would he? He’s not a mind reader. I gave off no outward notion that the man in front of us in all black clothing had somehow weirded me out.
We continued to walk, and the man in black kept walking about 10 feet ahead of us.
It wasn’t super crowded, but there were still people, similar to us, buzzing about the sidewalks.
My eyes never really left the man. He seemed to still be walking ahead of us, and normally if someone is walking ahead of you, you wouldn’t think they were following you. But, I noticed his hands kept tracing the front pocket of his shirt but never fully going in. He also wasn’t walking as fast as everyone else against the cold air.
All of these things stood out as unusual. All of these small things never really added up.
My boyfriend and I continued to walk, coming towards a large looming tree on the sidewalk. One that blocked out the streetlamp lights.
For a minute I had lost sight of the man. Then I saw that he was sitting in front of the looming tree, shrouded in more darkness.
The next moments happened in a blur.
As my boyfriend and I walked right under the tree I saw the man dart out, making a direct line right towards my boyfriend.
The man’s hand was in his pocket, as he faced the way in which we came. This of course stood out, because if he was truly walking in the direction we were, why now was he facing backwards?,
He was super close to us now.
Not even at the man directly.
I simply announced loudly towards my boyfriend out of nowhere, “WE SHOULD WALK TOWARDS THE CURB,” and I darted quickly towards the busy street. Luckily my boyfriend has a habit of sticking to me like white on rice when we’re out, so without hesitation, and with no understanding of the situation, he darted towards the curb with me.
I didn’t stop.
My legs didn’t stop moving until we had gotten all the way back to our room.
The tears came when we got there. Not of sadness, but of anger. I was mad that someone was so close to stealing our joy in that moment.
This stranger I didn’t know could have hurt my boyfriend or me, all for a few dollars.
Exposed and vulnerable is what I felt. I couldn’t sleep for most of that night. My boyfriend said he was aware of the guy but he didn’t think he had a gun so he wasn’t too worried.
(Side note: Of course my boyfriend’s response sounds like the typical male macho response, but for context my boyfriend had been robbed by gunpoint years before. Having a gun pointed in your face makes anything less feel not as intimidating.)
Worry and fear took hold of me.
I talked to my cousin Darnell afterwards, who is a former Marine, about my fear that maybe this stranger knew I could identify him and would come back looking for us.
Darnell assured me that the would-be mugger was long gone at this point. “He was looking for an easy target,” my cousin said. “He saw you and Michael coming out of the diner, thought you were tipsy and unaware, and was hoping for an easy hit. When it didn’t happen, he went the other direction. He won’t be back.”
I breathed a sigh of relief, but for the rest of the trip I was SUPER aware of EVERYTHING.
That’s why the second time it almost happened it never even got as far as the TWO men getting very close to us.
For some context: The crime rate in Las Vegas is 27% higher than the national average. The crime rate in Vegas has made it rank as the ninth most dangerous city in America.
But it’s Sin City and it gets thousands upon thousands of tourists DAILY.
Once again, every city has its dangers.
The second “almost” mugging was when my boyfriend and I were heading back to our hotel. If you’ve ever been to hotels in Vegas then you know that these places aren’t like regular hotel lobbies, but are often MASSIVE casinos inside. It’s easy to get lost in the crowd there, or for people who don’t even stay at the hotel to go in and out.
When we were walking towards the escalators that went into our hotel two young men were standing with each other at the entrance. They looked at us, briefly looked at each other, then separated slightly.
The first one got on the escalator right before us, and the second got on right after us. I noticed the one in front was looking at his phone- but nothing was on the screen.
I was pretty sure they were going to attempt to follow us to the hotel elevators leading up to our rooms and rob us there.
Another bad feeling.
So when we got off of the escalator my boyfriend and I made a beeline towards one of the betting machines and basically sat there and looked over at the men. They came down the escalator, then quickly left again.
I suppose they figured we were onto them.
Now, I didn’t retell those stories to somehow display myself as being some sort of intuitive badass. Far from it, because I’m not.
I retold those stories so that I could show you some of the consistent things that happened to help “almost” stay “almost” that is also in line with what the experts say about avoiding being a mugging victim.
Here is information I gathered from various professional sources about what you can do to avoid being a mugging victim. I then want to go back to my experience and compare notes on what I did right, and even what I could have done better.
Some good news is that according to the 2017 National Crime Victims’ Rights Week Resource Guide, the rates of robbery known to law enforcement have declined from 1995 to 2015. Thing is though, in 2016 it was reported by The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) that robberies nationwide was an estimated 332,198, a .5% increase from 2015.
Which means that robberies still happen in the hundreds of thousands.
No one wants to be another statistic.
You want to learn how not to be a victim to a mugger? Learn from the predators themselves.
David Solano, who’s serving 25 years to life for robbery, and claims he’s mugged more than 100 people, gave an in depth interview with the Today show and let the world in on some secrets. There’s also a number of studies that in looking at who is often a victim you can practice being the opposite. This, along with some agreed upon safety tips, give a good baseline for what to do to avoid a mugging.
Be Aware and Be Informed
Remember, muggers are cowards. They want the path of least resistance. Most muggers often look for people who they deem as “weak” and/or “distracted.”
They also, in high tourist areas target, you guessed it, tourists. People that look to be from out of town and aren’t familiar with the area.
Most likely, to our would-be mugger my boyfriend and I fit two of those categories. We were tourists and we seemed distracted in that we were talking to each other. What our wannabe mugger wasn’t counting on was that I was paying attention to him the whole time, and I had actually been to Vegas more than once (this was my fourth trip), so I was well aware that Sin City could be a not so nice place.
Spatial awareness is a real thing. The definition is knowing where your body is in space in relation to objects or other people. To have good spatial awareness you also need to understand and respond to a change in position from these objects. When my boyfriend and I walked out of the restaurant I became very aware of the stranger in relation to us, and also the shifts he was making.
It also helped me be able to move as quickly as I did when I saw the mugger make the beeline right towards us.
Situational awareness is also a real thing. It means being aware of what’s going on around you and asking yourself if anything or anyone could be a threat to your health and safety.
In paying attention to the man I was able to make mini mental notes about his behavior that just didn’t feel right, that helped to keep me on alert the whole time he was around us.
In paying attention to the two men in the second wannabe muggings I was able to note that the man in front of us wasn’t looking at anything on his phone, although he was pretending like he was.
If you’re going to a city you’ve never been to before, DO SOME RESEARCH. You’ll get a sense of the safest times to be out and about, and some areas you might want to avoid. It also helps to know what the most prevalent criminal activity is in the area, just to be informed.
And even if you are a tourist- DON’T ACT LIKE ONE.
Walk with purpose, even if you are lost (many men are great at this, ha!). Always look like you know where you’re going. Don’t walk around with your map open. Take up SPACE, shoulders back and head up.
Send out the non-verbal signal that you are NOT to be f*cked with.
Do Not Let Strangers Approach You or Get Too Close
It doesn’t feel like the most polite thing to do, but allowing a stranger to get too close can be the difference between safety and danger. If someone asks you for the time, and it’s late at night, it might do you better to just ignore them or to keep walking as you check for them, and yell it back as you continue to move.
Research shows that getting close and distracting a target was one of the tactics by muggers.
STAY NEAR THE CROWD:
Muggers want to isolate you.
They want to get you alone so they can do what they want without anyone else noticing. They then want a clear way to run off after.
Stay in well-lit areas.
This makes sense to me because our solo wannabe mugger tried to attack us once we got under the large tree. He also went in the other direction when we dashed towards the busy street.
MAKE SOME NOISE or MAKE A POINT:
Statistics show that muggers try to target women, but with one major exception.
Women tend to scream.
David Solano pointed out in his interview that making noise with your voice, or any sort of device, will deter the mugger.
They don’t want that kind of attention.
Remember when I yelled?
Solano also said that mace is one of the biggest deterrents as well. He notes whenever he’s been sprayed he runs away very quickly.
If you have mace, have it ready to spray if someone gets too close. That means holding it in your hand as you walk.
(Coming soon: A list of some of the best noise makers, tasers, and mace to help you in dangerous situations.)
Now, if all else fails and someone does end up mugging you, first and foremost know that the mugger is the as*hole in this situation. Some people aim to harm others for their own selfish reasons, and some people are at the wrong place at the wrong time.
If it does happen what you should do:
- Give them the valuables they ask for. Your life isn’t worth the dollars or jewelry. You can replace those things. Your life, not so much. Don’t escalate to violence unless it is absolutely necessary.
- Still be aware. Take in everything you can so you can give those details to the proper authorities.
Lastly, and most importantly: LISTEN TO YOUR INTUITION.
If something doesn’t feel right, then it probably is not. Whether you believe your intuition is some divine intervention, or simply your brain sending you warning signals based on the subconscious messages it’s receiving from what you’re observing, LISTEN TO IT.
When the first almost mugging happened I wondered at first if I was overreacting when I got the bad vibe from the stranger. Nonetheless, I kept my eye on him, and in the end I truly believe it helped to avoid a much scarier situation.
Overall, muggings are scary, but being aware and being prepared can make a world of difference. In hindsight I probably wouldn’t have gone out as late as we did for a meal, but I was glad that I kept my wits about me.
You can do the same. Don’t let a monster mugger ruin your day, Final Girl.
Have there been some close calls you’ve had in the past? What did you do? Comment and let me know!