Those of us with anti-terrorist driving training understand the phrase: “Stopping on the spot.” Whether it involves kidnapping, roadside bombs or a drive up assassination attempt, the terrorist needs to place the target car in the space preset for the attack. To do this, they have to do considerable advance planning and decide the optimal location for the attack. All that’s needed after that, is the unknowing cooperation of the target. Don’t cooperate! Don’t stop on the spot!
I once found myself driving along Page Avenue in the greater St. Louis area. The avenue runs through areas of once-lovely neighborhoods, now cluttered with boarded up apartments and turn-of-the-century red-brick homes fallen to disuse or having become havens for drug activity. I was driving an unmarked government car that just happened to be a new ice blue Pontiac Grand-Am with Illinois license plates. I suppose I resembled a salesman or something in my business suit, but in actuality I was returning from a meeting of fellow agents from the Naval Criminal Investigative Service. I wasn’t good “carjacking” material, but the hyenas didn’t know that.
I hadn’t been long on that road before I realized a car was tailing me with four youths in it, all displaying gang colors (in this particular case, red) and baseball caps slanted slanted at various angles. Unfortunately, this was also an era when cell phones were the size of large bricks and not issued to rank and file agents like myself. To compound the lack of modern cellular communications many of the federal agencies did not have radio communications on the same frequencies as local law enforcement. As luck would have it, I had the radio and the proper frequencies, but not the necessary range to hit our communication tower. I was on my own.
The first thing I did was to determine that I was in fact a potential target and not simply being followed coincidentally. I did this by changing lanes and adjusting my speed to give the occupants of the other car an opportunity to pass me. They mirrored my every move. There wasn’t much traffic, so I had no difficulty making sure I was not blocked in at those few red lights I encountered. If I was stopped at a red light, I maintained eye contact with the occupants in my rear-view mirror, ready to speed off through the light if any of them exited their vehicle. At one point it looked as if they were ready to act and they pulled up along side of me at a light. All four were giving me the eye, so I made visible various accoutrements of my job and that was the end of it. They sped off.
Perhaps I was not a serious target. Perhaps they were simply speculating. But I made certain throughout the encounter that I never stopped in such a manner that I could not immediately escape. I was always aware of their position and I made sure they knew it! I was not an easy target regardless. Had I been a mouth-breather, more concerned with my appointment book or looking for street signs, it’s likely they would have been driving a brand new ice-blue Grand-Am that afternoon. It’s also possible they were just driving to a church choir practice and admired my ride! We’ll never know.
Stopping on the spot is a cardinal sin. But it’s not always possible to avoid. Traffic congestion sometimes makes it impossible to be creative. There are times when our urban highways become parking lots. A carjacking is not going to occur in bumper-to-bumper traffic because the bad guys can’t speed away. Robberies are a possibility however. In a typical scenario the hyena pack is on foot, winding their way thorough the stalled traffic, looking into cars as they pass. They are looking for purses on passenger seats, or laptop computers or briefcases or other tempting packages that promise some reward. Closed windows and locked doors don’t matter at all. A quick smash with a heavy object, a brick or rock, an arm reaching in and your property is gone. There’s nothing you can do about it. Well, there are some things you can do. You can make sure your valuable items are not visible. Lock them in the trunk. If possible, put your purse under the seat. Don’t look like a target. Believe me, there will be others out there who offer a better opportunity. It’s a shame, but there will never be a dearth of potential victims for the hyena pack. In every herd, there are the weak and the hunters see them immediately. You can’t help them, but you don’t have to be one of them.