Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The friendly defense

An interesting article ran in this morning's Seattle Times, about how banks are using "customer-service-on-steroids" to approach and deter would-be bank robbers. Basically, when they see someone enter the bank that looks suspicious (like wearing a parka in warm weather, or gardening gloves), they immediately greet them and take a very personable approach to welcoming them to the bank. This tactic apparently takes the robber off-guard, since they are no longer "anonymous", and gives them an easy exit strategy ("Oh...I forgot my wallet..."). So far, Seattle's bank robberies for the first part of 2007 have dropped by nearly half compared to last year. More banks are adopting this approach.

All of this reminded me: About a year ago I was meeting some friends at an Irish pub downtown for trivia. I stopped by an ATM across the street before going into the pub. I had just inserted my ATM card when I noticed two guys standing behind me. They were obviously together, but not standing together. They were behind me, one on either side, closer than is customary while waiting for the ATM, and were watching me. I knew they were there for cash...namely mine.

I had one of those quick decision moments that we all sometimes have. I could a) ignore them and probably get mugged or b) turn around and address them to either reassure myself that I was wrong, or possibly deter them from whatever they had planned if I was right. I chose b.

I turned and said: "Can I help you with something?"

One of the two responded: "Uh...where is the store?"

I pointed some direction and the two of the walked off. Clearly, they would not have been standing where they were watching me if they were actually looking for the store. I'm so glad I trusted my gut.

I'm even more glad that Melissa and I took a self-defense class many years ago. In the class we learned that a good way to ward off attackers (the raper type), is to act suddenly crazy. Pee your pants, eat grass, laugh maniacally, anything to break their script of overpowering you. I bet this "crazy defense" would've worked well in the ATM situation, but no grass, peeing is messing...and the friendly defense was all that occurred to me at the time.

Anyway, this morning's article was a great reminder that most people who want to do bad things want to be as invisible as possible. Next time I see a scary skulker, I'm gonna say a big hello. That way if my gut is totally wrong, the only harm I've caused is being friendly.

1 comment:

miss d said...

Now that is some very helpful advice. Thank you! I'm glad you thought quickly at the ATM too.