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Criminal Planning Cycle and Victim Selection Process

Uncategorized May 26, 2020

Criminal activity normally follows a predictable planning pattern as 90% of victim’s recall noticing suspicious activity prior to the crime. Understanding how criminals choose their targets, plan and deploy can assist bank executives in preventing a kidnapping for ransom or extortion situation before it begins. 

The first step is target selection; criminals typically select individuals who are vulnerable and unaware of their surroundings. These victims unknowingly display non-verbal cues and behavioral signals labeling themselves as oblivious to their surroundings. Indicators of a preferred victim include abnormal walking stride (dragging feet), slow walking rate, awkwardness of body movements, posture and even gaze.

Victim Selection Process

Prior to criminals conducting surveillance, they first select a target. Numerous studies and research has been conducted to understand how kidnappers, serial killers, rapists and other criminals select their victims. Besides the indicators mentioned above (abnormal stride, walking rate, body movements, posture and gaze), below are a few other common trends criminals use in order to select their preferred target:

  • Criminals will select their victims based on their habits, predictability and ability to control the situation.
  • Targets that are constantly distracted by cell phones, music or are unaware of their surrounds are prime victims.
  • If a home invasion is needed, homes without exterior lights, limited or no security at all are preferred by criminals.

This list isn’t all encompassing but gives you a criminal’s perspective on how they observe your normal day-to-day activities.

Once the target is selected, the surveillance begins. Criminals usually conduct some type of surveillance which could last anywhere from a few minutes to a few weeks. The surveillance is complete once the victims pattern of life is established, the bankers home and family members are identified and a location is chosen for the abduction.

Abductors can vary from a lone individual to large groups of organized crime members. No matter the size, their surveillance techniques are usually awful and their mistakes can lead to your successful determent. There are a few tips that can assist you in exploiting these mistakes making you, your employees and family an undesirable target.

The United States government uses the acronym TEDD to teach surveillance detection techniques. TEDD stands for Time, Environment, Distance and Demeanor. The first three – time, environment and distance – are used concurrently. For example, let’s assume you see the same person at different times, in different areas over distances; you can then assume you are under surveillance. In laymen’s terms, you see the same person in the morning leaving your home, at a stop light three miles from the bank and during lunch at a café. This scenario meets the criteria for time, environment and distance. You are under surveillance!

The last surveillance detection technique is demeanor and is the easiest to recognize. With no training and little experience, most criminals revert to what they have seen in movies and are unaware of small indicators that will identify them. Some indicators include:

  • Wearing inappropriate clothing in regards to the weather or environment. For instance, someone wearing a sweater or hat during warm weather or sunglasses during a cloudy day. Criminals assume the color black will help them blend in with all environments, this makes them stand out. 
  • Repeated movements or malingering. Someone will repeatedly tie their shoe waiting for you to finish your coffee or check their watch to track the time you’ve arrived and departed.
  • Other obvious cues are the use of binoculars, cameras, taking notes, making phone call and making repeated eye contact or blatantly avoiding eye contact.

This list can go on-and-on but the best advice is to trust your natural instincts. If it looks wrong or out of place, chances are it’s not a coincidence.

Another important element to remember, surveillance is not always conducted alone. The use of women, pets and even children have been used to blend in and avoid detection. Lastly, don’t ignore things you might see every day. The elderly, taxi drivers, homeless and delivery personnel are great tools for the collection of information since most Americans are blind to their existence.

The next step is the deployment or the abduction of the selected target. Your goal is to thwart all attacks by denying further surveillance and deter the attack before reaching this step. If your attacks reach the deployment step, it’s too late. There are a number of courses of action you may use to accomplish the denial and determent. First, you can inform the person conducting the surveillance that you are aware of their actions. This can be done by simply making eye contact and blatantly looking at them from head to toe memorizing identifiable features, tattoos, scars, etc. Secondly, contact local police and have them confront the suspected person(s) conducting the surveillance. These actions will normally deter further surveillance and prevent attacks before deployment.


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