Travel Security and Safety Tip: Criminal Surveillance
I came across an article today on one of the travel security blogs I monitor and the story is a great illustration of a point that I was making on my recent blog post regarding a travel security warning for the Dominican Republic.
The story is about at gang of attractive, blonde-haired, women who formed a kidnapping ring in Brazil. They are believed to be responsible for 54 express kidnappings over 4 years.
Their method of operation was to blend in to their surroundings (tourist areas) where their appearance made them look more like a tourist than a person native to the area, and certainly not like a stereotypical criminal. They would target women in shopping malls and grocery stores as they were getting into their cars, kidnap them, and then go on a shopping spree with their credit and ATM cards.
By blending in as well as they did, they were able to conduct pre-operational surveillance without arousing any suspicion and someone contacting the police. I mentioned the use of pre-operational surveillance by criminals as they are selecting their targets in a recent post on travel security.
To some extent (sometimes only seconds, but up to days/weeks/months in the case of a major operation), criminals will conduct
surveillance on their target to determine whether the target is viable and to plan the best method of attack.
In the context of travel security, this means that criminals who are planning to kidnap or otherwise assault a traveler will briefly observe their target to determine if they are paying attention and are likely to be caught by surprise. They also try to determine whether or not their target is likely to resist/fight back and if they have anything worth stealing.
After all, its much easier to kidnap and/or assault someone who doesn’t fight back if you are a criminal.
The best way to practice good personal travel security is to pay attention to your surroundings (good situational awareness) and be on the lookout for people who may be following you and/or observing your activities.
Another aspect of travel security and good situational awareness is to avoid dangerous areas with high levels of criminal activity.
When traveling, you can do some research prior to your trip, ask your travel agent, or the hotel concierge to find out the areas that have travel security problems and tourists should avoid.
General areas to avoid are those that are poorly lit, appear run down, and are a haven for street walkers. In short, practice good travel security and stick to the tourist areas. These areas have a lot of petty crimes such as pick pocketing, but they usually have a far greater presence of law enforcement and security personnel; making violent crimes less common.