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Learn to Practice Situational Awareness

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Those of us who teach don’t have too much difficulty helping a student learn to shoot well enough to defend themselves. It is also relatively easy to teach a student to do speed loads and clear malfunctions. The real challenge is trying to teach that student to spot a criminal attack early enough that there is time to prepare and respond.

Too many people just don’t pay enough attention to what is going on around them. And then, in many cases, they may see it but not understand what is happening. This is the reason that so many criminal attacks seem to occur at such close range.  In most cases, if the citizen were more observant and understood what was being seen, the criminal would never get that close.

Citizens will often look at a police video and wonder why the officers were using the level of force that they were when it seems to unnecessary. The citizen is seeing it, but not from the same level of experience and training that the officers are. People who have survived a robbery, rape or assault, are seldom difficult to convince that they need to take a greater interest in their personal safety. But, that is a high price to pay for education and it assumes that the citizen will survive — which, as we know, is sadly not always the case.

The first step is to force yourself to be more observant of things that are going on around you. When walking out of the restaurant, into the dark parking lot, you are scanning the area instead of listening to your friend’s funny joke.  You are looking for things and people that appear to be out of place: that group of what appears to be street punks standing next to the cars in this high-end eatery; the person who is looking at you but turns away when he sees that you’ve noticed; the guy coming out of the darkness, asking for directions.

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The person who has some street experience has a leg up on understanding the criminal mind because he has already seen crooks in action. But, the average citizen can also increase his knowledge on the subject without having to learn by being a victim. I highly recommend getting some books, videos or training classes on body language because the crook will nearly always give himself away if you know what you are looking at.

In addition, take the time to study reports of actual criminal attacks. What was the first clue that a victim should have seen? What mistakes did the victim make that set him up for the attack? It will often become clear that the victim simply wasn’t paying attention.

I live in an area that has a lot of rattlesnakes, yet I’ve never been bitten. Early on, I learned what rattlesnakes looked like and what they are capable of. Then, having a healthy respect for those rascals, I determined to be extremely observant and careful. I can teach you to shoot and run your gun, but I can’t make you pay attention to what is going on around you. Hopefully, you will teach yourself to watch and understand those snakes that walk among us.

Article by Sheriff Jim Wilson

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