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PERSONAL PROTECTION: The Eyes Have It.

January 26, 2018

Eyes 600

By Mike Keleher
As law abiding citizens, we enjoy the unique American ability to travel about freely from coast to coast. We travel beyond our comfortable homes and neighborhoods and or course can be exposed to risk of harm either accidentally or intentionally.  
 
I have always found most people to be “good” but as a former prosecutor and retired federal agent with 30 years on the job, I have interacted with way more than my fair share of people who are not “good” and have demonstrated their intentions to cause harm and hardship to other fellow human beings.  

OK, maybe merely bumping into “bad guys” isn’t the right description for what I have encountered; perhaps something akin to head-on bumper car collisions with their bad acts and intentions is a better description of the events and people!  It is jarring.

I would like to share something I have learned, very predator specific, which can help you train yourself to identify bad guys, and potentially life threatening situations before they collide with you.  It is always better to avoid the altercation than to unintentionally end up in the middle of one, what with all that inherent loud noise, bleeding, paperwork and lawyers getting involved.

Putting on a legally concealed firearm adds additional responsibilities to the armed citizen to be judicious in the use of deadly force, only employing it when legally necessary and within the confines of the law. Avoiding a gunfight is the #1 way of winning a gunfight-don’t be there when one starts!
 
Street level confrontations are quite often based on predator and prey concepts. Thugs operating as predators pick out prey they believe they can safely attack and overwhelm with little or no harm to themselves. Their aggression can often be seen at some distance, or it may be suppressed until the “Aha!” moment arises.  In either case predators lock their eyes on target before a challenge or attack.  You need to watch for those predator eyes.

Within law enforcement there is a phrase handed down from generation to generation that I learned at an early age and apply it daily- “Only cops and crooks look you in the eye.” 

If you think about it for a moment you can see it is an old predator/prey concept and in the human world both cops and crooks make distinct eye contact. On the police side they are looking for predators and signs of aggression. On the thug side, they are looking for either challenge from other predators, the police, or signs of weakness with potential victims.

In America we have definite amounts of “personal space” and social norms about making eye contact. As a general rule we don’t make much eye contact out in public. When was the last time you walked down a sidewalk and looked into the eyes of a stranger, smiled or nodded?  When you buy groceries or gasoline do you look at the cashier, or just do your business with eyes slightly lowered and then move on?

Obviously some cultural norms can impact eye contact like many Asian cultures where direct eye contact is considered rude, but by and large Americans don’t make much eye contact away from personal friends, co-workers or family. 

With bad guys in America, they are looking in people’s eyes trying to locate early signs of aggression or potential attack. They also look further down the road for eye contact than our normal 6-10 feet of space bubble we carry around.  The very best way I can hammer this home to you,  is for you to actively notice the people in your work place and then notice the people hanging out in bad neighborhoods. How many times will someone make deliberate eye contact with you in a bad neighborhood? Quite often. People on foot, will often stare openly at cars driving by. It’s not because they think you might be a friend.

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At a stop sign do you look over to make eye contact with the person in the next lane? How often do they look back? Not very often. We are all hypno-trained to keep eyes forward at a stop sign and not make eye contact. You might find some old 1960’s era victim awareness adages about not making eye contact as it could spur someone to violence or aggression. 

I would much rather take a couple of seconds to check the people around me and confirm I am not being viewed as either lunch or an undocumented pre-tax source of income for some miscreant. When I catch someone looking back at me at a stop sign it makes me smile “Good for you. A wolf among the sheep.”

While writing this article, I went to lunch today and minding my own business eating my Tacos-el-Whammo meal and reading an e-book, and saw two guys come in that gave me pause. Middle aged guys, well dressed in casual attire and as they entered they both looked and scanned the food court of regrettable meals-one looked left the other looked right and they continued talking and ordering up some food they would soon forget. They were sheepdogs-police officers among the sheep. I watched them scan people they way I scan people. It tickled me. Sheepdogs are out there too.

Recently I was being seated in a different restaurant (one that did not feature a lighted menu or anything resembling a “spork”) and walking down the aisle one of the patrons made deliberate eye contact with me.  No one else did. He looked at me, I looked at him. He saw me looking back. It put my hackles up. I had to increase my wide vision and review the surroundings immediately. 

There were no aggressive actions or words exchanged but he became the one guy I did not want seated behind me, and I had to review if I was in a situation I was unaware of, or if it was a chance encounter. 

He gave it away with his eyes. I don’t know what his particular problem was; his ethno heritage upbringing, criminal resume or record of humanitarian giving-I don’t actually care. He is just a potential aggressive threat on my radar and one to be monitored while in the area and certain plans were made if he wanted to advance any further. Nothing happened.  He ate, I ate, and he went away. Life goes on. I did not think about it again until writing this piece. He was unusual and worthy of note at the time.

Many crime victims just don’t pay attention to the people around them and are suddenly caught in what they believe is “random” violence or crime. It is not random. I used to teach anti-crime classes and would use a nature analogy. The king of predators in Africa is the lion. But even lions do not hunt and feast on a steady diet of other lions. 

They eat sick, weak, and slow animals that do not have big teeth and claws. They prefer animals they can sneak up on, surprise and overpower. The same principles apply to human predators.

Carry yourself in the moment when away from home. Do not be consumed with cellphones or music with headphones-both are the equivalent of digital blinders. You can go back to marveling over all the Kardashians contribute to the world, or what exactly they are famous for later. Retreating inside your head does not allow you to participate with the rest of the world.

If you are not feeling well or are distracted you have to set it aside until you are in a safer environment. I had a good friend who rode the Chicago area metro for years with no problem…  except for the day she was very sick and internalizing “I can’t wait to get home.” Well of course that was the day she was accosted by another rider. We are not so far from predator and prey.

2 Responses to PERSONAL PROTECTION: The Eyes Have It.

  1. GSL1598 on January 27, 2018 at 12:13 pm

    Very good article, I appreciate you bringing up this subject, very much a part of "situational awareness". I find myself more aware of my surroundings, especially if/when carrying concealed. I have always been a "people watcher" and most times when eating at a restauraunt will seat near a wall so others can't be behind me. Being handicapped I try to place myself "out of the way" of walking traffic and always prefer a wall behind me.

    Perhaps we could practice at a GSL meeting, have a strange "bad guy" looking individual come in and see how aware people are, although many people at GSL meetings are regulars and friendly with all the others present. Just a thought.

  2. James Kastenbauer on February 7, 2018 at 4:23 pm

    GREAT article !!!!!!