Elevators are crime magnets. You’re alone, with a criminal, and the one way out is closed. It’s a criminal’s dream! The isolation provides the perfect environment for perpetrating robberies, muggings, and sexual assaults. If you think the security cameras, if they’re installed, are a deterrent, don’t be fooled. If the security camera is working, it’s not likely that it’s monitored by a security guard. When you’re in an elevator, you have to assume that you’re on your own.
Being street smart is extra important when you’re on your own. Street smart means knowing how to avoid and circumvent danger so that you stay safe. Being street smart means you have situational awareness, meaning that you recognize when opportunities for someone to assault or rob you are emerging, and then act quickly to mitigate the opportunity. Here are some street smart elevator safety tips to help you hedge your bets that you won’t be a crime victim.
- Always look into an elevator before you get in. If there is someone in the elevator who appears unsafe in any way, do not get in. If the lights are not functioning, do not get in.
- If there is someone you don’t know waiting for the elevator, if it doesn’t feel right, let them get in and wait for the next elevator. Trust your instincts! If they don’t seem to be a potential threat, let them get in first and allow them the opportunity to press their floor button first. If they don’t, and it doesn’t feel right, get off on the next floor. Trust your instincts!
- When you enter the elevator, do your best to stand next to the control panel near the door with your back to the wall. Do not give your back to another occupant unless the elevator is full. Even then, be aware that when you’ve given your back to someone, you introduce the risk of a surprise attack./li>
- When you are in an elevator, remain in condition yellow at a minimum, and do not allow yourself to go to condition white. In Cooper’s color conditions, condition white means that you’re not paying attention to anything around you. You’re engrossed in your phone, fumbling through your purse, day dreaming, or otherwise not paying attention to what is going on around you. In condition yellow, you’re relaxed, but aware of who and what is around you, including who is behind you. The 360 degrees of awareness is important because many stranger attacks come from behind.
- Make confident eye contact with other occupants, and make sure your body language says “I’m not an easy target.” If something doesn’t feel right, get off on the next floor. Trust your instincts!
- If you’re carrying a purse, keep in close and away from other occupants. This creates a more difficult target. Elevator pickpockets and purse snatchers sometimes work in teams, and tend to target people who stand in the middle or stand close to the door with their back to them. This allows the criminals to keep an eye on your purse while they try to figure out the best way to steal your valuables. Some use sharp blades to cut open a purse open from behind to steal the contents. Keep your radar up. If it feels like you’ve been targeted by one or more pickpockets or purse snatchers, get off the elevator on the next floor. Trust your instincts!
- Consider keeping your keys in your hand so that you can use them as a weapon if necessary. If you don’t already have one, you may want to use keychain kubaton. A kubaton is a cylinder, usually made of metal, with a rounded point end. You can easily deliver maiming and deadly blows with a kubaton. Having one in your hand can help you project confidence that says you’re not an easy target, and can save your life if you’re attacked.
- If you are robbed or groped, you have to choose whether to put up a fight. There are occasional videos that circulate on social media showing successful fights against gropers and purse snatchers. Somehow the videos of unsuccessful fights never get streaming time. If the robber is armed and clearly just wants your valuables, it is probably best to give the robber what he or she wants. Fighting for valuables against an armed robber is just not worth putting your life in danger.
- If you are attacked, if you can, press the alarm and as many buttons as possible to try and get the elevator to stop at the next floor. Loudly yelling “Stop” and “No” helps startle the attacker and helps call attention from others to your attack, which most attackers don’t want. Remember that statistically, those who fight back when attacked are more likely to get away than those who don’t.
These elevator safety tips have a central theme – be aware of your surroundings, mitigate opportunities where you could become a victim quickly, project confidence with eye contact and body language, and trust your instincts. This is the heart of personal safety and preventative self-defense.