Random violence, by its very nature, can't be predicted. The serial sniper shootings Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia are proof that anyone can be a victim at any time. The killing grounds are common areas such as parking lots, service stations, and street corners - everyday locations that we find ourselves in all the time. Could the victims in these cases have done anything to protect themselves? Could they have avoided the danger?
The one common denominator in the shootings is that they happened in public places. Once you step outside the protective embrace of your locked home, you are vulnerable. It doesn't matter where you are - your driveway or a shopping mall parking garage - you are equally at risk for violence. The only way to protect yourself is to be on guard and watchful - to listen to your intuition and realize that it can happen to you.
Watch for these signs of potential trouble:
· Individuals standing alone or wandering around. · Individuals in parked cars or driving repeatedly through an area. · Groups gathered on corners, in doorways, alleys, or parking lots. · Anyone observing you with more than casual interest. · Anyone following you. · Anyone hanging around your home, business, or car.
· Shrubbery or trees that could conceal someone. · Dark, deserted or isolated areas such as side streets, alleys, parking lots, parks, public restrooms, tunnels, or ATM machines. · Groups of people loitering, especially if you're alone. · Individuals approaching you directly for no reason, especially in parking lots and parks.
Try to park as close to store entrances as possible to minimize the time you are exposed. Also, as much as possible, use your vehicle as a shield when you stop for gas. There is no way to know if the serial sniper victims had any warning prior to the shootings, if they felt uneasy, saw someone suspicious, or had any chance to avoid their fate. What is known is that even after the news media began to cover the story and make the public aware of the danger, there were more shootings and more victims. Could awareness and precautions have saved any of these people? Maybe. Random violence is brutal and frightening, and it defies all logic, but there are steps you can take to increase your chances, at least slightly. Be aware and informed. Never let your guard down and always remember that it can happen to you.
Laura Quarantiello is the author of "On Guard! - How You Can Win the War Against the Bad Guys," along with numerous articles on personal security, child protection and crime avoidance. More info is at: http://www.tiare.com/onguard.htm