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Old April 13, 2008, 05:44 PM   #1
BillCA
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Visually Assessing Threats

I did a search and didn't see this as a topic, though some of it may be buried in other threads. I think it's a good topic for discussion.

When you are in public, what sort of visual cues do you use to designate another person as a potential threat? I guess we could include audible cues, like a loud profanity-laced voice, etc.

Here's a few things I've noticed myself doing;

In public, I visually "tag" certain people as potential trouble-makers by;
  1. Baggy "gangsta" clothing. They may be wannabe bad-boys but I don't want to be their first "test" either.
  2. Visible tattos - the more tats visible, generally the less I want them close to me.
  3. Specific tattoos - knuckles tattooed (fighter type), tear-drop tattoo near the eyes (gang member, killer/enforcer). Tattoos on the back of the neck - especially in gothic lettering.
  4. Young males together who seem to be "scoping out" the surroundings.
  5. Young males with their girls but the girls do not seem relaxed; are not showing physical contact with the guys (no hand-holding, no arms around each other)

In another thread about Street Fighting (from 2002) some good observations were made about body signals for an impending fight. Here, I'm looking for what others use when identifying potential threats.

While anyone can be a threat, what is it that causes you to give a person more than a cursory glance? What causes you to think "oh, this guy could be trouble"?
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Old April 13, 2008, 05:48 PM   #2
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The eyes are the windows to the soul.

(BTW, lots of my friends are tattoo'ed to bankruptcy. Sweet guys. I have a mercurial temper. No tats. Go figure.)
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Old April 13, 2008, 05:52 PM   #3
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Your tag's just narrowed down a good percentage of the population in California
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Old April 13, 2008, 06:17 PM   #4
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Hinkiness

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Old April 13, 2008, 06:45 PM   #5
BillCA
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WA - Please define "hinkiness". Your definition may not match mine or others.

RevolverLover - Not as many as you might think. I'm in Silicon Valley so while there are those "types", you often don't see them in certain areas.
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Old April 13, 2008, 08:04 PM   #6
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Quote:
Baggy "gangsta" clothing. They may be wannabe bad-boys but I don't want to be their first "test" either.
I would expand this from just gangsta bad boys to all males who are using clothing to *display* machoness or aggressiveness. Shirt sleeves rolled tight to expose muscles, "biker" type clothing, etc. Of course clothes in and of themselves do not make the man in all cases, but it's something i look at always.
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Old April 13, 2008, 08:05 PM   #7
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Erratic Behavior

I also look for erratic behavior or for people who *stand out* even if I can't put my finger on it and verbalize why.
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Old April 13, 2008, 09:15 PM   #8
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Profiling will help to a point, but honestly it will just keep you paranoid for the rest of your life. It is a great tool that I use as well. If you are in a well populated area and have the chance to sit on the side and watch people I would. I do this a lot, since I live at the beach and I have noticed things about people just from watching. Most people when they are ready to fight/do something illegal they are generally tense. You can see it in their face, neck, arms and hands usually. They also are the ones who have erracted eye movement. Looking at everyone around them quickly as well as checking their shoulders. So I typically look out for those types of things. It did take me a long time to start to recognize these signs quickly. It has helped me avoid a few fights lately. There have been other times I have been at a bar and been able to foresee the fight starting. The second thing I am always avoiding is someone you is staggering. Not a lot sometimes as little has just not walking a complete straight line. People who are drunk or on some type of drug are more likely not to have logical thoughts.
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Old April 13, 2008, 09:29 PM   #9
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Best thing I can think of is to do a play by play of everyone you see and everycar you walkby. cars: color, windows, is anyone sitting in it, if there is what are they doing vans with no windows in doors or curtains in windows, walk a few cars over to go around. Looking for a criminal is a bad idea. Look at everyone. Look at their pants, shirt, shoes, hands, face, hat, gender, eyes, way they walk and their level of alertness. Do a play by play like them guys on the glow box when football is on.

If you live in an area where alot of people carry you will spot gun totin' fools left and right and I point out every single one I see to my wife and tell her what (S)he is carrying.

I try not dressing like that guy that carries. No 5.11 pants or fishing or photographer vests or tactical boots.

Try not looking for the criminals, you will not find them. Just beware of your surroundings and worry less about thugs or ganstas or whitetrash. If you constantly label such people as criminals then just think what they might think of you.

The job I have has people from all walks of life, ghetto, country, goth, punk, preppy, trailer trash, and you will see all of us after work talking, getting along, hanging out and 98% of us have a permit to carry while mingling with civilians, and carry when we do. Just be careful of who you prejudge, you just may be putting your attention needlessly in the wrong place.
Assess the total picture and take it from there.
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Old April 13, 2008, 10:29 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rb4browns
"biker" type clothing
I'm a married Christian with 30 years in the financial industry.

The only clothing I have is "biker" clothing. Truth be told, Harley jeans and T-shirts are about the only things that fit (ahem) our unique physiques. Oh, and the CMA wear biker clothing.

Before we get way off the track here with epithets, I also like pasta, finely crafted stilettos, Ferrari's, Lamborghini's, and I know who put the last three slugs into Mussolini.

Let's stick to firearms.
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Old April 14, 2008, 12:49 AM   #11
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I occasionally find myself feeling a bit suspicious...you know, that gut feeling that tells you something is amiss...
When that occurs, I find myself looking for people out of place.

I find myself looking for likely gang members (matching, baggy sweats was a dead giveaway in my town). Also, I will watch people who are nervous/anxious looking and watching the crowd with interest. It's usually nothing, though. After a few minutes, I go back to "casual" awareness.
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Old April 14, 2008, 01:22 AM   #12
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WA - Please define "hinkiness". Your definition may not match mine or others.
From an earlier post by meself

WAs Rule of Life 44 (U) 6

After training or extensive life experience, one recognizes a concept in people known as hinkiness, which concept is defined as a variety of factors that raise an awareness of potential danger. The factors that can render a person "hinky" include, but are not limited to, race, creed, colour, sex,ocupation, age, mode of dress, possessions, body language, time of day, geographic location and any other usual or unusual factor that alone, or in combination, make a reasonable observer concerned, suspicious, alarmed or alert.

Two black kids horseplaying on a basketball Court are not hinky. One black kid wearing a hoody, loitering outside a conveneince store at 3am and continually touching his waist is hinky.

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Old April 14, 2008, 06:07 AM   #13
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Quote:
I'm a married Christian with 30 years in the financial industry.

The only clothing I have is "biker" clothing. Truth be told, Harley jeans and T-shirts are about the only things that fit (ahem) our unique physiques. Oh, and the CMA wear biker clothing.

Before we get way off the track here with epithets, I also like pasta, finely crafted stilettos, Ferrari's, Lamborghini's, and I know who put the last three slugs into Mussolini.

Let's stick to firearms.
No need to get your feelings hurt, I don't know who you are, so certainly there is no reason to read my post and think I was talking to you. The question was legit as is my answer. I size people up based on my experiences, and one of the categories I use is how people are dressed. I understand some very nice people like to wear "Harley jeans and t-shirts," that's fine. It's also been my experience that trouble has come from white trash wearing the same. I size people up based in part on their dress in the context of where they are and where I am at a given time. If I see someone out of place due to dress, or if their dress gives me pause and reason to think they might be trouble, I act accordingly.
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Old April 14, 2008, 07:41 AM   #14
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I tend to observe people who are observing other people. Most people with trouble on their mind are just as aware as those with self defense in mind.
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Old April 14, 2008, 08:23 AM   #15
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ActivShooter hit a good point. Thugs tend to use situational awareness to their advantage, so they're usually looking for potential victims, then after a quick assessment and figuring the odds, they will take a second, longer look at someone.

I was a LEO, and studied people in their most raw moments. One night, I spotted a couple of white males who looked "average", but sensed that they were up to something bad. I had a "rookie" for a partner, and told him to watch those 2 males (I was driving). About 30 seconds later, they both broke into a full run....and one of them grabbed a purse from an elderly lady. We caught the purse snatcher, but the other "suspect" got away (nothing to arrest him for, anyway).

The "rookie" later asked my what had tipped me off that the 2 "average" looking guys were about to do something bad. It was the way that they had given the elderly lady a double-take look. There were other females in the area at the time, but the thugs chose to victimize the easiest-appearing one....and she had been the only one that they had looked at twice.

Tatoos? Clothing styles? Yes, they CAN be indicators, but it's the eyes you need to watch.
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Old April 14, 2008, 08:38 AM   #16
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1. Male (although if female and acting/looking weird I take notice)
2. Age - teens and twenties
3. Demeanor
4. Dress - (guys in suits usually are not a threat, "gangsta" dress is another story)
5. If they are watching me I am watching them and I let them know it through body language.
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Old April 14, 2008, 10:51 AM   #17
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Bill,
Good thread! I have to agree with those who look at the eyes. What are they looking at, how often (checking the scene?), "happy eyes" or is there something happening behind the eyes that may/will mean trouble? Body movement: is it tight and controlled or free and easy? What am I doing? At the ATM or the cash register in a small store? Walking to my vehicle in a large parking lot or an empty parking structure? I'm always trying to access the situation but some require an extra level of alertness. Clothing: is it hot and they're overdressed? The "biker clothing" issue is important and I don't mean it as a slur on the honest bikers. There's "biker clothing" and then there's "BIKER clothing"; they may be similar but there's a difference. Clean vs "greasy/dirty"? I look for the clothing/eyes/body movement combo and those who have commented on the biker clothing are no doubt doing the same. Profiling? You bet I am! We all do (and most wish TSA would too!) but that's not the only criterion. We've all read it before: don't look like a victim and the chances are better that you won't be one. Standing tall, showing confidence in who you are and showing awareness of your surroundings decreases your chances of being a victim. Then be willing to expect the unexpected!
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Old April 14, 2008, 10:59 AM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rb4browns
there is no reason to read my post and think I was talking to you. The question was legit as is my answer
Because it teaches error, especially to people who don't know the difference. I've lived in this city since 1968, and many of my clients are cops. Most of them are surprised that I'm a patch holder.

To that, what most people know about bikers come TV and the movies. Unless you've done something to threaten or antagonize a biker you are simply wallpaper. When I go a biker shop I don't "see" the citizens kicking tires.

And, of course, you could be dead wrong.

I was standing next to my bike once and I heard the sound of about fifty bikes with straight pipes. Out of nowhere came the wildest bunch of guys riding choppers you could imagine--right down to tons of chrome and tattoos.

As they sped by me, I saw their rags. They were CMA.

As you can well imagine, many younger guys come here. Chasing beer cans with a 1911 pistol is loads of fun. But let's not mislead them.

Some guys are going to read this read and unsnap their CCW pistols every time they see a customized Harley.
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Old April 14, 2008, 11:50 AM   #19
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A person riding a Harley or any other bike is not a threat to me. However, if I see someone dressed like a motorcycle gang member, colors, torn sleeves, lost of tatoos, long unkept hair, chains, etc it does raise my consciousness. Not saying they aren't perfectly good people and I've met many dressed that way and they were fine. However, if someone is purposely projecting a highly rebellious, uncaring image that MAY mean something negative.
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Old April 14, 2008, 11:59 AM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pilot
uncaring image that MAY mean something negative
And it MAY be a poser on his first Sportster. Unless you want to be treated in the same way as a gun owner by a liberal, we had better stick to probable cause.

When I was a little boy, and a crime was committed, the police used to round up all of the African-American men within the area. This was called a dragnet, hence the name of the popular TV show.

How would you feel is you were sitting in restaurant and a LEO cuffed you and stuffed you because a crime was committed locally. You ask the reason why this is happening and you are told it's a firearm related offense and you hold a CCW license.

I'm sure the shoe doesn't feel too good on the other foot.

I've been a patch holder probably before most of you were born. While I don't get pulled over as much, I still see frequent LEO involvement for guys "riding four."

Again, you get your info from TV and movies. Did you ever go to a Harley shop and talk to a biker?
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Old April 14, 2008, 12:21 PM   #21
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The eyes are the windows to the soul.
Tourist has the right idea. It doesn't matter if someone is wearing a suit, "gangsta" clothing, or just jeans and a T-shirt. You can't tell a predator by their clothing, but you can almost always tell by their demeanor, and the look in their eyes. No, I can't read minds, but I can sure as hell tell if someone is sizing me (or someone else) up to see if they are an easy target. It can be as innocent as someone who just shoplifted and is wondering if you're undercover, or as serious as a predator looking for their next victim. There are plenty of "wolves in sheep's clothing"...don't be fooled by looks alone.
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Old April 14, 2008, 12:27 PM   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SilentHitz
don't be fooled by looks alone
Thank you, sir. Your post was polite and succinct.

I still would like to see the look on Pilot's face if he was attacked, screamed for help and found me coming to his rescue.

Would he say to me, "Sorry, Tourist, no thanks."
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Old April 14, 2008, 12:53 PM   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wildalaska
Two black kids horseplaying on a basketball Court are not hinky. One black kid wearing a hoody, loitering outside a conveneince store at 3am and continually touching his waist is hinky.
Not to be picky, but take the word "black" out of there and you have a great example of being "hinky". I don't know about up your way, but there are *plenty* of hinky people around these parts, of every color.
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Old April 14, 2008, 03:34 PM   #24
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The villages I frequent are as different as can be, . . . all the way from a fast growing, persnooty, college town, . . . to a couple of blue collar, union has beens, . . . to an agrarian little soy bean/corn town.

As such they all offer different flavors of bg's. I have given up looking for profile types, . . . and have opted to just keep a close lookout on who and what is in or about to be in my 20 ft personal space circle. Doing so makes life much easier for me.

Spot a couple of baddies, . . . walk around them, . . . always off side if possible. Got a group of neanderthal youngsters up ahead, . . . other side of the street/aisle/etc. Avoidance is the name for me.

I generally am on a relaxed orange alert, . . . allowing my vision and my personal bearing to be enough to send most bg's some other way, . . . by spotting potential trouble spots and avoiding them like the plague. But just like it has been already mentioned, . . . eye to eye contact and a sound demeanor can turn the tide from victim to "pass that dude, man".

It has worked so far.

May God bless,
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Old April 14, 2008, 03:46 PM   #25
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Dwight55, you're probably right. When I found something that was about to hit the fan it was like "spidie sense" shouting at the top of its lungs. Everyone not on welfare heard the clarion call.

What still baffles me is the speed of an attack. If you don't sense it coming, but simply react to the motion, your goose is probably cooked.

Oy, and my wife is suburban girl. Over the years I've had to repeat many times that when confrontational politics have begun, to just step away, try not to grab my arms like a recalcitrant mother, because I'm going to slice the fool up while he's telling his life story.

Then again, she's never been hit.
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