First there are certain premises that need to be clearly established:
Law enforcement must be involved if the crime is of violent nature or there’s a potential for physical harm.
Taking the law into one’s hands is illegal.
Never resist or try to engage an armed assailant.
With that firmly in mind, let’s move on to the scenarios and options.
As a security professional I usually get a lot of queries about ‘what if?’ scenarios, with some questions coming from readers of this column. Here are some typical questions that are asked and my responses to them.
Scenario: As a female you find yourself in the company of an unknown male as you prepare to enter a lift late at night?
Option1: Allow the other person to take the lift and you wait for the next one.
Rationale: While it may appear to be stereotyping, if you are not comfortable then don’t get in the lift; a few minutes delay won’t inconvenience you.
Option2: Enter the lift and stand by the door near the control panel. Press several buttons for other floors including your one.
Rationale: An individual contemplating harm will think twice knowing the lift will stop at multiple levels. This not only gives you an opportunity to escape but makes the stranger wary of someone entering.
Scenario: What to do if a stranger tries to attack you when you are alone in your house? (No gun involved)
Option1: If you can run to any room that can be locked from the inside then barricade yourself there. Identify a room that has a landline phone or cell phone in it.
Rationale: The intruder will need to break down the door to get to you and this will afford you time to call someone for help.
Option2: Run to your kitchen because you can then use various items to protect yourself. Throw spices (chilli or turmeric powder) in the eyes, throw pots and pans, glass dishes, break them, make a noise and scream for help.
Rationale: Noise is the enemy of the assailant because of the fear of being caught. Additionally, if you can disable the intruder without causing yourself harm you can escape from the home to relative safety.
Scenario: Taking a taxi, rickshaw alone at night (works for day time, too).
Before getting into the taxi or rickshaw, note down its registration number. Use your mobile to inform your family or friend and pass on the details to them in the language the driver understands.
If no one answers your call, pretend you are in a conversation (make sure the phone is on silent). Clearly mention the approx time to your destination and make them call you five minutes before that to confirm you are ok.
Rationale: The driver knows that there’s someone expecting you and that they have his vehicle details. This is particularly helpful for females travelling alone, whether during the day or night.
Scenario: What if you are stalked?
If you are on foot, approach the nearest house, shop or business and explain your predicament. Go to an ATM which is guarded and lock yourself inside; use the 24/7 helpline phone for customers and explain your situation to the operator.
Rationale: A person would avoid doing anything untoward when there are people or security around. An ATM potentially has a security guard and always has a CCTV camera that will help with identification.
If in a vehicle then approach the nearest fuel station, mall, hospital, police patrol or station and explain your predicament.
Rationale: The person following will, in all probability, not want to be detained or confront more people and will therefore move along. Do not go to your home or office; it is essential that they don’t know where you can be found in the future.
Scenario: What if you receive obnoxious or threatening calls?
There’s a distinction between obnoxious and threatening calls as the law may not afford you the support you may actually expect.
By a loose definition (not meeting legal standards but generally accepted) obnoxious calls tend to be missed, silent calls at all odd hours of the day and night, individuals calling random numbers to chat with strangers.
Threatening calls are pretty obvious but for clarity they are those calls where you are asked to do or provide something against your will.
Advice for obnoxious calls: Inform the telecom provider in writing as well as the PTA. Use a call blocking service that’s available from all telecos for a certain fee.
Rationale: PTA and the Telecos, if convinced that this is a deliberate attempt at harassment, will warn that person and if they persist will block that number.
Do not engage the caller by talking to them and/or abusing them as tempting as that may be.
Rationale: If they hear agitation in your voice they know they are succeeding and tend to increase the number and frequency of calls. Their purpose could simply be ‘fun’, warped as it may seem to the rest of us.
Advice for threatening calls: Immediately inform the authorities, PTA and the teleco, and do not take any threat lightly. The authorities have protocols on handling such cases and it would be advisable to contact them.
Scenario: I need to place an advertisement for the sale of some property, object or vehicle. What personal details should I share?
Always be wary of putting your regular contact details.
Get a temporary phone number that can easily be discarded after the deal’s made. Provide a fixed time when the number will be answered and switch it off at other times. If selling a vehicle, do not mention the registration number. If selling or renting a home, only list the general area or complex name. If selling home equipment, avoid listing your address even if posting on social media.
Rationale: Criminals are always on the hunt for their next victim and providing all your details is like giving them a map and a key.
The next time you are faced with any of the scenarios described above, always aim to extract yourself from that situation; confrontation must be a last resort.