By Sheriff Jim Wilson, Shooting Illustrated
Some years ago, we busted an armed robbery team that specialized in hitting convenience stores. A day or two after the arrests, one of the suspects became willing talk to us about what they looked for in a potential target. We drove him around at night and he critiqued the various stores as to lighting, get-away routes, and other factors that made them look appealing to an armed robber.
One of the stores looked particularly good to me, but it had never been hit. The crook told me that it would be a good location except for the guy that worked the night shift. He said this was the sort of guy who would keep a gun under the counter – I knew that to be a fact, a .45 Colt New Service. When they had cased the store, this clerk looked at them, made eye contact and didn’t act afraid. This crook was so right. Had they tried to rob this particular store, somebody could have gotten hurt.
Most people don’t realize how knowledgeable crooks are about body language. Now, they don’t give it formal study like we would but, trust me, they understand it thoroughly. They can understand when someone looks at them and doesn’t show fear or apprehension. They also know that the person who looks at them and makes eye contact will probably make a good witness for the police, too. Simply put, most crooks are cowards and don’t want to take a chance of getting hurt.
In the past, I have suggested that readers study articles and books, even take some classes, on body language. It truly will help you identify people who are up to no good even before any words are spoken or weapons drawn. But very few people give any thought to the type of body language that they are putting off.
When we walk down a street with our head down, not making eye contact with anyone, we look like easy prey. It is only worse when we have our faces stuck in our cell phones. When we encounter a potentially dangerous situation, do we look like we are preparing to fight or do we look like we are preparing to take flight?
People frequently encounter possible threats when there is yet no reason to draw the defensive firearm. However, there is nothing wrong with getting into an athletic stance, making direct eye contact, and putting a sound of authority in the voice. When you have to speak to a potential threat, do it with short sentences backed by the sound of strong confidence. This is not the time to make lengthy speeches. If you establish an authoritative body language, you are telling the possible threat that it really wouldn’t be a good idea to try anything.
Now I am not suggesting for one minute that you have to, or should, go around trying to look like Wyatt Earp Jr. In fact, you should be pleasant to those around you whenever possible. However, when your senses tell you that trouble might be about to happen – when you go from Yellow to Orange on the Cooper Color Code – you should look and act like you can take care of business. You are specifically not challenging the crook to try something, but your body language is telling him that jumping on you might be a really big mistake.