Web ExclusiveWith fully 12 million violent crimes committed per year, the United States holds the dubious distinction of being the most dangerous country in the developed world. 

An estimated 1 out of 5 Americans are victims of crime, which occur in our homes, communities, school campuses and a host of other public venues.

Consequently, experts have for decades studied the behaviors that make one more or less likely to be victimized. And what I have discovered in my own work in the security field is that those who follow some key safety principles, including the 7 strategies listed below, are less likely to be targeted by criminals.

The foundation of personal safety lies in developing a “sixth sense,” the ability to instinctually perceive possible threats or danger.

Many of us already naturally sense when something feels “off,” but we often dismiss these feelings and even mock them. It’s been said that humans are the only animals who sense danger and walk right into it, such as politely entering an elevator with a person who triggered your fear instinct for some reason. 

There is actually solid scientific evidence that this sixth sense can save your life. An emerging branch of research called “instinct science” is studying the connection between subtle feelings and impending danger. Even the U.S. Navy includes the word “sixth sense” in their combat training briefs, citing that some soldiers use it to feel danger before an enemy attack.

But, while everyone has a sixth sense, it’s like an underdeveloped muscle that needs to be exercised from time to time in order to maximize its ability to keep you safe.

One of the best ways to cultivate this sixth sense ability is to become safety and security minded in a more concerted, proactive way. This includes a constant analysis of your “threatscape”—thesum of every potential threat in your various environments. This means assessing anything and everything in your day to day experiences that could pose a threat.  Is the line of bushes at the back of the parking lot a potential hiding place for criminals? Is the overly-kind gentleman offering to carry your groceries overly persistent and too close within your personal space? Perceiving your threatscape involves relying on your instincts for protection.

Much like Spiderman’s famed “spidey sense,” it is an innate perception of prospective danger that is a very real and effective way to keep yourself safe in any circumstance.

Following these tips will help you become more security-conscious and manifest your sixth sense so you can start seeing your threatscape intuitively, without giving it a second thought:

Utilize mobile safety technology: Program an in-case-of-emergency (ICE) number into your phone and consider using a tracking app with your closest friend or loved one. Most phone models today allow for quick access to your ICE number that you can dial right away. A number of apps, such as Real Time GPS Tracker and GPS Tracking Pro allow your loved ones to always know where you are. Of course, you can enable and disable the tracking capability based on your preferences, but it’s handy in certain situations like when you are traveling about with a new friend no one else knows. Go one step further and take a photograph of the license plate with your smart phone and text it to a friend, family member, or even yourself so there’s a traceable record. 

Make basic home security improvements: Purchasing even a few basic, inexpensive security devices for your home or apartment can go a long way. A door stop (under $6) will prevent your door from being opened from the outside, and window and screen-door locks (under $1 each) will stop your panels from being jimmied or disassembled. If you are renting and/or don’t wish to invest in a house alarm, consider buying a personal, portable alarm for under $25 that will go off when you press it, potentially frightening an intruder. More expensive models with motions sensors are also available.

Project confidence and social connections when interacting with strangers: Criminals primarily prey on people that are meek, have limited social connections, and generally won’t make a fuss. By presenting yourself as someone who won’t be an easy target, you’ll ensure a criminal passes you over in search of an easier victim. Looking strangers directly in the eye, telling people that you have a lot of friends or family in the area, and even hanging photos with friends and family in the house are all things that will decrease your chances of being a victim.

Never tell strangers or acquaintances more than they need to know: Telling the neighbors you are on vacation, your classmates the time you come home after work every day, or letting someone you’ve been dating only a short while know where you live are all common precursors to being a victim of crime. It is shocking how many crimes are committed by people we know and trust with personal information. Your policy should always be trust but verify. Only tell people what they need to know. No more, no less.

Don’t assume things are as they seem:Criminals often rely on deception to catch you unaware. Posing as a deliveryman, contractor, or an unassuming person needing directions or help are all common techniques to get into your personal space. This deception is most likely to take place next to some kind of cover, which commonly includes bushes, trees or vegetation, a car (either the victim’s or the perpetrator’s) or a house or other unoccupied dwelling. If you are approached under any kind of pretext next to cover, your sixth sense should be activated immediately. Especially if you are in a dark area or if there aren’t many people around.

Don’t become distracted: Modern technology often distracts and puts us at risk. While it can be enjoyable to walk down the street or in a parking lot texting, or to jog in an empty area listening to your iPod on full volume, such behaviors undermine our ability to stay alert and greatly increase your risk. Only allow yourself to become distracted if you are sure the area is safe.

Be unpredictable: Criminals often “case“ or scope out their victims prior to striking. Routines such as leaving and returning home at the exact same time each day, jogging at the same time, or regularly leaving your back window open while you cook dinner are all potential vulnerabilities. Consider mixing things up so that your routines can’t be predicted and used against you.

Can we teach people to make the transition from potential victim to a criminal’s worst nightmare?

The answer is a resounding “yes.” 

We must. 

National security begins with you! Each of us play a role in making our community and country safer from threats and criminal activity. For the conceivable future, America will remain a country plagued by crime. Once put into practice, these 7 simple tips will greatly improve your personal safety and help hone your instincts. Soon, your sixth sense will automatically engage in the presence of danger, and identifying and responding to threats will become second nature to you.

As founder, chairman and CEO of Total Protection Services International, Phrantceena Halres leads the nation’s only certified security services company focused exclusively on high threat/close proximity safety and security services for the protection of critical infrastructure assets in the corporate, government, nuclear, energy and personal protection sectors.  She may be reached online at www.total-protections.com.