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Recognizing Pre-Attack Indicators

Chicago street photography - The Magnificent Mile by Kevin Dooley via creative commons.
Chicago street photography – The Magnificent Mile by Kevin Dooley via creative commons.

In order to avoid potentially dangerous people you need to know what to look for. What types of behaviors should you be looking for when walking down the street?

This edited list of Pre-Attack Indicators comes courtesy of: Protective Concepts.

Suspicious Signs — Recognizing Pre-Attack Indicators

Signaling between people – in particular people who otherwise appear disconnected.  This signaling may be as subtle as a nod or gesture but often marks the “target verification stage”.  Target verification is the point where the assailants determine you are the correct target in a pre-planned attack, kidnapping, or that you are a suitable target for a more opportunistic crime.

Correlation of movement – as with surveillance detection, persons that appear to be moving when you move, perhaps in parallel to you or perpendicular to cross your path.

Movement to interrupt your path – building on the bullet above, persons move toward you so that they will interrupt your path of movement.  This is often done on a diagonal such as someone crossing the street in a diagonal path towards you.

Focusing on you intently or inappropriately  – people (and in particular people who previously appeared to be disconnected) suddenly focusing on you intently or appearing to take an interest in you in a way that’s inappropriate given the circumstances.

Concealing hands/awkward movement – when hands are concealed in pockets or under clothing they may be concealing a weapon.  Also an arm held tight against one side of the body may be to secure a firearm in the waistband.  Likewise an awkward or unnatural gait may indicate a concealed weapon under clothing.

Pressing forearm against side – in line with the bullet above this may be a covert check to ensure that weapon, most likely a firearm, is in place

Nervous glances/looking over their shoulder – this is often a last minute check by assailants to ensure exit routes are clear and that no third parties such as police are in the area and may interfere.  This type of movement often immediately precedes an attack.

You won’t notice these pre-attack indicators if you aren’t paying attention to what is going on around you. Looking down at your phone while texting, or having headphones on or earbuds in distract you.

Keep your head up and your eyes and ears open.

You can sign up for Act in Self Defense classes at: If you are interested in a Personal Safety/Self-Defense Class for you, your high school, college, business, or organization contact me at

Ed Kress
For over 40 years Ed Kress has been an instructor and student at the Degerberg Academy of Martial Arts, named "Best Overall Martial Arts School” worldwide by Black Belt Magazine. Master Fred Degerberg awarded Ed his 7th degree Black Belt in 2015. Growing up on Chicago’s Southside, Ed learned early in life to pay attention to his surroundings in order to avoid potentially dangerous people and situations. With the help of local law enforcement officers and directors of campus security, Ed developed a program focused on personal safety on the streets, and as it relates to the high school and college experience. Ed has trained thousands of adult men and women as well as high school and college students to improve their personal and situational awareness and, when necessary, how to physically defend themselves using their brains and a wide variety of martial arts techniques.

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