Ruses – Diversions & Distractions

Merriam-Webster partially defines a diversion as – the act or instance of drawing the attention… Merriam-Webster defines distract as – to draw (the sight, mind, or attention) to a different object or compellingly and confusingly attract in divergent directions at once. In this post I’m going to touch on a few different kinds of diversions and distraction devices used by both good guys and bad guys.

As a young police officer in the early 1990’s I was introduced to a technique called the break and rake. What that looked like was me and another officer standing on the back side of a public housing unit with an aluminum baseball bat. The Emergency Response Team (ERT) was stacking up, on the front side of the public housing unit. When advised via the radio our job was to smash a rear residence window followed up by running the baseball bat violently along the four sides of the window frame. All those smaller jagged edges of glass that remained along that window frame made a loud, unnerving, and alarming noise at the rear of the residence. The ‘rake,’ greatly extended the alarm, as it were. Any folks inside would have their full attention focused on whatever problem was unfolding at that back window. As that drama was holding sway the Emergency Response Team used that distraction as an opportunity to breach, enter, and clear by means of the front door. Sometimes an Emergency Response Team chooses to deploy a flash bang which according to Merriam-Webster is – an explosive device that produces a blinding flash of light and a sudden, loud noise intended to temporarily stun, distract, and disperse people. A flash bang is designed to draw one’s attention in a compellingly and confusing way distract and even potentially disorient a person. Think of it like inserting some controlled chaos in order to achieve and maintain order. Causing high levels of stress to physiologically speed up time for the suspected criminal(s) inside the residence so that afterwards he thinks and says something we’ve heard accident and crime victims frequently say: It happened so fast I didn’t have time to do anything. That’s a good goal.

On the other side of the justice fence, unjust ambush predators use a variety of diversions and distractions. Sometimes criminals work in pairs or small groups to distract and then overwhelm an innocent victim. It may be something as simple as having one of the criminals do something odd or do something to cause some anxiety or fear to draw your attention which creates an opportunity for another criminal to approach you from behind (ambush position), and pick your pocket or smack you upside your big dumb head with his pistol then dominate you. Making you do or give him whatever it is he desires. Sometimes ambush predators working together combine other ruses. For instance having a female ask you for the time while her cohort male friend approaches you from your rear (ambush position) – and surprise, speed, and violence of action!

Lone unjust criminal aggressor’s may use some odd type of body language designed to draw your attention to figuring out what the heck you’re seeing. What am I seeing? In hopes of providing concealment for their slight of hand. Their hand slips into their waistline, pocket, or any other concealed area to retrieve their weapon.

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Where there is one, there are two (sometimes more):

I’ll share a personal story that is a little humbling. It’s been my experience that we have the greatest opportunity to learn far more from our mistakes, from our humiliations, than ten times the number of our successful ‘war’ stories.

When my eldest son was still a little guy, probably five or younger I took him with me to pick up a pizza. It was a cold, dark, evening likely in the fall. The little foyer for pizza pick-up was really small, guessing 20 by 15 feet. During that time of the year at our police department the Armed Robbery Suppression Program was initiated. Twas the season. It was the time of year we’d see an uptick in commercial armed robberies. But what are the odds of that happening to me? So I’m standing off to the side with my son, waiting for my pizza. In walks a white male who begins asking some odd questions about getting some kind of a check cashed. The employee’s tell him no way will that happen. I start getting that feeling, that hunch, that this may be about to spin up into a robbery, and a shooting. I’m off duty carrying a pistol in the 5-6 O’ clock position (backside). My hand creeps back behind me while still trying to look casual (probably failing). Being a young police officer I had not yet learned how and more importantly why I liked my firearm in the 1-2 O’ clock positions. Oh yeah, and because it was the early 1990’s I think it was a snub nose .38, making things a little more awkward. So this odd guy turns and looks directly at me looking me, sizing me up. Like he’s thinking about what comes next. I’m annoyed at myself for having brought my son, and afraid this is going to spin up into a shooting and I don’t want my son anywhere near this small room and these current circumstances. This incident changed how I did things in the future. If I had to up some carryout during armed robbery suppression season – from that point forward I did it alone. Back to this sketchy guy; he turns and walks outside and stops right in front of the door. I’m watching him. Within a second or two, a second white male that I’d never seen steps into the light from around the corner of the building.

  • Was he a look out?
  • Was he waiting for the first guy’s assessment?
  • We’re they still going to rob this business?
  • Had I missed an opportunity to see this second guy with all my attention on the first guy?
  • Why was this second guy staying just out of sight?

What if I’d had to shoot the first guy and spent all five revolver rounds on him? Would I have even known to look towards the front door for a second guy? No, I would not have known before experiencing that.

Far more questions than answers. They have a short friendly conversation. They throw a look back inside towards me and then, they both walk off together. I think I still had my strong side hand behind my back trying to look casual (probably still failing). I’m absolutely relieved that this didn’t spin up into a shooting. At that time our police department had a specific set of dates for the start and end of the Armed Robbery Suppression Program. Later the initiation and conclusion dates were left up to the discretion of bosses based upon what was happening in our community. In general that season – that program – was initiated sometime in October and ran through and into the beginning of the next year. So as a civilian pay closer attention to things like the police beat section of your local newspaper or local television news reporting. When you observe an uptick in commercial armed robberies, begin counter measures. What might those look like? These are common sense suggestions:

  • Transition to delivery October, November, and December
  • If you have to pick up carry out don’t bring along children
  • Spend less time on the “X” – meaning don’t stand around inside go in when you expect it will be ready even if it means arriving a little later to ensure it’s ready to pay, grab, and go
  • Pick up your carry out before the sun sets
  • Patronize businesses with a pick up window
  • Avoid patronizing food places in high crime areas
  • Patronize businesses in smaller towns with lower crime rates for a few months

Think about these things.