Crime Trends

Latin American Drug Cartels

Latin American Drug Cartels 360 121 Greg Ellifritz

An in-depth analysis of the history and structure of Latin American drug cartels.  This is important for American cops and anyone interested in drug use in the USA.  The Mexican Cartels supply the vast majority of heroin and a significant amount of marijuana used in the states.


The Story of Drug Trafficking in Latin America

Kidnapping Risks by Country

Kidnapping Risks by Country 620 350 Greg Ellifritz

A listing of the places where travelers are most likely to be kidnapped and the techniques used in each of those countries.  I don’t know what it says about my travel habits, but I’ve visited five of the eight countries he profiled (some multiple times) and never had any issues.



The Places You’re Most Likely to Get Kidnapped

Door Wedges

Door Wedges 300 296 Greg Ellifritz

Grant’s advice about travel safety is spot on.  I carry a rubber door stop like this often when I travel.  It’s cheap insurance for about $5.00.  If you want an even better one, check out the “Wedge-It.”  It works for extra security (like your bedroom door) at home as well.


Staying safe while traveling, Part 5: some more tools to help you stay safe on the road!

Defeating Zip Ties

Defeating Zip Ties 900 713 Greg Ellifritz

An informative infographic about escaping zip tie restraints.  This is useful, but the best advice I can provide is to AVOID BEING RESTRAINED!  I don’t care if there are five guys with rifles pointed at my head, it’s time to fight.  Nothing good can happen after the restraints are applied.


3 Ways to Escape Zip Ties: An Illustrated Guide


Al Shabaab

Al Shabaab 884 663 Greg Ellifritz

I find it useful if travelers have at least passing familiarity with the terrorist groups operating across the world.  Learn something new.  Read this very comprehensive article about the fastest growing Islamist terrorist group in the world.



First They Attacked A Mall, Then They Repelled SEAL Team Six: The Rise of Al Qaeda 2.0

“Commitment Bias”

“Commitment Bias” 259 194 Greg Ellifritz


Learn about the “law of reciprocity” and “commitment bias”. These tools are not limited to comedians. They are techniques that criminals and con artists will use as well. Being able to recognize when you are being manipulated is a critical skill to possess.


Louis CK and the Hare Krishnas Used This ONE Trick for Success

Tips to Avoid Being Kidnapped

Tips to Avoid Being Kidnapped 800 1200 Greg Ellifritz

I probably get more questions about kidnapping than almost any other travel related topic.


Did you know that the American government won’t publicly reveal how many Americans are being held hostage overseas?  The government won’t release he numbers out of “privacy concerns” and fear that the knowledge of the true number of Americans being held hostage might increase the risk for other citizens who travel overseas.  If hostage takers recognize that there are benefits, financial or otherwise, to taking hostages, more Americans will become prisoners of rebel groups and foreign regimes around the world.  The government wants to keep information about covert negotiations and ransom payments quiet, to avoid encouraging more hostage taking worldwide.


With that said, most estimates place the number of American hostages being held long term in foreign countries to be somewhere between five and twenty at any given time.  Some sources estimate that approximately 25 American business travelers are kidnapped worldwide every year.  Neither is really a large number.


Almost all long term hostages are either journalists or members of the armed forces.  Most are being held in war zones where there is little tourism.  The recreational traveler’s risk of being held as a long-term hostage is extremely small.  As is true with many subjects, what people worry about tends not to be the most likely risk.  Rest assured that you are not likely become a political prisoner if you travel to South America, Africa, or Southeast Asia.


Low risk does not mean “no risk.”  You should probably know some things about kidnapping and how to respond to a kidnapping attempt should you travel overseas.  The article below provides some sound guidance.


How to Avoid and Survive a Kidnapping

Lessons Learned from the Nairobi Mall Attack

Lessons Learned from the Nairobi Mall Attack 640 360 Greg Ellifritz

I think it’s instructive to look at past terrorist attacks to gain some insights about what we might experience in a worst case scenario.  One of my favorite incidents for study is the Westgate Mall attack in Nairobi, Kenya.  It hits close to home because I actually visited that mall when I was in Kenya back in 2008.


CNN  gathered CCTV surveillance video showing the tactics used by the terrorists in the Westgate Mall attack in Nairobi, Kenya.  The video is short and very instructive.  Watch it below…



I’ve discussed several of the lessons learned from the attack HERE.  This video brings up several more….


1) Long Guns.  All the attackers in this event were armed with AK style rifles.  You will be dramatically outmatched by them if you are carrying a pocket pistol.  Their choice of weapons also brings up the issue of using cover.  Quite simply, there aren’t many things you can hide behind that will reliably stop a 7.62x39mm round.  Traditional advice about “taking cover” is almost useless in this environment considering the terrorists’ weapon choice.


2) Running.  How many people do you see running in the video?  Hundreds.  Are you physically fit enough to escape?   If not, you will be one of the folks shot down if you are stuck in the next hostage siege.  This article may help you get back on track.  Another point is to wear suitable shoes in public.  Flip flops and running over broken glass make for a slow escape.


3) Hiding vs. Escaping.  I get in passionate arguments on this topic with people who teach active shooter tactics.  Many folks advocate “locking down” or hiding as the first choice in such an event.  I don’t.  While those tactics work well if there will be a rapidly responding police entry, in some cases (like this) police intervention will take days.  The people who “locked down” were found, tortured, and killed.  The people who hid were shot.  Watch the video around the :56 second mark for proof.  If you hear gunshots in a public area GET OUT!


4) Playing dead.  Similar to the response of hiding that I wrote about above, playing dead should be a last resort response.  Take a look at what happened to the person playing dead in the mall at the 1:46 mark.  The same thing happened to students playing dead at both Columbine and Virginia Tech.


5) Team Tactics.  In most of the footage, the terrorists operated in teams of two.  Their tactics were far from state of the art, but they were effective.  Have you ever trained to defeat attackers working as a team?  Program yourself now to immediately start scanning for multiple attackers in situations like this.  Be careful who you attack.  Your “victim” may have friends nearby.


6) Surveillance video.  If your long term survival plan is to hide, lock down, or “shelter in place”, have you considered the effect of video cameras?  Undoubtedly, the terrorists took control of the video feeds.   Watch the video around the 2:30 mark to see the terrorists attempting to identify where the cameras were positioned.  You may have been able to hide from a single gunman, but can you hide from the cameras?  Have you thought about how you could disable any cameras near your hiding place?


Remember folks, this video was just from the first day.  The torture and mutilation had not yet begun.  I doubt the rest of the video footage will ever be released, but it is likely to be even more brutal.  Come up with a plan now so that you don’t end up tortured and killed when the attacks  start happening here.



Airline Boarding Passes

Airline Boarding Passes 580 250 Greg Ellifritz

As more and more people are using cell phone apps to display boarding passes, this problem may eventually become non-existent.  If, however, you still use printed boarding passes, you should probably shred, burn, or otherwise destroy them.  Do not leave them laying around your airplane seat of casually toss them in the trash can at your destination gate.

According to the article linked below, there is a massive amount of personal information available on your boarding passes.


What’s in a Boarding Pass Barcode? A Lot


““Besides his name, frequent flyer number and other [personally identifiable information], I was able to get his record locator (a.k.a. “record key” for the Lufthansa flight he was taking that day,” Cory said. “I then proceeded to Lufthansa’s website and using his last name (which was encoded in the barcode) and the record locator was able to get access to his entire account. Not only could I see this one flight, but I could see ANY future flights that were booked to his frequent flyer number from the Star Alliance.”

The access granted by Lufthansa’s site also included his friend’s phone number, and the name of the person who booked the flight. More worrisome, Cory now had the ability to view all future flights tied to that frequent flyer account, change seats for the ticketed passengers, and even cancel any future flights.

The information contained in the boarding pass could make it easier for an attacker to reset the PIN number used to secure his friend’s Star Alliance frequent flyer account. For example, that information gets you past the early process of resetting a Star Alliance account PIN at United Airline’s “forgot PIN” Web site.”


Be careful out there.


Pillars of Awareness

Pillars of Awareness 2658 675 Greg Ellifritz

Correctly judging the mood of the crowd is more difficult in foreign cultures.  There are, however, a few social constants upon which you can rely almost everywhere in the world.


The best resource for learning these constants and social “rules” is the book Left of Bang.  The authors of that book successfully taught the material to US soldiers and Marines stationed in hot zones all around the world.


If you don’t want to read the book, I would suggest the summary article linked below.


Applying the Pillars to Your Everyday Life


The article discusses individual behavioral analysis by focusing on “clusters” of characteristics that allow you to determine if a person is comfortable/uncomfortable and dominant/submissive.  Those factors will help you evaluate the target’s intention and attitude towards you.


It’s well worth your time to read.