Mexican Street Attacks

Mexican Street Attacks 320 310 Greg Ellifritz

Borderland Beat is reporting a new trend that Mexican criminals are using to rob and kidnap motorists.  Read about it at the link below.


Puebla: Citizen Motorists Warn of Popular Assault Method


The criminals know they can’t do much to you when you are traveling 60mph in an automobile.  They have to make you get out of your car to victimize you.  Don’t play the game.

If someone throws anything on your windshield to obscure your vision, don’t stop.  Even if you have to drive with your head out of the window to navigate, do so.  Drive a few miles away.  Watch for anyone following you.  If you aren’t being followed, stop to clean your windshield in a busy public location.



Learning How Moto-Robbers Operate

Learning How Moto-Robbers Operate 735 446 Greg Ellifritz


Being an avid traveler and having spent some time in Argentina, several of my friends sent me this video of a recent Buenos Aires robbery that was caught on camera, asking if there were prevention lessons that could be learned for people both at home and traveling abroad.


The video is short and worth your time to watch. A Canadian traveler was taking a bicycle tour of Buenos Aires when he was accosted by an armed man riding a motorcycle. The robber was rather inept and didn’t get what he was looking for. The tourist was very lucky, we shouldn’t rely on criminal incompetence to ensure our safety.  Watch the video below:



What can we learn from this?


1) Don’t tempt the criminals. Cycling around with an expensive camera in a third world country is asking to be robbed. Keep anything of value well hidden when out and about in a foreign city. Better yet, leave expensive items in your hotel safe.


In Colombia, the locals have a descriptive term for tourists who do things which make it easy for a criminal to victimize them. Colombians call it “dar papaya.” The term literally means “to give papaya.” In other words, you are so vulnerable it’s like giving the criminal a sweet treat. When traveling in foreign countries, don’t “dar papaya.”


2) No matter if you are at home or abroad, you should be alert for deliberate approaches in public places. Most people purposely chart a path to maximize space between individuals or groups in a crowded public space. When someone walks (or rides) directly toward you in any public location, your alarm bells should be going off. The motorcyclist here saw the victim and immediately plotted an intercept course to block his path. That’s a bad sign. If you see that happening, you should immediately make an aggressive escape. If escape is impossible, you should be accessing a weapon and getting ready to defend yourself.


3) Be especially aware of guys on motorcycles in foreign countries. Robbers commonly use motorcycles to commit their crimes because they can make a quick escape and can’t be easily followed by police on foot or in cars. Motorcycle helmets also hide the robber’s identity and provide protection in case a victim decides to fight back.


Most commonly, robbers operate in teams of two. One will drive the motorcycle and one will perform the robbery. If you see two men on the same motorcycle, be especially cautious. You may be getting set up for a robbery attempt.


4) Robbers all over the world try to avoid attention. Notice how the robber here picked off the victim when he got separated from the rest of his group. He also was very concerned with keeping his gun close to the body or concealed. He didn’t want anyone else to know what’s going on.


Also notice how the robber fled as soon as the other member of the tourist’s bike group got off his bike and approached the two. Anything you do to draw attention to yourself in a criminal attack will likely be beneficial. This guy accidentally benefited by the attention he received. He should have worked harder to make this attention more purposeful.


Screaming the word “thief,” “help,” or “no” will get people looking at you. Calmly saying the word “amigo” won’t. Even if you don’t know any of the foreign language, people worldwide understand the word “No” when screamed in loud English.


5) Dithering can get you killed. The victim’s fate here was completely at the whim of the robber. The victim took absolutely no control of the situation, leaving his well being to the whims of a criminal psychopath. In third world countries where life is even cheaper than it is here, doing that can have fatal consequences.


Make a conscious decision and act. Whether you choose to comply, resist, or flee, any action you take is better than leaving your fate in the hands of a criminal.


6) Knowing some of the local language is tremendously helpful. The robber kept saying “sacate la mochila,” instructing the victim to “take off the backpack.”


The victim clearly didn’t understand and thought the robber wanted his bicycle. Misunderstanding the language could have been seen as resistance by the robber. It’s one thing to decide to resist and to do it. It’s something completely different to be killed because you never learned any of the local language.


Wherever I travel, I try to learn as much of the language as possible. I generally use the audio programs by Pimsleur to quickly gain some proficiency in the language of the country in which I am traveling. Don’t be the clueless, naive, American (or Canadian). Learn some of the local language. It may save your life.



Motor Cycle Helmets are a Danger Cue

Motor Cycle Helmets are a Danger Cue 150 150 Greg Ellifritz

I was reading this article about an assassination that occurred in Peru last year.  The assassin walked into a barbershop and shot his victim in the head three times, killing him.  There was surveillance footage of the incident.  Take a look at the screen capture below.  What do you notice?


Who wears a motorcycle helmet inside a barbershop?


Here is a safety tip for any of you who plan on traveling in Latin America or Southeast Asia…..


Most criminals in these regions use small motorcycles to both to get to the crime scene and to escape. Motorcycles are easy to drive off road and through bottle necked traffic. The thieves escaping on a motorcycle can easily get away from cops pursuing in police cars.


The criminals wear motorcycle helmets both to conceal their identity and to protect their heads from any resistance from the victim or his friends. You need to be especially alert when you see either of these things:


1) Two dudes on the same motorbike, both wearing helmets, and both looking at you. This is how lots of robberies and purse snatchings go down in South America. The driver will drive up right next to you on the sidewalk, stop, and then stay on the bike. The passenger will hop off, jack you, and hop right back on. The driver will zip away and they will be gone before you know what happened.

Major street in Bangkok

Carjackings happen in the same fashion.  The driver of the bike will cut you off in traffic, causing you to stop.  The passenger will run up to you, pull you out of the car at gunpoint and then jump into the driver’s seat.  Both will flee the scene, one riding the bike and the other driving the car he stole from you.  Active Self Protection recently posted a narrated video analysis of this type of car jacking.  The short video demonstrates who the motorcycle carjackers get into position and stop the vehicle.  Fortunately, in this case, the victim turned the tables on the carjackers.


You’ll often see more than one person on a motorbike in third world countries. It’s usually a guy and his girlfriend/wife or a father and his kids.  You’ll rarely see two adult males riding together. Even more rare is two males riding together when both are wearing helmets. Be alert any time you see that.


2) A person wearing a motorcycle helmet while walking around on foot. Look at the photo again. If you rode your bike to the barbershop, would you keep your helmet on after you parked the bike? The answer is “no.” You’d get rid of that hot and heavy helmet as soon as possible.


There are very few legitimate reasons someone would wear a motorcycle helmet when walking around and not on a motorcycle. It’s a huge danger sign if you pay attention.


Criminals will occasionally utilize this tactic in the United States, but it’s far less common than in other countries where there are more motorbikes than cars on the road.  Have you thought about how you might physically fight a person wearing a helmet?  All those “knockout” punches you’ve been practicing won’t work very well.  You’ll have to target the attacker’s groin or use kicks and stomps to blow out his knee or ankle.


The helmet does serve one useful purpose…it’s easy to grab.  Once you grab the helmet with both hands, you will essentially have control over the attacker.  Where the head goes, the body will follow.  A head twist takedown works very easily on a helmeted attacker.  If you can manipulate his body via control over his head; you can also take his back, setting you up for a good choke.  You do know how to choke someone out, right?  If not, it’s a skill you should master.  You aren’t going to punch your way to victory against a guy wearing a helmet.


Pay attention when you see people wearing motorcycle helmets.  Protecting their cranium from impact with the road may not be the primary reason they are wearing the helmet.




How Thieves Operate

How Thieves Operate 875 603 Greg Ellifritz

This is a fairly in-depth article about the way that thieves operate in foreign countries.  It’s well worth the few minutes it takes to read it.  Almost all the thefts I’ve seen in my foreign travels has fit into one of the author’s categories.  Highly recommended.

Top 10 types of travel theft (and how to be safe)