Personal Safety Tactics: What to Do if You're Being Followed

Tips and strategies that keep you from becoming a victim.

Personal Safety Tactics is a new column that will appear regularly in Patch. You’ll find that one of the themes running through most of these tactics is that you always need to be aware of your surroundings. Considering all the diversions that are part of daily life, that can be more difficult than it sounds. So in addition to considering individual safety tactics, make it a practice to pay as much attention to your surroundings as you do to your cell phone.

One of the definitions of "tactic" is “a method of employing forces in combat.” While the term “tactic” may seem a bit inappropriate when used in connection with personal safety, when criminals are looking for potential victims, they consider methods of employing force. It's only fitting that a tactical approach be used as an approach to personal safety.

The Scenario: You’re on your way home from work, school, dinner, a shopping trip or a night on the town. You pull into your driveway, open the door and BAM, you're suddenly fact-to-face with a thug who is obviously not a member of any "welcome home" committee.

His intention is clearly to rob you or do bodily harm.

The Personal Safety Tactic: Ideally, you checked your vehicle before getting in and started monitoring your surroundings as soon as you started driving. Chances are, however, that you didn't because you didn't feel the need to, and depending on the location, that's a perfectly natural reaction. If you're well-acquainted with a particular area, there's no reason to be suspicious, but there's also no reason to assume that trouble isn't brewing.

That may seem like you're on the road to paranoia, rather than home, and it may well be the case. However, as the old saying goes, "just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't after you!" So your safety tactic is to develop a plan that splits the difference between paranoia and blissful ignorance.

Even if you check things out at the beginning of your trip, pick a "trigger spot" about a half mile to a mile from your destination. It can be a building, traffic signal, sign, tree or any other object along the way. When you see it, start checking your rear view mirror and make note of the vehicles behind you. (That's "vehicles" plural. If someone is following you, he may choose to "hide" by staying a car or two behind.)

As you turn into your subdivision or office park, keep checking, and if the same vehicle is still behind you, drive past your destination. If it's just a coincidence, and the vehicle is not following you, it should turn off at some point. If it doesn't, proceed to a safe location (police station or somewhere with a lot of people around).

Don't pull to the side of the road and use your cell phone to call for help. Once you stop your vehicle, you put yourself at greater risk unless you're in a well-lit location with a lot of people on site.

Nine times out of ten, it will just be a coincidence that a vehicle seemed to be following you. But, it only takes once for a seeming coincidence to become a life-threatening problem.

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