“…you must learn from the mistakes of others—you will never live long enough to make them all yourself.“ – Harry Myers and Mason M. Roberts, from the book Human Engineering, published, 1932

A primary skill of the Instructor/Consultants is the ability to think like a criminal. We assess data points and apply them to the tactics and decisions attackers might employ.

At recent Fortress Staff meeting we brainstormed on the effects high gas and grocery prices may have on criminal behavior.

Our assessments included multiple interesting methods of theft we might start seeing, but the over-all continuity of thought fell back on the constant we’ve seen since people started driving cars – that is: the most common places where people in the US are attacked are parking lots and driveways.

As supply chain issues, fuel prices, and food costs all increase this summer, we’ll no doubt see an accompanying increase in crime – and the majority of those crimes committed (involving individuals) will occur in parking lots and driveways.

However, our prediction is that we will not only see the standard strong-arm robberies of purses and wallets, but we will see an increase in theft of goods immediately after purchase.

I was informed (anecdotally) of a theft at a small-town gas station where the victim was in the middle of fueling their car when they were approached by a man carrying a gas can – He then produced a pistol and demanded the person fill the can. [Yes, I can hear all the comments, now, about muzzle flash and gasoline – no need to email me about it.] The thief wasn’t interested in his prey’s wallet or car keys – he was focused on 5 gallons of gas.

I expect we will soon start hearing of thieves working alone, or in pairs, staking out grocery store parking lots in wait for customers pushing full carts. The robberies will be of the food, not other possessions.

The first attempts by these criminals will amount to knocking the unaware out of the way and running off with their cart.

The question posed by a student I shared this with, yesterday, was: I can’t shoot someone for trying to steal my cart full of groceries?

My response per usual, was: I don’t know, you haven’t given me enough information.

But, our stock answer to the “when may I use lethal force” questions is: When there is an immediate and otherwise unavoidable fear/threat of grave bodily injury or death to the innocent.

Someone running away with your groceries does not meet the criteria of a lethal force situation. Someone pointing a gun at you and demanding your cart full of groceries probably does. The issue then becomes: Can I, should I, will I, fight over it?

One way to look at it is that the person pointing a gun at you is threatening lethal force if you don’t comply with their demands. In other words, they are stating that they are perfectly willing to MURDER YOU! Ask yourself this, have they ever lied to you before? If you think you should comply because all they want is the groceries, that’s certainly a viable choice. But, we ignore their actual murderous intent at our own peril.

And to be perfectly honest, whether we act, or not, we’re risking the same peril either way. There are no guarantees that anything we do, including nothing, will result in our remaining unharmed.

However, as that cart of groceries continues to rise in cost and household budgets tighten, the owner’s instincts to fight for it will increase. When the food just purchased represents a week’s pay and the only food that family will have for that week unless a mortgage payment is missed, I have to think we’ll start seeing violence like initial collapse Venezuela experienced.

Now is the time to start running such scenarios through our brains and improving our practices for moving in and out of vehicles. The transitional space of pavement to car is where we are most vulnerable due to what is known as task fixation. Our attention is on fiddling with keys, strapping kids in car seats, checking our phones, adjusting seats, etc… Our eyes are not engaged with the surroundings.

We’re distracted!

This is what violent criminal actors use to their advantage.


-Our heads need to be up as much as possible, especially when loading bags and kids into the vehicle! We have to train ourselves to break our heads loose and look around every few seconds.

-Put the phone away!

-Carry pepper/OC spray at all times. Have it at the ready (in hand) before you exit a vehicle or a structure.

-Keep your head up! Scan the area while moving. We don’t concern ourselves with the normal and mundane – we’re looking for what is OUT Of PLACE.

-When we see a potential attacker begin to approach, we press play on our “Sorry, sir – I can’t help you” tape loop. They need to understand that we see them, and we’re on to them, immediately. This gives them time to take pause, break off, and go find someone else to victimize.

-Be armed! Your method of carry should allow for immediate access and a fast, one-handed draw.

-Proper footwear at all times. Get the flip flops and open toe shoes out of your life.

-Discuss with spouses, children, and those in your care, what their job is when trouble visits you in public.

In the coming months, parking lots and driveways will assume an even higher risk. We must re-commit to situational awareness, as the best way to win the fight is to not get in one at all!

“It does not do to leave a live dragon out of your calculations, if you live near one.” – J.R.R. Tolkien.