Surviving Economic Crimes: Part with Your Possessions, Not with Your Life
By TorchStone Senior Analyst, Ben West
One of our standing pieces of advice for dealing with economic crime is to part with your possessions and keep your life.
Law enforcement agencies and police departments around the world nearly unanimously advise that when a criminal uses threats of violence demanding personal property, victims’ best response is to hand over the requested possessions and avoid violence.
The intent of this week’s edition of The Watch is to explain the rationale behind that advice and demonstrate how badly things can go wrong when a victim resists an armed thief.
And as always, some common-sense preventative measures can help potential victims avoid dangerous situations in the first place.
Victims who try to resist armed thieves risk their own life and the lives of others around them.
A 2015 National Institute of Health study concluded that “Employee resistance against a perpetrator during a robbery increased customer injury risk” and encouraged businesses to train employees to not resist during robberies—for the benefit of the employees, customers, and the business.
Similarly, a 1982 study found that people who resisted robberies were twice as likely to require medical attention compared to those who did not resist; and a 1984 study found that the 7% of victims who did resist robbery made up 51% of the robbery related deaths in the study sample.
While it may sound unappealing, parting with cash or material possessions is preferable to causing harm to yourself and those around you.
The list below highlights just a few incidents so far this year that demonstrates how badly things can go when resisting armed robberies, both in the United States and abroad.
While most instances involve private individuals, several examples include employees and businesses.
- Feb 19, 2023: New Zealand tourist shot and killed resisting armed robbery in Manila, Philippines.
- March 6, 2023: Venezuelan national shot and killed in Buenos Aires, Argentina when he resisted an armed assailant trying to take his cell phone.
- April 10, 2023: Assailants shot and killed a business traveler from Monterrey after he refused to hand over his Rolex watch at a Starbucks in Tulum, Mexico. He was traveling with a bodyguard, who also sustained injuries.
- April 20, 2023: Fuel station clerk shot and killed while resisting robbery in Columbus, OH.
- June 11, 2023: Liquor store clerk died after engaging in shoot-out resisting an armed robbery near Fresno, CA.
- June 11, 2023: Man critically injured after he tried to stop carjacking by jumping onto the hood of his moving vehicle in San Diego, CA.
- June 26, 2023: Canadian national shot and killed while resisting an armed robbery in Karachi, Pakistan while shopping with his children.
- June 29, 2023: Man shot and killed after resisting two armed robbers who ambushed him and his girlfriend in a natural area that was closed for the night in San Antonio, TX.
- July 10, 2023: An accountant carrying cash for work suffered two gunshot wounds after resisting an armed robbery by several men in New Delhi, India.
It is important to be able to distinguish economically motivated crimes from ideologically or sexually motivated crimes.
Economically motivated criminals generally want whatever cash or valuable possessions they can get their hands on and leave without complicating the encounter with the use of violence.
In rarer cases, criminals are motivated by inflicting harm upon their victims.
Victims of a rapist or a terrorist, for example, might be better off attempting to fight off their assailant since the outcome is likely to involve physical injury or even death.
If a victim cannot avoid a criminal or finds themselves caught by surprise, they should run a quick OODA exercise to help them decide whether to resist or comply with the criminal’s demands to help them decide whether to resist or comply with the criminal’s demands.
Possessions Are Not Worth Your Life
However, most criminal encounters are economically motivated, and the perpetrator will most likely leave the victim alone once he has the cash or valuables he is looking for.
As seen in the examples above, cash, phones, jewelry, and cars are generally the primary objects targeted for theft.
Resisting such criminal encounters risks escalating the encounter to violence.
Most perpetrators of robbery have no intent to injure or kill their victims and simply want a quick payday.
However, most criminals are also not professional—they may be on drugs, or anxious about getting caught and they obviously have impaired judgment if they are engaging in violent crime in the first place.
They may have a weapon but that doesn’t mean that they are well-trained in handling it.
Amateur criminals are, in a way, more dangerous than professionals because they are less predictable and more prone to overreaction—which can lead to escalation, injury, and even death for their victim.
Training can certainly improve a potential victim’s chances of resisting arrest, but we believe training should focus on avoiding confrontation in the first place rather than responding to a dangerous situation.
The 1993 study on resisting robbery cited above also found that armed resistance against aggressors was generally more effective.
However, an important caveat to armed resistance is that it requires substantial training—not only in handling your weapon confidently but managing confrontation and situational awareness.
No Contact Is Best
Given the risks associated with escalation and the real possibility of injury or death in an exchange of gunfire, we recommend that potential victims of economic crimes focus their training on avoiding dangerous situations in the first place.
Understanding how criminals identify targets, conduct surveillance, and carry out robberies can help potential victims recognize when they are in dangerous situations and get out of them before they are under physical threat.
Other common-sense precautions include avoiding conspicuous displays of wealth in public—especially not in areas associated with criminal activity.
That might mean leaving expensive jewelry and cars at home in some cases—especially not in areas associated with criminal activity.
That might mean leaving expensive jewelry and cars at home in some cases.
But should you miss the warning signs and end up the victim of a robbery, police and law enforcement officials from across the country nearly unanimously advise victims of property crimes to avoid resisting their assailant.
Give the assailant personal possessions that they request and then seek safety immediately—police stations, fire stations, or even a well-lit populated area.
Report the crime to law enforcement rather than try to resolve it yourself.
Instead of resisting the assailant, take mental notes about their appearance/demeanor to include in your report.
Note their approximate height and weight, the type of weapon they used, their clothing, and any other helpful descriptions.
If they flee in the car, note the tag numbers/type of car and the direction it left.
Rather than trying to use force to stop a robbery in progress, victims are much better off parting with their property and preserving their health.
Phones and jewelry can be replaced, and credit cards canceled.
While property crimes certainly feel like a gross violation of personal safety, resisting them increases the likelihood of serious injury.