USCCA on how muggers pick their targets

USA-Reiseblogger / Pixabay

The best tool anyone can have is knowledge. While firearms can be vital, knowing enough to avoid needing them is generally better. After all, no one gets prosecuted for avoiding the need for a self-defense shooting. While I won’t cry over a dead mugger, I’d still hate it for anyone who gets prosecuted because the DA things they could have slithered through the three-inch opening in a locked gate behind them.


Over at USCCA, they seem to think the same way.

Earlier this week, they kicked off a series looking at what muggers look for when selecting a target.

The survey itself was a simple, one-page affair, with questions on the front and instructions and a space for inmates to write down their contact information on the back.

Question No. 1 asked, “Which of the following behaviors or attributes would make you more likely to target a victim?” and then lists 23 specific behaviors — ranging from “wearing earbud headphones” to “walking with a cane.”

The four behaviors or attributes marked by more than 50% of respondents seem to indicate an appealing target and the right opportunity:

  • The person is alone.
  • The person is wearing an expensive watch.
  • The person is walking on a dark street.
  • The person is flashing cash.

Three behaviors or attributes that signal being unaware were selected by 30-50% of respondents:

  • The person has his or her attention on a phone screen.
  • The person appears to be a tourist not from here.
  • The person appears to be drunk.

Fully 37% of respondents selected “the person is a man.” This tracked with several write-in answers, including:

  • The person is involved in illegal activity.
  • The person had disrespected me.
  • The person had taken something of value from me or a loved one.

The behaviors least selected by respondents (11% of the time or less) included:

  • The person is elderly.
  • The person is a child.
  • The person has a child with them.
  • The person is walking very quickly.
  • The person makes eye contact with me.
  • The person has a cane.

Some of the more popular write-in answers included:

  • The person is a known drug dealer.
  • The person is known for having money.
  • The person is using an ATM machine.
  • The person looks scared and/or noncombative.

The takeaway tracks with the famous advice of trainer John Farnham: “Don’t do stupid things in stupid places with stupid people.”


Now, this is just the tip of the iceberg, and while this isn’t exactly a conclusive scientific study, it does provide some useful information we should be aware of if we don’t wish to be robbed.

It’s interesting that things like “being elderly” or “having a cane” are rated fairly low, but there are reasons why that might be the case. After all, retired people are on a fixed income. That means they probably don’t have much in the way of money, which may make them less than ideal targets.

And I agree with the author, Farnham’s advice is solid and it now appears to be supported by more evidence.

However, criminal behavior is far from the only criteria.

Being a tourist or staring at your phone are also big indicators. People glued to their phones aren’t aware of their surroundings, making them easier marks, while tourists are more likely to have a large amount of cash. Muggers love that kind of thing.

So, don’t stare at your phone is a good cue to keep in mind.

Further, don’t single “tourist.” Dress like you would at home or, barring that, try to match the locals as best you can.

But there’s more you can do.

Question No. 10 asked, “What is the one thing that makes someone most attractive for a mugging?,” with a blank space left for a write-in answer. Some of the more popular responses that weren’t covered in the write-in section for Question No. 1 included:

  • The person is a “s***-talker” or has a bad attitude.
  • The person has luggage and is waiting for a taxi.
  • The person is cashing in chips at a casino.
  • The person is White/Caucasian.

By far the most popular responses, as in Question No. 1, were “wearing expensive clothing,” “flashing cash or other valuables” and “being alone.”


The attitude thing is a little surprising to me, though none of the rest is.

Wearing expensive clothing or flashing valuables has long been known to be a signal for muggers that screams “rob me!”

You should go and read the whole thing. It’s interesting, to say the least.

Join the conversation as a VIP Member