Regardless of whether you're a man or a woman, if you think you're being followed, one way to avoid a physical confrontation is to use a cleaning run. It's a counter-surveillance term that describes the process of cleaning your path of escape. A more common phrase is 'Shaking a Tail.'
These days that 'tail' may well be a teenage gang who have decided to follow you... waiting for the opportunity to rob or violently attack you.
Some time ago I presented a series of Personal Protection Workshops that involved a range of avoidance tactics... one of which was learning how to do a cleaning run in various situations.
After going through the basic techniques we drove to a local shopping centre and broke up into small groups... some of whom had to be predators, and some had to be potential victims. The experience of being both predator and prey is a real confidence builder.
You could actually practice one or two of the basic techniques any time you visit a shopping centre. Or if you're a parent, you could turn the experience into a game and teach your children how to check to see if someone is following them, and how to escape (disappear).
I would also add encouraging your children to seek help from shop assistants or security personnel who they feel comfortable about approaching.
Finally, each time you visit a shopping centre with your family it's always a good idea to nominate a safe place to meet (re-group) if you or any of your children are ever seperated.
The basic skill of a cleaning run is casual observation, and it works like this :
If you think you're being followed, you can apply a series of discreet observation techniques to get a good look at who they are, and how many... then quickly lose them, and escape the location.
Some of the casual observation techniques include :
- as you go up-or-down an escalator, casually turn to look around
- use the reflection in a window to casually look around *(use a 45 degree angle)
- walk into a shop, browse through the stock, and casually look out the door or window.
What you're looking for are people who continuously pop up in the same places that you do. In this kind of situation '3' is the magic number. If you notice something once, it could mean nothing. If you notice it twice, it could just be a coincidence. But if you notice it 3 times, then it's time to take evasive action and disappear.
If you do spot someone a few times, don't stare directly at them. Instead, look at them out of the corner of your eye, or through your sunglasses. This will hide which direction you're actually looking.
Staring directly at them might feel like the right thing to do... to highlight the fact that you know that they're following you... but that might cause them to simply drop back and hide amongst the crowds of shoppers, or to change their approach completely. It's better to have them stay as visible to you as possible. So always try to be discreet.
Also, it will help you get a good look at them, which will help if you report the incident to the Police or Security personnel in the shopping centre.
Keep in mind that losing a 'tail' can be as simple as going into a department store and looking through racks of clothes that are near an exit.
Then the moment you step out of sight (behind a post or a clothes rack), you drop down low and quickly make your way toward the nearest exit.
Once you're away from whoever was following you, your cleaning run has done its job - a potentially dangerous confrontation has been avoided - and you can safely head home.
It's Primal Protection.