What to do in a robbery...

The Ottawa Police Blotter is a great place to keep an eye on the development of crime in our fair city. This November 15 entry indicates that the OPS have charged a suspect in connection with four local robberies: http://bit.ly/2eFj8n8 .

In a recent blog, I suggested that most people will never get into a “wrong time, wrong place” scenario where “random” violence befalls them. The notable exception to this is a bank or retail robbery situation.

It got me thinking that the public should know what constitutes an appropriate self defence response in such a situation. Self defence is a mindset and lifestyle, not just a set of physical skills to be used against violence. It includes understanding and assessing the risks you face and responding to them in a way that ensures your continued safety and wellbeing.

Here’s what you need to know about responding to a robbery (Take note that I say respond, not react. There’s a significant difference!). Note that this is high-level. All of the “how, what and why” is handled in depth in the Urban Combat Systems class which I run.

They’re Only After Your Stuff

Money, smartphones, jewelry, cars and even precious items destined for a safe deposit box are still just things. They are likely replaceable. Even if they are irreplaceable, they are nowhere near as irreplaceable as human life – yours. Though the material loss will sting, it pales in comparison to spending weeks in a hospital bed with severe or life threatening injuries, or worse. Give the bandits your stuff. Do it quietly, intone calmly “no problem, I’m getting it for you right now,” and remain calm. Harm will not likely come to you if you comply.

If, however, a bandit takes an interest in your person, either as a hostage or for an assaultive purpose, you will have to act. This blog is too simple to address this – you’ll need to come to my class for that.

Don’t Be a Hero

Thieves and robbers have a reason to do what they’re doing, and that motivation can make people very dangerous. Interrupting the plan could have dire consequences for you. I’ll draw three broad categories for you:

Desperate: Broke, hungry, possibly fixing for drugs, these people feel like they have nothing to lose. This is probably not the first criminal act they’ve perpetrated, nor are they strangers to the system. It’s a dangerous gamble to antagonize someone, particularly someone at the end of his rope, and doubly so if he’s armed.

Criminal: Whether a member of a gang, a professional knock-off artist, or a serial offender, criminals not only have no respect for established social mores and norms, they’re intent on achieving their objective. This is their job and their lifestyle. On one hand, pros and serial offenders may be highly efficient and use only violence as a last resort. Gangbangers have something to prove and may be prone to irrational use of violence for intimidation. Guns and knives are a factor.

Mercenary: Some people do it for the money, period. They’re no less dangerous and will either be smart enough to keep a low profile and systematically hit jobs over time, spreading their risk out, or they will big-bang it and do 4-5 jobs in 2 months. Neither class of criminal has any interest in being apprehended, and if you get in the way of an escape and fail, you will pay for it.

If there is no direct, personal threat to your safety, don’t intervene to stop the robbery attempt.

Stay Alert, Stay Calm

The biggest service you can do yourself, the other customers and the bank, is to be the voice of reason and to remain totally alert. Manage your voice when interacting with the robber and the others. Encourage calm, tell everyone that it will be alright, actively agree to accommodate material demands and assure the robbers that if they just take your stuff and move on, everyone will make it easy for them.

While you’re doing this, look, listen, intuit and feel. Make full use of your senses:

  • How many perpetrators?
  • What are they wearing?
  • How tall, how heavy, body types – tall with long legs or a long torso, short with thick waist, etc.?
  • Visible eye and hair colour (and length), tattoos, markings, jewelry?
  • Gender and voice characteristics?
  • Language – intelligent and eloquent, rushed and rough? Estimate social upbringing.
  • Age?
  • Weapons involved? What kind, how many, how big, where were they carried or concealed?
  • Set up – is there a door watch, a floor watch, an active robber, a vault guy? Are there just three grunts with shotguns screaming? Are they pros or hammerheads?
  • Gloves and face coverings? GLOVES? This is important! No gloves means someone somewhere left a piece of himself on a door handle or countertop…
  • Command structure of the group – who’s in charge?

If you can maintain calm and keep others calm, this can end quickly. Alertness and observational astuteness make you an asset to the police, who will want detailed witness statements.

Your mission in a robbery situation, in this order, is:

  • Keep yourself safe and return to your family unharmed;
  • Facilitate and maintain overall calm;
  • Contribute to the safety of others;
  • Assist the police completely.

If nobody gets hurt and the police are appreciative, then in a case like this, you have successfully defended yourself.

If you want to know more, and work this type of assault in-situ, join Urban Combat Systems:


CollabSpace – Back Entrance

70 Bongard Ave.

Tuesday: 7:00-8:15 PM

Sunday: Noon-1:15 PM


As always, your questions are welcome anytime: info@ronintraining.ca | 613.627.3018

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