Private Investigation
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Personal Security.

Don't feel safe in public, in your home, or in your car? You don't need weapons.

You need education.

Personal Security

Instead of allowing fear to limit us, we need to let it teach us how to protect our loved ones.

Can you relate to any of these three scenarios?

Rebecca rides the bus home from work every night, arriving at her stop around 6 p.m. In the summertime, she's home by daylight. But it's always dark during the winter. She carries pepper spray on a key chain and that makes her feel fairly safe. Still, one night a man familiar with her routine attacks her from behind, knocking her keys and the pepper spray to the ground, and stealing her purse.

Caryn lives with her two young children in an apartment she chose carefully. She likes it because her place is on the second floor and the complex has secured parking and regular patrols. One afternoon, a man in a delivery uniform knocks on her door. Caryn wasn't expecting a package but, hoping for a surprise gift, she lets the man inside her door while she signs for it.

Tina is alone when she works the night shift at a small coffee shop. After closing up, a stranger taps on the door. She points to the shop hours posted on the door and finishes cleaning. But when she's about to leave, Tina notices the stranger is still outside.

Because many of our everyday activities are automatic, we sometimes make decisions that can be dangerous. Usually, that's because we give little thought to where we park, walk, shop, or whom we talk to and what we say.

We have to become more aware. As everyone knows, crime is rampant, from the streets to our businesses. Even in our homes. The murder rate is up three percent over the previous decade and a woman is raped every minute in the United States.

We have to find a balance between awareness and fear. We can't let anxiety and terror control our lives, but with constant news reports about thefts, carjackings, rapes and murders, it's natural to feel threatened. Instead of allowing fear to limit us, we need to let it teach us. A little healthy concern can motivate us to walk, shop, drive, work and live smart.

What's Your Day Like?

Look at your average day. What do you do that's unsafe? Can't think of anything? How about when you invite people you barely know inside your home? Give a ride to a near-stranger? Find yourself talking to a man standing next to you in the market, maybe telling him too much about yourself, with your checkbook and home address in clear view? Do you stay out late? Has a friend ever said to you, "You shouldn't do that. That's dangerous."

Once you've detailed the activities that might be hazardous, ask yourself this: Can you change your behavior or your routine to make your life safer?

Personal Protection Devices

There's a big market for legal, non-lethal protection devices designed to stop, mark, discourage, disorient or disable a potential attacker. Dyes, alarms, pepper sprays, stun guns, air tasers, batons ... the list goes on.

Some leave the assailant unharmed. Dye sprays mark his skin or clothing with a colored dye that lasts for several days and can't be washed off, making it easier for the police to identify him. Personal alarms draw attention to the scene and discourage the attacker.

Other devices disable. Mace and pepper sprays irritate the attacker and can cause temporary blindness. A strong pepper spray can hit a target 15 feet away. Stun guns use a jolt of electricity to temporarily paralyze the assailant for ten minutes or more. Women can also use air tasers, batons, stun guns and small knives concealed in pens or lipstick holders.

Although they're convenient to carry, be warned that these products can cause more harm than good for various reasons:

  • They create a false sense of security. No product will protect you better than self-defense knowledge and common sense.
  • They require skill. Most people who own these products have never tested them or been trained to use them. If used improperly, dyes, sprays and stun guns will not disable or mark but may make the attacker even more aggressive.
  • They have to be carried at all times. If you have one of these devices, do you repeatedly leave it at home or in the car?
  • They're hard to reach. Criminals know that these devices are kept in a purse or on a key chain. They'll attack you while you fumble around, looking for your protection.

What Can You Do?

The best way to protect yourself is to stop and think. Before you automatically respond to a situation or continue on your routine, evaluate whether that's the smartest, safest reaction.

In addition, abide by these basic rules, which can reduce risk every day:

Wait Until Daylight

Plan ahead so you can avoid late-night errands, such as getting gas, stopping at a convenience store or returning videos.

Stay In Clear View

If you must be out at night, walk in open areas away from vehicles, doorways, alleyways or shrubbery that can hide an ambusher. Stay in high-profile areas where there is a lot of foot traffic. Avoid desolate or deserted paths as shortcuts.

Always walk as if you have a purpose; that communicates confidence in yourself and where you're going.


A true-life story

In January 1997 I was interviewed by reporters from the Los Angeles Times and the Orange County Register.

They were interested in my view of the security pros and cons enacted by Ennis Cosby that resulted in his tragic death. I declined all the interviews because most of the relevant facts were being kept close to the vest by law enforcement. To comment with only limited information seemed to me irresponsible. It reminded me of Tara Thompson who retained our services to assist her in a pending criminal case.

Tara was driving on the freeway in 1995 when a red light appeared from a vehicle behind her. At the time, the press had been publishing warnings about an individual posing as a law enforcement officer. Tara refused to pull over. She was concerned that it was not a police officer behind her. The vehicle did not look similar to those she observed on the freeway being driven by law enforcement.

She drove for about ten minutes and decided to exit. She had remembered a security class she had taken that correctly told her, if you are not sure, go to a police station or public place before you stop. Tara drove to a local supermarket where she bolted from her vehicle and ran inside. A few moments later, a very irritated police officer found her in the produce department. He had been attempting to pull her over for a taillight violation. Instead, at that point she was arrested and charged with failing to stop for a police officer. The case was thrown out by a more sensible district attorney.

Don't let Tara's story fall on deaf ears. Your safety can be assured if you just pause and think. Better to be safe and incur the wrath of an officer than to have the police notify your family of an attack upon you or even of your death.

One other person comes to mind, although he was never a client. In fact, he was a family friend and doctor. Dr. Robert Lamb was a fabulous plastic surgeon. He was an even better husband and father. He had sewn up many a person who had been hit while changing a tire or tending to a vehicle problem on the freeway. He had even put back together officers injured while assisting people on the freeways. Having seen all these injuries, Dr. Lamb had one rule. "If an officer shines his red light at me while I'm on the freeway, I will pull off an exit ramp as safely and quickly as possible. If I'm going to get a ticket, it will be on a side street that is well lighted." He was a wise man and you should heed his advice.

Find An Escort

Walk a friend to her car and have her drive you to your car.

Never feel bashful or uncomfortable about asking for an escort. Most malls, campuses and shopping areas have security guards who can walk you to your car. If they don't provide this service and you feel unsafe in the parking lot, notify the management in writing.

Martin Investigative Services

Protect Your Children

The National Center for Exploited and Missing Children stresses that you should always maintain close control over your children. Never leave them unattended, especially in a public play area or at the mall. Make sure you know the adult who is chaperoning parties and other activities.

Also, monitor your ex. Instances of children being abducted by non-custodial parents have increased. The U.S. Justice Department estimates that 350,000 children are taken by family members each year. In almost half of the cases, the abduction was an attempt to hide the child permanently, sometimes out of state.

The most common times for a non-custodial parent to try to take a child are during summer vacations and the December holidays. The custodial parent's guard is down, and the non-custodial parent gets a head start if he or she decides not to return the child after a visit. The Child Advocacy Institute at the University of San Diego in California has found that ex-spouses also chose Christmastime to take their children because there is a certain melancholy at this time that can stir memories of happier holidays with the kids. Don't let the good cheer of the season distract you.

Never Carry A Lot of Cash

Especially when traveling. When planning a trip, buy travelers' checks and keep them in several safe places. When traveling in a different country, spend time becoming familiar with the currency before you go out. That way you won't look like a vulnerable tourist when counting out your money in public.

Use Credit Cards Instead of Cash

Make a list of the card numbers and issuers' phone numbers and keep this in a secure place, such as a home safe or a safety deposit box. If a card is stolen or lost, report it immediately. You're usually liable for only the first $50 per card.

Don't Haul Around Too Much

Minimize the risk of losing everything at once by reducing your load. Don't carry all your identification (driver's license, passports, work ID, etc.), date book, cellular phone and other valuables in one purse or briefcase. Leave what you don't need at home.

Hold Your Purse Tight

If you carry a purse, hold it in your arms, close to your body. Purse straps are easy to cut and can break if yanked.

Don't Advertise

Don't flash a lot of jewelry, expose your valuables or count your cash at the ATM. Don't use 24-hour banking at night-whether it's a walk-up or drive-through. Put packages in the trunk, not in the back seat where they'll be in plain view.

Don't Shop Alone

Don't be so overloaded when you're taking packages to the car that someone could bump into you and scoop up your fallen merchandise.

Think It Through

Your chances are better if you simply consider what could happen in any situation before it actually occurs.


If approached by an assailant, surrender your valuables and try to stay calm. Figure a way out without jeopardizing yourself. If attacked, don't rely on any protection device; instead, try to run away or scream to attract attention.

On the Road

You're on the move every day. Make it safe.

If You Own A Car, You Should Also Own a Cell Phone

A cellular phone eliminates the need to stop for directions late at night or in unsafe areas. Use it to call 911 if you're involved in an accident or other emergency. Also, carjackers are more reluctant to victimize someone who can quickly reach the police.

If You See Someone Needing Help, Don't Stop

It could be a trap. Be a good Samaritan by driving to a phone in a safe area or to a business office or use a cell phone to call for assistance.

Be A Smart Commuter

If you walk, vary your route. If you use public transportation, sit near the conductor or driver. Don't sit near the exit where someone could jump on, grab your purse and jump off. Have your fare or token ready to avoid opening your wallet in front of people.

If you drive, always park close to the building in well-lit areas. Remember where you parked so you don't have to. wander around lost in a parking garage, making yourself a vulnerable target.

Be Aware Of Your Surroundings

Notice phones, exits, other people and the path back to where you were.

Check Out Your Car

When approaching your vehicle, look inside before you enter. Once inside, quickly lock the doors. If someone approaches and will not leave, drive away or sound your horn. Don't unwind the window to hear his or her story.

Keep Your Vehicle In Good Shape

Don't risk running out of gas or breaking down. Inspect your car and take it in for regular maintenance. Consider a membership in an automobile club for road assistance. If your car won't start, maybe it was intentionally disabled. Decide which is safer: to return to where you were to get help or wait in the car.

Use Anti-Theft Devices

If clearly visible in your car, these devices will deter a thief. Have a car alarm installed when you're buying a new car. Consider installing Lojack in your vehicle. Buy a hood lock at an auto parts store if your car has an external hood release that makes it easy for a thief to open and start the engine.

At Home

The number of women living alone has doubled from seven million to 14 million in the past 25 years. As the heads of their households, these women are responsible for securing their homes. Property crimes make up eighty-seven percent of all reported crimes. An unsettling statistic, but keep in mind that crooks don't want to take a lot of time to break in. A few easy security measures can make your home safer for you, your family and your assets.

Lock Up

Your doors and windows are vulnerable. Always lock them. Change your locks if you're missing a house key or if someone moves out and does not return his or her key. Maintain the locks, replacing old or rusty ones. If you have a balcony or porch sliding glass door, lock it and install a security bar available from a hardware store. Don't sleep with the window open if it can be accessed from the outside. Use the air conditioner or a fan to cool your room..

Use The Peephole

Or ask "Who is it?" before opening the front or back door. Don't open the door to an unexpected stranger, even if he's in uniform. Utility companies, maintenance workers and food deliverers will give you advance notice of their visit. If the maintenance or service is unsolicited, call to verify that the person is supposed to be there before you allow him inside. If it's a postal worker or parcel delivery person, the package can be left on the porch.

Elevate Yourself

If you're moving into an apartment alone, request the second floor or higher. Top-floor doors and windows are harder to access than ground-floor ones. Ask the rental office about any security measures in place, such as secured parking, cameras and security patrols. Call the police and ask if the complex is in a high-crime area.

“We have to find a balance between awareness and fear. We can't let anxiety and terror control our lives.”

Rent A Mailbox

Give your mailbox address to stores, utility companies or any other administrative office instead of your home address. Shred personal documents, Such as telephone bills and credit card bills, that can reveal crucial information. A criminal can learn a lot about you-and what you've purchased for your home from what you throwaway.

Make It Clear

Make sure house numbers are clearly visible to make it easy for police, fire and paramedics to find you. Keep shrubbery trimmed; you don't want to provide a hiding place for an intruder or obscure your front windows or door.

Keep An Inventory

Maintain a written or videotaped inventory of your possessions to be used as evidence if you're burglarized. Put important documents and other valuables in a safety-deposit box. Purchase home-owners' or renters' insurance.

Keep A 6-Cell Flashlight Nearby

Know where your flashlight is when there's a power outage. If someone's in your home, a powerful flashlight pointed at his eyes will make it impossible for him to see you. To steady a heavy flashlight, position it under your armpit- don't hold in your hands. A heavy flashlight can also be used as weapon.

Home Alarms

A few years ago, a wealthy client asked me for advice on the best home security systems and which companies provide the best monitoring service. We conducted an exhaustive survey across the United States and found these recommendations, compiled by security experts and law enforcement:

Install A Security System

Whether you rent or own your home, invest in a security system. It's not always the most expensive system that's the best. A private investigator or law enforcement official can offer recommendations, or you can do your own research before making a decision. Check out consumer articles and always be sure to check references.

Get at least two bids on comparable equipment. Bids should include model numbers and brand names. A deposit should not be more than ten percent of the total, usually no more than $100. A seventy-two-hour cancellation notice should be part of the deal.

Avoid Front-Door-Only Specials

If you live in a two-story home, spend the extra money to secure the top level as well. Get a system with a panic button that instantly connects you to the police.

Conside All Three Links in the Security Chain

The installing company, product and central station monitoring need to be good, otherwise the system will fail.

When comparing companies, consider their years of experience, both designing and installing systems. Make sure they have the necessary city, state and contractor's licenses. If they're bonded, do they have general liability insurance? Will employees or subcontractors do the work?

Ask if the alarm system requires a local permit and if it's included in the price. Find out the cost for service calls and the warranty length. See if the local police department charges for false alarms and if the installing company makes allowances for that.

The Equipment Should Be U.L. Listed and New

Some companies install used equipment. Find out how long the manufacturer has been in business and if the equipment is being purchased or leased. Ask if the company can service the equipment and if the company uses a lock-out feature that prevents others from servicing it. Can it be expanded and remotely programmed?

Know the Central Station

Find out if the central station with whom you've contracted is monitoring your home or subcontracting the work out. Ask if there is any fee to activate or disconnect the phone line. Find out what the cost is for monthly monitoring and how often fees are increased. Nail down the terms of the monitoring agreement and the cost of canceling it.

Make It Clear

Make sure house numbers are clearly visible to make it easy for police, fire and paramedics to find you. Keep shrubbery trimmed; you don't want to provide a hiding place for an intruder or obscure your front windows or door.

Test Your Safety

Have you ever...

  • Forgotten to lock your car or front door?
  • Gone to the grocery store or convenience store late at night alone or with your children?
  • Walked across campus or to/from a bus stop or other public transportation at night alone?
  • Parked in the farthest area of the parking lot or parking garage at a mall, cinema or theater?
  • Gotten inside your car without looking in first?
  • Walked alone at night?
  • Opened your door for someone in uniform (UPS, pizza delivery, utility, police, etc.) you weren't expecting?
  • Left the mall alone or with children after dark?
  • Run out of gas in a remote area away from gas stations, phones, etc.?
  • Gone to the ATM late at night?
  • Opened your door without first finding out who it is by asking or looking through your peephole?
  • Carried your briefcase or purse with all your belongings inside?
  • Been startled by someone when walking past alleyways, doorways, parked cars or shrubbery?
  • Witnessed unsafe or security-risk procedures at work but did nothing to improve the situation? (More on this in Chapter 12.)
  • Been approached by a stranger asking for the time, directions, etc. while you were parked or stopped in your car?
  • Left packages, belongings or valuables in plain view in your parked car?
  • Counted your money openly at work or in a public place?
  • Carried more than $50 in cash while shopping or visiting an unfamiliar city?
  • Slept with your ground-level windows or screen door open on a hot night?
  • Started your car, adjusted your mirrors, radio, seat belt, etc. before locking your car doors?
  • Walked somewhere you knew you shouldn't because you were pressed for time?
  • Allowed a delivery person inside your door while you signed for a package or paid for your take-out food?
  • Stopped by the video store after hours to drop off a movie?
  • Walked, jogged or biked alone without anyone knowing where you were or when you would be back?
  • Declined an offer from a friend to walk or drive you somewhere because you didn't want to inconvenience them?

If you answered "yes" to many of these questions, you're taking a risk with your valuables, your life or your children's lives. The more yes answers, the more danger. Think before you make automatic decisions. Always be aware of your surroundings. Be smart and turn those "yes" answers into "nos."

“Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world.” Nelson Mandela