Erik's blog

Code, notes, recipes, general musings

Posts Tagged ‘community

Learnings from an attempted robbery

with 2 comments

My wife and I were waiting for the BART when a woman started yelling for help. She said, “they stole my iphone!”

Her voice was coming from the stairs leading into the station. I couldn’t see her, but there were two young men, boys, really, jumping down the stairs three at a time. They were yelling back at her, “shut the f**k up. I never took anything from you.” It was difficult to determine if we were really seeing a robbery or just an argument.

But if a woman is yelling for help, and there are a couple people running away, something’s probably amiss. I started walking towards the two guys as they rounded a corner away from the stairs. They were moving out of view, towards the platform of an inbound train. They were trying to blend into the crowd.

I shouted at them, but they didn’t stop or look back. A person they passed said to me, “they’re going around the other side.” It took me moment to understand what he was saying. I was confused why he was speaking so matter-of-factly, and otherwise doing nothing to help.

Finally, I understood and reversed my path to head them off. When I came around the other side, they had broken into a run, and were heading directly towards me. A few people now, men and women, young and old, were trying to stop them. As we moved to push one of them against a wall, he started swinging, hitting a woman in the face. I grabbed for his leg to get him on the ground. We all fell. I grabbed the guy’s arms and held them behind his back. We restrained him until the police came.

Both men were arrested, and the phone was recovered.

My takeaways:

1) Yelling “HELP!” as loud as possible is good

I was surprised by how slowly the crowd reacted. Luckily, the victim kept shouting, and “help” is a pretty disruptive word. At one point I needed assistance keeping the thief on the ground. Shouting “help!” worked (see below).

I’d like to get more practice shouting for help and reacting to requests for help. These seem like a couple good skill sets to have.

2) Awareness of surroundings while using an iphone, ipad, etc in public is good

The officer we talked with at the BART station said this type of crime is very common. A person will be looking at his/her phone and a thief will grab it and run.

3) Yelling a description of the attackers is good

For example, “HELP! Stop those two guys! They stole my phone!” (repeat)

This helps people like me, who didn’t witness the crime, quickly get a sense of things.

4) Holding the attacker’s arms behind his back worked well

Here’s a more detailed description:
We were both sitting. I was behind him. His arms were behind his back, and I had my arms between his and his back. As my arms became tired, I grabbed my elbows.

At one point, the guy tried to get his feet under him and stand up. My hold would have been weakened by this, so I shouted for help. A man standing next to us then put his foot on the assailant’s hip and held him down. From this I learned …

5) Standing on an attacker is good

If two or three people just put their foot on someone on the ground, it would be super-helpful in keeping the person pinned. I hadn’t thought of it before, but it really works, and it seems like a low-risk way to assist.

6) Hitting someone is illegal

The woman who was hit had the wherewithal to recognize it as assault. I might have overlooked this fact. I very nearly didn’t get involved in the whole incident, thinking I was misunderstanding what I was seeing, but I was witnessing theft and assault.

7) Being a part of a community feels good

The thieves were just walking away from the victim, as though they expected no one to do anything. Had the train come a minute earlier, they could have jumped on and disappeared.

I’m so happy things worked out differently. Thankfully, the assailants weren’t armed.

My thanks to all the people who helped. The BART employees and police were great, esp. Officer Rodriguez. I feel like we’re a community. It became easier to help as more people became involved, and I became comfortable shouting and grappling and trusting other people with my safety.

Written by Erik

April 21, 2011 at 8:51 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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