Training: Detecting a Threat 

How to detect a threat before it becomes dangerous 

The Female Executive Protection Group wants to help our listeners spot a threat before it becomes dangerous. Remember - the best way to eliminate a threat is to detect it and then avoid it. Even if we try to remain blissfully ignorant, there are threats everywhere we go. There is always a "bad guy" hanging around hoping to have the opportunity to pickpocket, assault, or carry out a simple crime. The following are all techniques/cues/warning signs that can be used by the everyday woman or professional protection agent to help identify a threat. That being said and regardless of the situation, human behavior has always been rather difficult to decode and there are still masters of disguise who are nearly impossible to detect. Also, we want to stress that there are multiple types of threats and the following list of techniques/cues is not all inclusive.  Please read our disclaimer before proceeding.

Facial Expressions

Facial expressions are central to communication. Each expression gives subtle or overt information about a person's emotions and motivations. In seemingly docile situations, facial expressions give us critical cues as to when the situation could become dangerous. It is well known that friendly conversations can easily turn into hostile and aggressive situations in a matter or seconds. In order to keep oneself, one's family, and one's VIP safe, it is important to learn as much as possible about decoding facial expressions. 

1. Faces of aggression

Aggression or anger can manifest itself through the face when a person has one or more of the following: a clenched jaw, flared nostrils, furrowed eyebrows, pursed lips, squinted/glaring eyes, or baring of teeth. This list is not all inclusive; however, these are clear warning signs  of a dangerous person who could become a threat to the safety of those around him/her. 

2. Incongruent facial expressions

When someone shows a facial expression that doesn't reflect situational cues, it could be a sign the person is dangerous or mentally unstable. There is a growing belief that facial expressions don't always show emotions but rather someone's intentions. A smile does not always indicate happiness. Tears do not always indicate sadness. An example of an incongruent facial expression would be a smile coming from a violent criminal who had finally been captured by the police. What would this smile represent in this instance? Surely it would not represent happiness in its simplest form. It could indicate the criminal has a backup plan to escape. Facial expressions aren't always reflective of what is going on around someone. Another example could be a person smiling while be surrounded by venomous snakes. Being able to recognize that not all facial expressions align with emotions can help us detect a threat quicker. Women can still be in danger even if someone is smiling at her. Intuition plays a big role here too.

Body Language

1. Stalking/Following

Stalking or following a person is a big red flag. It is a huge warning that something dangerous could occur. If a woman is driving and realizes she is being followed, she should immediately take action by calling the police, not stopping until she has made it to the police station or a public area where many people could help. It is best to avoid directly confronting the stalker because there is no guarantee the stalker has any good intentions. 

2. Being under the influence

Unfortunately, being under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs can cause people to do things they normally wouldn't do. A person desperate to get another hit of a drug might be more willing to assault someone or mug someone on the street for money. Alcohol gives some men the liquid courage they need to approach a woman and attempt to make a connection. The problem with alcohol and illegal drugs is that reactions to stimuli generally aren't as civilized as a sober response would be. If the woman rejects this man, he could retaliate and put her in a situation that is extremely dangerous to her physically and mentally. 

When out on the town, or anywhere for that matter, it is important to be cognizant of who is around and notice anyone who seems to be acting in an abnormal way. Whether it be constant staring, yelling, twitching, or pacing, it is wise to take note of this person and avoid him at all cost. 

3. Sweating/shaking/rubbing hands together/pacing

Anxiety causes physical reactions in the body that are big indicators of a potential threat. When someone has planned a criminal activity, they might have physical reactions that others can see. If a person is shaking, rubbing their hands together, pacing back and forth, or sweating, it might mean they are up to no good and should be classified as a potential threat. 


Verbal Cues

1. Using threatening or aggressive language towards someone or their VIP

If someone is using threatening language in a conversation or is raising their voice, this person is a threat to safety. The best way of dealing with a person like this is to either ignore them, avoid them, or let them talk until they get bored. 

2. Trying to circumvent the protection and security of you or your VIP(s)

Some of the most dangerous people are the ones closest to your family or VIPs. For example, it might be a warning if a business partner insists that security is not needed during a particular time of day even though the EP professional has been told explicitly there should be someone with the VIP at all times. The business partner has become a threat to the safety of the VIP.  Never let someone tell you how to run your security operations especially if you are being told to run it in a way that would jeopardize the safety of your VIP. 

In terms of the everyday woman with a family - never let a new acquaintance  tell you your children are safe with them while you go to the bathroom or to make a phone call. For example, a situation would turn threatening if a server were to tell a mother, "Hey, it's ok if you go to the bathroom really quick, I can watch your children." Why? Because anyone who tries to interfere with the normal routine of safety that you have established might have poor intentions. 

3. Excessively chatty

Being extremely quiet is just as abnormal as being excessively chatty when it comes to being a potential threat. A chatty person poses a threat because the non-stop conversation could be intentionally trying to distract someone else from what is going on around them. The chatty person could also be trying to hide something they already did. For example, a thief named John steals something small and expensive from a store he frequently visits. After putting the item in his pocket, he grabs a few inexpensive items and walks up to the counter. Rachel, who had been watching him curiously starts ringing him up for his items. She then asks, "Is there anything else you'd like to pay for?" And in that moment, John starts talking about everything under the sun. The hope is that his conversation would distract Rachel into either forgetting about her suspicions or would make it seem like John was just a friendly guy who would never steal. Either way, being excessively chatty is a means of control and persuasion. 


Visual Cues

1. Having a weapon

A huge sign of a potential threat is seeing someone carrying a weapon, especially when the gun is not legal where it is being carried. For example, many shopping malls have bans on bringing guns inside. If a woman is walking around in this particular mall and sees someone with a firearm, either because it is printing on the side of  clothing or because the weapon is out in plain sight, the best advice would be to remove oneself and family from the area. In a situation where concealed or open carrying is legal, the woman should take note of this individual and be hypervigilant in watching where the threat's hands are at all times. 

2. Avoiding eye contact | Too much eye contact

Naturally, a person who is up to no good is either overly comfortable maintaining eye contact or isn't comfortable doing so at all. When there is any guilt involved in what a person is doing, less eye contact is made. Anxiety causes people to avoid eye contact as well. It's as if the person believes people can read into their souls and will discover their criminal intent. Other signs that can accompany a lack of eye contact are fidgety movements, repetitively looking at the exit, or repetitively glancing at the item the crook desires.  

On the other hand, too much eye contact is a red flag as well. Some people in the process of committing a petty crime will make too much eye contact as a way of "proving" to the person nothing is going on. The threat knows a lack of eye contact is a sign of dishonesty and so they remedy this by overcompensating. Also, making too much eye contact is a classic way of asserting dominance or trying to gain influence over someone. If a threat sees the target as weak or easy prey, they might naturally make an unusually high amount of eye contact because they are lost in thought about their plan of attack.  

3. Seeing the same person repetitively

An early sign of a threat is when a suspicious person is observed multiple times in the same area on the same day. When people are willing to commit a crime for something they want, they will generally want to circle back to it multiple times during a day. This ensures the object has not been sold or the person is still at work. This pattern might occur over the course of a day, months, or even years. The threat could have identified an object or person he/she desired and is checking out anything that could potentially be an obstacle in obtaining it. The best thing to do in a situation like this is to alert the authorities and explain what has been observed. If the threat seems to be targeting a person, that person should either remove himself/herself from the situation or prepare for a possible robbery/personal attack. It might be time to get a concealed carry permit, if it is legal to do so, in the respective state. 


Atypical Actions

1. Abandoning items

If someone leaves a backpack or a piece of luggage in an area it is atypical to do so - this is a huge indicator of a potential threat. Many major crimes are committed by taking advantage of people who are distracted by something else or people who wish to remain ignorant to the fact that something bad could happen to them. There are people who would walk by a backpack laying against the wall and have little reaction to it being there because they believe, "There is no way something bad could happen to me. The chances are too low." The proper response would be to alert the authorities and promptly exit the venue. Refusing to acknowledge something out of the ordinary sets a person up to be in a very dangerous situation that could have easily been avoided. 

2. Trying too hard to stay out of sight

If someone does not wish to be detected by others or surveillance equipment, they physically will attempt to not be seen. For example, a person should be concerned if she notices someone hiding behind pillars, looking around for security cameras, or avoiding security professionals. Another way a threat will try to not be identified is by wearing a hat, sunglasses, and a hoodie. This makes it nearly impossible for anyone to be able to identify the threat. If someone is going to these lengths to not be seen - there is a good chance the person has poor intentions. 

3. Erratic  Driving

A very common occurrence that is extremely dangerous is erratic driving. When there is an erratic driver driving recklessly, the best way to ensure the safety of oneself and one's family is to avoid the vehicle altogether. Even if this means avoiding the vehicle by slowing down, stopping, or turning down another street that gets one's vehicle in a safer area. Erratic drivers do not care about the consequences of their actions.  



As mentioned before, this list is not all inclusive. There are many other ways someone can detect a threat before it becomes dangerous. The best way of practicing detecting these threats is to go to an area where people watching is easy to do and not an unusual activity. Watching how people interact, dress, and  appear will help people learn to get more comfortable with threat detection and could potentially train their brain to be automatically alerted of a threat that could be potentially life threatening.