In Part 1 of this article last week, we talked about the behaviors that a mother observed in a real life scenario that helped her get left of bang when faced by a woman attempting to kidnap her baby at a mall in Long Island, NY. Each of the intuitive observations that the mother made in the situation allowed her to prevent herself from becoming the victim of the crime. Using our terminology, we can further explain why the would-be attacker was an anomaly to the baseline for a woman’s bathroom. But to complete the communication exercise, we also need to further explain why the kidnapper’s behavior actually made her stand out from the baseline.
To do that, we need to take a look at her intent. The kidnapper’s violent intent for being in the bathroom is different than a typical/baseline bathroom goer. To put the observed behaviors in context, let’s start by placing the would-be kidnapper’s actions into the framework of the seven-step attack cycle. If you are unfamiliar with this cycle, it is a structure taught in our Tactical Analysis Advanced Course that allows us to begin thinking like a criminal which will help us to realize why exactly behaviors that don’t fit our baseline are a cause for concern.
Everything leading up to the woman’s behavior the moment she made the decision to abduct a baby. Once this decision was made, she naturally entered into the seven-step attack cycle because she had to consider her resources, what she had available, what her constraints were and how all of that contributed to the hasty plan she developed.
Step 1: Broad Target Selection
Once the two kidnappers made the decision to kidnap a baby, they identified some list of criteria that they would use in their initial surveillance for what an “ideal baby” would be. While we probably will never know what this criteria is, they made the decision that a Kohl’s store would likely provide the best opportunities for success and would be where they would be able to find their intended victim.
Step 2: Initial Surveillance
Kohl’s might have been chosen as the location for the potential crime because it is an area the attackers would have been familiar with, both in terms of layout and the likely light security presence there, making it an ideal hunting ground for them. From an environmental perspective, Kohl’s is a habitual area, meaning that no one will stand out for simply being in an area where they don’t belong, creating the opportunity for them to patiently look for their intended victim without attracting any attention.
Once at the store, the attackers began assessing potential victims against the three criteria used to judge the attractiveness of targets.
1) The Location: Which babies are with parents who present a soft target? For the sake of discussion, we will assume that babies are just with their parents, but they could also be with siblings or a babysitter. Which parents/guardians represent the lowest risk of stopping them before they can conduct their crime and which ones would be the hardest to attack?
2) The Association: Which babies will provide the highest “payoff?” Which baby will represent the highest reward for the criminals?
3) Opportunity: As the couple assesses the potential victims, which ones have a lack of situational awareness, allowing for extended surveillance by the criminals? Which potential victims do something that allows the attackers the chance to conduct an attack in an isolated area? Once the risk/reward decisions are made in the first two criteria, the criminals still need to figure out an opportunity to conduct the crime and where that opportunity is most likely to occur.
Step 3: Specific Target Selection
The actual internal risk/reward calculation that the two would-be kidnappers conducted and how they assessed those parents in the mall is irrelevant and something we will never know for sure. It is likely however, that they prioritized low risk (the location) over the reward of kidnapping the “ideal baby” (the association) and for some reason they chose that particular baby and the mother referenced in the article as their specific targets.
- There are some elements to the location that the woman chose that reveal her thought process. As the mother entered the bathroom, she would likely be in Condition White as she changed her baby as her focus would be more on the baby and not necessarily those entering the bathroom. This presents a softer target to the would-be attacker, as the woman could close the distance to her intended victims without necessarily attracting attention.
- There wouldn’t be any cameras in the restroom, so the security presence is lower than in other areas of the store, making it a softer target.
- The lady’s bathroom is an anchor point, where only women are allowed in and an area that is only truly secured by the behavior of those people already inside the bathroom who would tell a male intruder to get out.
- As the woman kidnapper would be seen as an “insider” who is allowed in the anchor point and wouldn’t immediately be identified as a threat based on her presence alone (whereas a male kidnapper would have been), it created the opportunity for the woman kidnapper to close the distance so that she could conduct some final surveillance and build a plan.
Step 4: Pre-attack Surveillance
The woman checked the stalls to ensure that she was alone with her intended victims and that there wasn’t anyone who would be exiting a stall and able to stop her once the kidnapping began.
Step 5: Attack Planning and Rehearsals
The woman created the plan in her head for how she would close the distance and how she would grab the baby. As we will see by looking at her actions in the next step, she created a primary plan and a backup plan in case that first option didn’t work.
Step 6: Actions on the Objective
As the woman kidnapper’s goal was to get the baby, the primary plan she created was to take on a submissive approach and appear non-threatening. As she approached the mother and commented about the “beautiful baby,” she was hoping that a complimentary approach would get the mother to drop her guard before asking if she could hold the baby. With hindsight being 20/20 and that we have this information after the fact, you can see that her first plan was to get the mother to willingly hand the baby over to her.
When it was clear that the submissive approach wasn’t going to work, the woman kidnapper quickly shifted to her backup plan and took on a dominant posture. She closed the distance even further, breaching the mother’s personal zone, and told the mother to “give me the baby.” When the dominant demand didn’t work, the criminal escalated for a second time, ultimately reaching for and grabbing the baby’s arm.
Step 7: Escape and Exploitation
The escape plan for the two kidnappers was to go to the taxi that the two ultimately left in. As this step of the attack process is right of bang, further investigation into the taxi would provide a greater degree of understanding into the planning:
- If they got into a taxi that was waiting for them specifically, it would show that they had planned their escape and had their getaway car waiting.
- If there was a line of taxis waiting for customers instead of a specific taxi, it might show a lesser degree of planning by the kidnappers, but a high familiarity with the mall itself.
When it comes to the exploitation, this is unknown as it isn’t clear what the kidnpappers’ motives were for taking the baby in the first place.
To Wrap Up
One of the concepts that we talk about and are big believers of in the Tactical Analysis process is that, to attain the life experiences and behavioral file folders required to make sharp, clear and accurate intuitive decisions, you don’t have to simply wait and hope that those events come to you. You can go out and develop your experiences deliberately and one way is to study news stories and current events. The method we used in Parts 1 and 2 of this article show how you can analyze criminal behavior from real life events and, in turn, better understand situations that you might encounter in the future. This is something that you can do in the safety of your own home so that you can simulate criminal acts without being exposed to the risk of learning them the “hard way.” You can build your own file folders and learn from other people so that you can prevent situations in the real world where you are targeted instead of failing to learn from others.
This example of a criminal act in this one setting can become its own file folder that you have thought through and simulated in your mind, which increases your likelihood of recognizing someone that is “off” when you observe behavior outside of your baseline. If you have other publicly available news reports that you’d like to share to highlight other behaviors and other examples of the seven-step attack planning process, contact us so that we can share them with the rest of our nation’s protectors so that they can continue to learn and build their file folders as well.