Pre-Fight? What About Pre-Crime?

Keep your “scene” just a “scene” and not a crime scene.

There has been much ado in the last few years of training/seminar circuit about pre-fight indicators. Instructors present a list that has actually been around since the 1970s. So new? No. Just new to new people, that is. Through those early years the list hardly ever filtered down into the local “kuraty” clubs, so to speak, so its later arrival was big.

I mentioned here last month that I was wondering if the  “pre-fight” fad was dying down a little? There was a distinct subtle, innocent approach that these tips, along with a lot of self defense, were sort of a “boys-in-bars” problem.  Then lately a bully problem, though bullies are quite overt.  Not much prediction problem.  Is this bar-club, under-theme was and still is kind of big. Training films were and are shot in bars to accent this point, huh? Months ago, a “famous” head-wrapping/elbow-striking UK course released a video clip on close quarter fighting, and of course, heads were wrapped with arms and elbows used, as is required by the franchise, but it ended with our hero successful and the hero said to the camera, “you go back out to the dance floor.” The…DANCE floor? Really?

Are we still mindlessly hooked on the bar fight? Appealing to the 20 year-old-ish market? Is this the place of all combat? It speaks again to the “boys in bar,” fight theme. Think about the stretch as bouncers have become famous as fighting experts with doctorates in psychology. Mere bouncers. Anyway, with this subliminal, “boys in bars” as a subtle foundation, we get a lot of pre-fight, indicator tip-offs, (as well as dreams of de-escalation talk.)

By the way, police do need to be, at very least exposed to these pre-fight indicators, (as I was in the 1970s), as cops are interacting/standing-off/communicating with “trouble” a lot. But they also need a little training in pre-FLIGHT indicators. Sometimes you know, Sparky just runs off.

That’s pre-fight, and pre-flight.  For the coppers. Most citizens would like the other guy or mugger to just run off. Cops have to chase.

But, what of pre-crime indicators? I am not sure that the average Joe and Joan grasp the fact that the thrilling, pre-fight indicator list is a lot different than the PRE-CRIME indicator list. Oh, and I can hear the snoring already beginning because this now reads like…“crime prevention.” BORING! Huh? Crime prevention is often cluttered with “locking your doors,” and “putting up outdoor lights,” and…and…still awake? Still reading? (And by the way, I am not worried about most pistol people. They seriously worry about the before, during and after of crime. I do wish that knife people were this concerned. )

How does one…pre-crime? How do you detect an ambush crime? Pre-crime studies are different than pre-fight studies. And I believe that while many virgin schools and virgin seminar attendees are so happy to hear about “fist clenching” and “1000 yard stares,” that the presenter and attendees miss the …gulp…crime prevention aspects. Stopping rapes, robberies, abductions/kidnappings, home invasions and murders. Who, what, where, when, how and why do you get ambushed into a crime? Sometimes there’s a little overlap between the two categories, sure. But pre-crime is different and diverse. For example, there are usually little if any pre-fight indicators in a criminal ambush.

What can we do to make pre-crime sexy again? It’s hard. Publishers use to create a fair amount of crime prevention, tip books years ago. They were quickly rendered onto the Dollar Sale table. No sales? No books. Remember this Sanford Strong book? You probably don’t. People say it was the best at the time.

People do somewhat remember The Gift of Fear. Why? The stories, that’s why. Years ago, Gavin Debecker wrote that entertaining book, The Gift of Fear. First editions really promoted an ESP-ish, Spidey-Sense as the gift. Neuro science developments in the 2000s proved otherwise – that it wasn’t magic, rather we react from learned behavior. Your “gut” instinct is almost completely a trained mind from vast sources. Further editions of the book changed to reflect this. The Gift stories were thrilling (psychology has already proven that stories and “war-stories” are the best, longer-lasting teacher). But take out the cool stories? And what’s left, the skeleton of advice? Strip out the tales and you have a BORING crime prevention hand-out from your local police department. “Lock your doors.” “Put up lights.”  “Watch out for strangers.” Etc. Yawn.

The routine crime prevention pamphlet can leave something to be desired. It usually lacks a certain first-person, in-the-moment advice from…stories. Whereas watching a news story about an unlocked door, and a sobbing crime victim, is a better teacher than a McGruff pamphlet. 

For one example of a study area for pre-crime – I wrote about this in my book Fightin’ Words. I worked a rape once by a bus stop. In the daytime, this ¾ enclosed bus stop looked normal and safe. A curved sidewalk ran behind the little clear, plastic edifice. In the middle of the walkway, beside the curve was a small grassy area, then tall fences of an apartment complex. This area had a gigantic bush-looking tree next to the sidewalk. Looks safe and normal. In the daylight. But at night? It was a trap. Poorly lit. A college girl walked by and was snatched by a thug from behind this bush. When called out to the case, I saw this scene at night and could see what a trap it was, from a criminal mind perspective. Daytime? No. Night time, yes.

Geography, plus architecture, plus criminal mind.

An equation for trouble. Who, what, when, where, how and why? These questions can be investigated with good intel, research, experience, and an adequate mind, to predict crime scenes. With the W’s and H questions, I have been presenting this info for…well…at least 23 years now.

Hey, I don’t care if you like to worry about bar fights too, but let’s make crime prevention interesting again! I mean, doesn’t “Pre-Crime” sound cooler than “Crime Prevention?” We can do this. Keep your “scene” just a “scene” and not a crime scene.


Hock’s email is

Get the book Fightin’ Words, paperback or ebook, click here