(The Humanitarian Social Network)
Applying the principles of the "deadly diamond" to our travel planning
On the morning of 30 November 1989, Mr. Alfred Herrhausen, Chairman of Deutsche Bank, traveling in his armored Mercedes had just left his suburban home (FRG) protected front and back by security vehicles. Within minutes he was dead, the armored door of his limo pierced by a bomb placed on a bike, triggered by sophisticated infrared triggering device. The attack only a few hundred yards from his home still remains unsolved to this day.
For security professionals this assassination is a text-book example of the “deadly diamond” principle. Our modern history is rife with cases of the assassination and kidnappings of people who thought they were protected – one thing most have in common is they took place within a short distance of a known location like a hotel, office, airport, train station, etc that they were traveling to or from. The term “deadly diamond” refers to those areas at the end and beginning of a journey where a person has few route options and is most vulnerable to surveillance and attack. The assassins knew there were a limited number of routes that close to his home and planned accordingly and waited. For travelers this principle is very applicable to our safety.
Unfortunately, we have experienced first hand or heard stories of people being victims of crimes right outside their hotels, just off the train or leaving the airport to name a few common locations. People having cameras stolen, wallets plucked out of fanny packs and pockets on the public transport to their hotel, or luggage taken from under their hostel beds as they slept after a long journey. If you talked to the people involved or read the police reports most of these crimes have some common themes or factors.
Many of these crimes take place as people enter or exit a country or city. People are tired after a long journey, are weighted down with luggage and trying to do multiple tasks. The result for many is a reduced situational awareness. Talking on a phone, listening to music, greeting friends or family also contribute to this drop in awareness. This is when we set a bag down, flash a passport or ATM card/pin or come into contact with the pickpockets, etc. We also know that hotels/hostels, popular tourist spots, trams/trains are all places where criminals can find large numbers of people who could be vulnerable and they just wait for us to let our guard down. Much like the assassins in the opening story. So, knowing this information what can we do to better prepare ourselves?
First, I am not suggesting anything new or radical here – be careful at airports, hotels or tourist spots. I am suggesting we apply what we know about our own deadly diamond as it relates to tourist crimes and where they are most likely to happen. If we know the above where we are most likely to encounter a problem what can we as travelers do to lessen our risks?
1) Situational awareness – limit your multi-tasking ( ie. don’t gets bags, talk on phone and greet people all at same time), know your plan of exit and where you are going when you arrive or depart the airport, if you have to make a call do it in a secure area, don’t listen to music –ever with headphones while in public. Even if you don’t have a clue act like you do. And remember you are not at home so think hard about going out late at night for drink or early in the morning for that run in neighborhoods you don’t yet know. In public BE AWARE of the people around you and your actions.
2) Maintain control of your bags, use locks. When you get to a hotel/hostel lock things up. Keep possession of your passport/ wallet at all times. The more often you set things down the more likely you will lose it. Don’t pack valuable such as cameras in checked bags. Don’t be flashy with your tech, money, or loud voices.
3) Thirdly ask the locals at your hotels/hostels, taxi driver, server at the coffee shop about the areas you are going to – ask a few people – you will get the best information about safety and even the good spots to eat, drink and be merry more or less safely. The locals are invested in a good tourist experience most likely and want you to be safe.
4) Have a plan in case something happens – copies of you documents in a secure file, spare money in a shoe, phone numbers, sign up for Consulate country warnings, health insurance.
5) Lastly have fun. Europe is a fun place. Especially Central and Eastern Europe. It is full or nice helpful people, great culture, fabulous foods/ drink, and awesome sights.
This article is not an exhaustive list on how to travel safe. I leave that to your common sense and your own good practices . I hope you will apply some of these principles of where we are most vulnerable and raise our awareness and act differently in those moments.
I welcome your thoughts and comments and hope my ideas move you to travel a little safer.
This first appeared on my own blog - http://www.safetraveleurope.com/