Fringe areas are the most likely places you'll get attacked.

This is the most likely place you’ll face a crime.

You’ve heard it a hundred times. Self defense begins with awareness. Knowing where you’re most likely to get attacked is a big first step to not only awareness, but avoidance as well. And while you can’t always avoid these critical areas, when you’re aware of their location, you can increase your alertness when it matters most.

So what are these areas? Self defense expert Marc Macyoung, of nononsenseselfdefense.com, calls them fringe areas. For lack of a better term, let’s just stick with that.

What are fringe areas?

Fringe areas are transitional areas between spaces. Kinda vague? Hear me out…

To understand fringe areas, think about what a criminal needs in order for a crime to occur. That need is opportunity, and opportunity comes in two parts: 

  1. time, and 
  2. access to targets.

Fringe areas are high crime zones because they’re a transition between “no time” and “no targets.” These are the places where criminal attacks are most likely to occur, especially predatory attacks. For instance…

A crowd offers plenty of victims, but very little time due to possible interruptions and witnesses. 

On the other hand, the far corner of a parking lot with no cars and no foot traffic affords a criminal plenty of time, but few– if any– targets.

Fringe areas fill the gaps. They exist where there’s enough traffic to select a victim, but not enough to interrupt the crime.

Dark walkway through a park at night.

Besides a parking lot, other examples of fringe areas are:

“Short cuts” through parks, alleys, etc.

Stairs and elevators

ATMs

Restrooms

laundry rooms (think college dorm laundry rooms)

Separate rooms at a house party

How to spot likely attacks in fringe areas.

Before you can spot shady activity in a fringe area, you should know what’s normal in that area. For instance, what’s normal activity in a parking lot? Think about it for a moment…

  • people walking to and from their cars
  • talking to a friend or acquaintance they happened to bump into
  • loading things in the car

And that’s about it.  So someone just hanging out by the door (and not waiting on their spouse to drive up and get them) should raise your alertness. More on that in a moment…

What about a stairwell? Would someone smoking in an office building stairway raise your suspicion? What about if they finished their cigarette and then continued to hang out for no apparent reason?

Where criminals really wait for an attack.

Earlier I mentioned someone hanging out by the store entrance should raise your alert level. Why?

Many people get concerned about someone waiting by their car. And while that should be a concern, it’s unlikely. 

Large parking lot

Criminals may be smart in their own way, but they aren’t psychic. In a parking lot with 500 cars, waiting by one specific car is pointless. A criminal could stand there for hours before you come back.

It’s more efficient to scout for a target nearer the crowd– like the store entrance– and then follow the intended victim deeper into the fringe area to commit the crime. 

Or perhaps the criminal roams the parking lot instead of waiting by the door, increasing the odds of getting near someone. Hopefully seeing someone weaving in and out of cars would set off an early warning signal in your brain.

What should you do when you suspect trouble in a fringe area?

First of all, know before you go. In other words, don’t enter a fringe area without having a plan of action if something sets off your alarm bells. 

Speaking of alarm bells or a feeling in your in your gut, trust them– even if you’re wrong. Besides, you probably aren’t wrong. Just because you don’t see obvious danger doesn’t mean it isn’t there. The survival part of your brain processes vital information like body language without you knowing it. The mysterious “sixth sense” is real, but you’ve gotta use it.

It’s important you know where you’d go for help and safety. Running blindly just to get away could actually move you more into the danger zone, like the partner of someone following you.

Or worse, you could simply freeze and do nothing.

You can’t avoid the most likely places for crime.

Most self defense instructors speak of awareness. But what should you be aware of? 

A great start is awareness of fringe areas, and the reasons they are a high crime zone.

But if fringe areas are the most likely places for a crime to occur, why not just avoid them altogether? 

Because you can’t. 

By definition, fringe areas are transition zones you must pass through to move from one place– like the grocery store– to another– like your car. It’s these areas that criminals favor. There is enough traffic to scout potential victims, but not enough to interrupt or interfere with the crime.

Self defense drill challenge:

For the next week, think like a criminal. Make note of the areas that would be easiest to carry out your goal of robbing someone. That means both a high chance of finding a target, AND a high chance of a successful robbery.

Once you find these areas, you know the fringe areas you travel through. Take time to notice how normal people act in these locations. That makes it easier for you to spot abnormal behavior.

Odd assignment, right? But seriously. Go do this for a week. Then come back here and post in the comments what you learned.

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