Wednesday, January 7, 2015

What should you do if you’re robbed at gunpoint? Be the best witness possible

The recent arrest of two Canadian men on charges of kidnapping androbbing a trucker serves as a sobering reminder that life on the road can be hazardous, even when you’re not behind the wheel.

OOIDA Director of Security and
Operations Doug Morris
OOIDA Director of Safety and Security Operations Doug Morris sat down for a safety Q&A on what you should do if you find yourself being robbed by an armed assailant.

Morris, who worked for 25 years in law enforcement with the Maryland State Police, has been OOIDA’s director of security since 2008. He administers OOIDA’s Transportation Alert Communication and Emergency Response (known as TRACER) program and coordinates the Association’s participation in the First Observer program. He has also served as the chairman of the Department of Homeland Security’s Highway and Motor Carrier Sector Coordinating Council. Responses have been lightly edited for clarity.

Land Line: Hello, Doug. Thanks for taking the time to do this. We’ll start off with a question about how truckers can make themselves a less conspicuous target for would-be robbers and thieves.

Doug Morris: First of all, you should never flash cash or expensive items such as cellphones, iPads or jewelry. Be cognizant of people around you when you’re using an ATM. And never open your truck door to strangers. Crack the window and yell if you have to.

LL: In the Canadian robbery and kidnapping case last month, the victim told police he was attacked by the suspects while walking from a restaurant back to his truck. What advice would you offer to a trucker who has to step away from their vehicle in an unfamiliar area?

DM: If you’re out of the truck and walking, walk with purpose, especially through dark areas. If someone calls out to you, continue walking until you are in a well-lit area with other people around you. Many robberies start with “Hey, can you tell me the time?” or “Can I get some spare change from you?”

LL: What should you do if you’re confronted by one or more armed suspects?

DM: In that case, it’s more about what you should NOT do. Don’t argue, don’t fight and don’t use weapons unless you are well-trained in self-defense. Robbers are unpredictable, and resistance in any form may escalate the level of violence. One other thing you should not do. Do not delay in calling the police, even if the robber has threatened you. You should hesitate only long enough to ensure your safety. The faster police are able to respond, the better the chances the robber or robbers will be arrested.

LL: Once the police arrive, what are some of the most important pieces of information you can provide to help them potentially catch the suspect?

DM: If you are robbed, the following information is very important to the police: your direction of travel; time of robbery; whether or not the suspect(s) were armed; the number of suspects involved and their descriptions; if a vehicle was used, a description of the vehicle and direction of travel if known. If possible, you should write down the license plate number to give to the police.

LL: Anything else?

DM: Memorize the suspect or suspects’ physical and clothing descriptions, especially tattoos, scars and other prominent features. If a weapon is used, focus your attention on its size, type and color. If there are any witnesses, ask them to wait until police arrive, or get their names and addresses if they can’t stay. Your safety is of utmost importance, so never chase or follow a robber. Just focus on being the best witness possible.