This is a civilian’s guide on how to be street smart for foreign and domestic urban scenarios, by a former covert operative, nomad and urban survivalist.
“The street smart concepts of thinking in urban environments are less for severe emergencies and life-threatening scenarios – it’s focus is for the human element and day-to-day city life.”
These strategies and tips on being street smart will be continuously updated over time with new intel.
- For directions, don’t ask a stranger if possible, it’s safest and most reliable to ask a cop, mailman or an employee of any shop along the way.
- Never let anyone know what you’re (really) thinking. Keep them guessing or manipulate.
- Trust your instincts. It’s usually backed by actionable intel that we’re not even aware that we’ve taken in. Treat it like a street sixth sense.
- After an altercation in a ghetto, flee the scene immediately, even if you’re not at any legal risk. It’s not to run from the police, but to run from the assailant’s friends that may be on-scene or nearby.
- Minimize task-fixation (using mobile phone, texting, reading a book etc.) in public spaces, it reduces your situational awareness and increases your status as a potential mark (target).
- When looking each way crossing streets, take a mental snapshot of the “whole picture”, not just if there’s any oncoming traffic. Ideal for direct / deep yet unsuspicious passing observation.
- During a critical situation where evasion or practical defense is not an option, make a loud “scene“ to get the attention of bystanders and to increase the risk factor of the assailant(s).
- The practice of deliberate situational awareness is the single most important element of how to be street smart in any scenario.
- It’s strategic to have a tough appearance but dangerous to overtly act like a tough guy.
- Never have any valuables (including coins) or bags visibly placed inside your parked vehicle, regardless if it’s a good or bad neighborhood.
- The police exist for a reason. They can be an asset for survival or a tool for street-strategy.
- When navigating or lost in an obviously rough and shady neighborhood, avoid backtracking and constantly hitting the same streets.
- Try to always have a generous amount of small bills for change. Taxis, street vendors, black market dealers and others may falsely claim they have no change, forcing you to pay a much higher cost.
- Never mess with a stranger, even for a good reason. Despite their appearance or size, you don’t know who they are or what they’re capable of.
- Keep whatever weapons you may carry a secret, even to your friends and associates. Or at the very least, don’t show the world how and where on your person they’re equipped (holstered, clipped).
- When carrying a concealed firearm, refrain from constant holster adjusting / position reassuring and be mindful of visible printing.
- When going to known dangerous neighborhoods or venues, equip a “decoy wallet”, aka mugger’s wallet along with your actual one.
- How to have a street smart game face: Eyes and eyebrows slightly squinted like you’re thinking or reading, raised chin to exude confidence, not smiling but with a subtle grin for toughness.
- Don’t “see” the world like a tourist; looking up or around confused and or excited, looking at maps, walking without direction or purpose.
- A decent indicator of a relatively safe neighborhood is the busy activity and obvious presence of women and children on the streets.
- On the streets, the best escape route isn’t always a straight line and distance from an assailant, it’s often the first available turn into a public space; shop, restaurant, park, police station etc.
- Never turn your back on a stranger during an active conflict unless to evade.
- When in need, calling out “fire!” will get more effective attention than calling for “help!”.
- Don’t take it personally when a cop is being an asshole to you, it’s (typically) just a responsive byproduct of enforcement authority.
- When called for or approached by a stranger on the street, it’s typically best to ignore and keep moving, cancelling an assailant’s first move.
- If an assailant is in range, so are you.
- Real (active) urban camouflage isn’t about blending into your physical surroundings, it’s about blending into the localized society, the people.
- Wound only to slow down an enemy, maim if you must and kill if only your life is at risk.
- Knowing where you’ve just been is as important as knowing where you’re going, utilize the post-route mental street mapping technique.
- Always carry a force multiplier; tactical knife, expanding baton, knuckle duster etc.
- When in doubt, think how to be street smart by realization first then reacting or responding, never reacting or responding before realization.
- When applicable, the best defense is disengagement – to run away, evade, escape.
- It’s strategic to appear as unimportant, but dangerous to appear as weak in the streets.
- Your everyday carry (on your person gear) is your city toolkit / urban survival kit, equip it as such with mobility and utility in mind.
- The “streets” should be considered the wilderness – populated with some of the world’s most dangerous animals, also known as homo sapiens.
- Street smarts is part urban survival, part casual tradecraft and part social engineering.
“Survival in any form for any environment is an act of prevention and or recovery.” –John V Cain