What is a swarming, you ask? Simply stated, it is a robbery – a theft with violence – that involves at least two or more suspects applying force (or the implied threat of force) on a victim in order to steal their property. Swarmings are one of the most random crimes that police respond to and one of the more challenging to solve.
They are also crimes of opportunity, meaning that a decision to commit a swarming is often spontaneous, sometimes undertaken by only one member of “the group” but whose actions are almost always “backed up” by the rest and under circumstances or in an environment that stacks the deck in their favour. Though it is not unheard of for a swarming to happen in broad daylight in public places, many are committed in low light and in isolated areas such as parks, paths or residential areas.
It is impossible to prevent all swarmings and robberies, but there are measures you can take to minimize the risk of becoming the next victim.
- Do you own a cell phone or other valuables such as expensive headphones? Great – but keep them out of sight. Walking around with these things in your hand is openly advertising to would-be suspects that you’ve got something of value in your possession. You wouldn’t show the world if you had $500 in your wallet; think of your cell phone in the same way.
- Avoid taking shortcuts. That is, stick to the main streets and well-lit areas if you’re walking alone at night.
- Don’t allow yourself to be engaged in any sort of conversation with groups of people you do not know, especially if you find yourself alone in a secluded area. Chances are that they are trying to catch you by surprise and are relying on your politeness that you’ll not ignore them and continue walking.
- Keep your eyes up, your ears open and change course if you have to. It’s important to be aware of your surroundings and people in your immediate space. Recognize that if a group of people appear to be taking precautions to cover up or disguise their faces as they approach you, the smart thing to do is turn around and try to get back amongst a crowd. Also, don’t have your music up so loud that you can’t hear what is going on around you.
What should you do if you are ‘swarmed’?
Chances are if you find yourself in this situation, you’re outnumbered. Do not resist, argue, negotiate or fight as you could end up being unnecessarily hurt. It’s bad enough being robbed of your personal property but it is quite another thing to be injured, possibly seriously, in the process. Your cell phone, cigarettes or cash are all replaceable items.
The suspects may indicate that they’re armed or even show you a weapon. Always assume that they are real.
Being robbed is a traumatic event. However you can help yourself and the police by trying to get as accurate descriptions of the suspects as possible and calling 911 as soon as practicable. Don’t wait! Police officers in the vicinity, with accurate suspect descriptors to watch out for, are the best chance we have of catching these people.
For more personal safety tips, go to ottawapolice.ca