Are You a Soft Target?

By Steve Tarani
Posted in #Survival
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Are You a Soft Target?

May 3rd, 2021

4 minute read

Predators intent on harming you or your family look for the lowest hanging fruit. The first question they ask themselves: “Is this a soft target?” Don’t be so quick to respond as the answer may surprise you. How do you know if you are a soft target?

The term “soft target” hails from the defense intelligence community. It can be applied structurally to buildings such as your home or office. It can be applied to vehicles such as your car, and it can be applied to people like you and your family.

Man shooting pistol
Are you mentally prepared to face an attacker? Do you know how to spot them before they become a threat?

Labeling something a soft target is to say that there is not much of a price to be paid for failing at a successful attack. In other words, is that building, car or person an easy mark?

At the initial phases of a predator looking for trouble, it’s not necessarily a question of if you really are a soft target, but do you appear to be a soft target. You can have the gun handling skills Wyatt Earp and the hand-to-hand skills of Chuck Norris, but those skills cannot be initially observed.

The opposite of a soft target is a hard target. If a burglar sees locks, alarms, cameras and bright lights protecting a home, then he might consider the house three doors down that is poorly lit, with no alarms, no cameras and with the front door wide open at 2 am to be a more viable target. Consider this to be the base level of tactical home defense.

Similar assessment applies to vehicles. If a would-be carjacker sees that your car is locked, windows up, no valuables in plain sight, an alarm set and a GS tracker installed, and they compare that to the car three parking spaces away with the windows partially opened and a purse in plain view in the front seat, which of the two do you think they will consider the softer target?

Changing Your Stripes

Humans are not vehicles or buildings, so how do those looking for lower hanging fruit determine if you are a soft or hard target? Soft target indicators.

Mental preparedness illustration
At the very onset of a dangerous situation, we sometimes can get a feeling or a hunch.

Soft target indicators might include such predatorial observations as appears sheepish, their eyes looking down, appears to be an easy target, appears to be lost or disoriented, unaware of their surroundings. Anything that the predator may readily observe about you that indicates to them that you may be an easy mark falls under the category of soft target indicator.

Soft Target Indicators clue the predator in that you could be a potential target (victim or prey). There are no rules set in stone that determine exactly what is a soft target indicator. However, anything that the predator may observe about you that tells him “Yup, this one right here. Here’s your next victim!”

Going to the Source

Referencing a psychological study, a group of 47 multiple-offense inmates serving time in a high-profile penitentiary were selected to watch a series of videos depicting a random cross-section of people in public areas. They were instructed to identify those they felt to be the most vulnerable and to rate each potential target by vulnerability on a scale of one to 10.

Man with Springfield 1911 pistol
You may avoid the need for deadly force if you can perceive the threat before it appears.

The most common vulnerability clues were as follows: “the way they walked or held their gait; they did not walk with confidence.” Females received a higher rating than males. The type of physical condition or level of fitness also mattered. If they were viewed as healthy, it appeared that they may be able to fend off an attack and potentially cause the predator injury. Situationally aware carried a lot of weight as those unaware of their surroundings scored higher than those even minimally aware.

All of these can be distilled into three classifications of common soft target indicators most likely to garner the attention of a predator:

  1. If you appear physically, mentally or otherwise weak.
  2. If you appear unaware, little or no situational awareness
  3. If you appear to be alone, vulnerable and/ or exposed.

It’s okay if you may appear weak or unaware or alone. It’s okay if you may appear to be any two of these, but if you appear to be all three of them – alone, unaware and weak – then you look like food to the hungry predator.

To a predator, identifying someone who appears to be weak, unaware and alone is like hitting 777 on a slot machine in Las Vegas — they have hit the proverbial lottery.

Predators often observe multiple targets and throughout the observation process may locate and identify three or four potential targets. Upon further evaluation he ultimately bases his decision based squarely on those identified soft target indicators.

Stylized martial arts
The greater your mental focus, the quicker your decision can be made to take control of the fight.

Predators tend to shy away from hard targets and are drawn to softer targets, as they have learned from experience that they are much easier to victimize. The realistic question you want to ask is, looking at it from the predator’s perspective: Do you appear to be a soft target?

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Steve Tarani

Steve Tarani

Steve is a former CIA protective services subject matter expert who served on Donald Trump’s pre-election protection detail. He is also the lead instructor for the NRA’s new Non-ballistic Weapons Training program offered nationally to 2.3 million members. Tarani, an active protective agent, is a Central Intelligence Agency and FLETC-certified federal firearms instructor who also provides services for the US Naval Special Operations Command, FBI National Citizens Academy Alumni Association, National Association of School Resource Officers (NASRO) and others.

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