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I talked to ‘em, and ... thank God
we got penitentiaries!”
                 Richard Pryor

Who is going to rob you?

On this page:
Risk to Reward and Workload | Muggers | Robbers | When The Two Blend

To understand why robbery is so dangerous you need to understand who is doing it. And who is doing it has a lot to do with why robbery is so strongly prosecuted. These are not the kind of people you want out on the streets able to ply their trade.

Let's start out with a gross generalization. One that, while technically speaking is wrong, gets an important idea across. That is: There is a difference between muggers and robbers.

Both use either the threat of violence or violence to get what they want. Therefore, both are committing robbery in the legal sense of the word. This is why we say technically speaking there is no difference. To further muddy the water, in daily fact and execution, these differences are often blurred. There is enough overlap to often make it difficult to exactly determine which is which because the same person can commit both crimes.

However, there still exists enough of a difference that words exist to distinguish between the two: muggers and robbers. This distinction is made even in the criminal underworld. So knowing it isn't exactly accurate, for the moment and for explanation purposes, we'll deal with them as distinct groupings.

So what is the difference?

Differences in style, degree and targeting is what distinguishes muggers and robbers. Muggers tend to focus their robberies on individuals -- especially innocent civilians. Robbers tend to focus their activities on more high risk -- and by extension higher yielding -- targets, such as institutions and other criminals.

Risk to Reward Ratio and Workload
To begin to understand the difference between a mugger and a robber, you first must understand this risk/rewards/workload concept. This is a group of overlapping factors that strongly influence each other -- and the nature of crime an individual is willing to commit.

There are many crimes that are far more lucrative than mugging someone. A reasonably well connected drug dealer can make a hundred times more money in a day, than the mugger who someone on the subway. However, dealing is  not only requires something a mugger doesn't want to do, but isn't in accord with the mugger's goals.

Let's say the mugger gets an average of forty dollars per robbery. That's not that much. This especially in light of the fact that sometimes he gets more, other times much less. Although he gets this money in a very short time, this is a very low yield strategy. But on the plus side, it's enough to get him a small amount of money in a short time. This is especially useful for getting cash for one's drug fix or spending money for an evening. (A mugger isn't paying his bills with this kind of crime.) Another advantage is by targeting non-violent civilians, his risk of injury (and capture) is very low. This puts mugging in low risk, low yield and low work.

As any officer who has stopped a street-corner-dealer will tell you, it is not uncommon for dealers to have hundreds of dollars on them. Searches of their residences often turn up thousands of dollars. And those are the petty drug dealers, the really successful ones can make millions. This criminal venture is more of a long term strategy. And yes, the drug dealer is paying not only his business overhead, but his bills. But being a successful drug dealer is something you have to constantly work at. Mugging someone only takes a few seconds.

So why aren't the drug dealers robbed?

Well, they are, but not as often as you might think. Because they too have guns and are ready, willing and able to shoot back(1). And that tends to warn away all but the most ferocious of criminals.

This is the risk to rewards issue. The greater the risk, the greater the reward. Those who are willing to take greater risks to achieve greater yields are known as robbers. The truly hard-core robbers are going to go after the most money whether it be other criminals or institutions.

But in comparison to other lucrative crimes, robbery is still a low work load crime.

The thing about these more lucrative crimes is that they require work. It is a serious misconception that ALL criminals are lazy. They aren't. The higher up, more sophisticated and more lucrative crimes require hard work and planning. What's more is that they require cooperation and personal restraint. Literally, crime is these people's profession. And in a twisted way, they are professionals.

It is also a serious misconception that ALL criminals are stupid. A successful criminal has to be smart, savvy and aware to survive in such an environment. He must not only watch out for the police, but he must always be on guard with other criminals - who will turn against him. (In fact, a significant reason that the Uniform Crime Report's numbers are acknowledged as low is that crime committed by criminals on other criminals are NOT reported to the police).

Recognize that criminals do NOT live in a world where they can believe they are sacrosanct from violence. They know violence can be committed upon them for their actions. But they also realize that violence tends to be causal. Certain crimes, lifestyles, actions and associations are more likely to result in violence. Therefore the smarter ones both take measures against violence (e.g. arming themselves) and/or tend to work rackets that are less prone to violent repercussions (e.g. identity theft and fraud). In the latter case, being themselves less violent and working non-violent crimes, they aren't as likely to be attacked as more violent criminals.

We tell you all this because now you now know who is NOT going to rob you. Older, less-violent, smarter, slicker, hard working criminals, who know that the rewards are not worth the risk, generally aren't the ones doing muggings. Or even the robberies.

And that leaves you facing either the dregs of the criminal world or the most violent. And sometimes both.

The mugger is coming after you because robbing you is quick, easy and a whole lot safer than going after a high risk/high yield target. He'll settle for the lower risk/lower return yield because it's a lot less work.

All the planning it takes to mug someone is putting a weapon in his pocket, walking out his front door and heading out to where there are people with something worth mugging them for. The workload is waiting until a viable victim walks by and then mugging that person

While robbers tend to have it more together than muggers, their work load isn't that great. Contrary to what you might think from the movies, robbers do not spend weeks planning how to knock over an establishment. While it might be a matter of days between 'casing' an establishment and the robbery, it might be a matter of minutes ... or the strategy developed on the spot. They've come prepared to engage in overwhelming violence to achieve their ends ... how much planning do you really need?

Which brings us back to risk/reward. Unlike mugging someone in an otherwise deserted parking lot, robbers know that the police will actively pursue them for going after a business establishment. In the case of bank robbery it will be the FBI. This makes it a much higher risk to the reward. Risky because any kind of robbery is the most severely punished crime next to murder and kidnapping (as often the three are mixed). A murder one charge is only a trigger pull away if something goes wrong(2). Also there is issue of armed guards or armed business owners. Unless these are immediately overwhelmed, the danger is just as great to the robber as his target. If he's going to risk his life and prison time, the returns need to be greater than the low returns one gets from mugging.

Understanding the reward/risk/workload issue will help you better develop effective strategies to keep yourself safe from both muggings and robberies.

Now let's turn our attention to those who commit these crimes.

Literally every negative cliché about criminals tends to come to roost with muggers. They are stupid, lazy, violent and dangerous. And yes, they are often drug addicted. Add onto this that they often come from the most violent, dysfunctional and abusive backgrounds imaginable - and far worse than you can imagine.

To say that these people lack empathy is like saying that Genghis Khan dabbled in real estate -- a massive understatement. They don't care if they hurt you. Let's start out with the idea that this person is willing to offer you violence to get what he wants. Take a look in your wallet right now and see how much money is there. If you don't give it to him, he is willing to kill you for that amount.

Muggers are the most pathological, sociopathic and dysfunctional morons(3) of the criminal world and they are the most violent and unpredictable. These are the guys who are so stupid and lazy that they only pry themselves up "to work" to engage in the least well paying and most violent of crimes.

It is important to recognize that the issue of these people's stupidity is NOT an elitist comment, but rather a statement of fact. Low IQs are very common among violent criminals - simply put, they aren't smart enough to realize that violence is a dead end long term survival strategy. All they see is that it works for the moment.

Another extreme is these are drug addicts who have sunk far enough into their addiction that they are no longer competent to execute more high yield robberies. Their goal is to achieve money for their next high and often what you have in your wallet is enough.

Still another issue affecting over-all intelligence is that criminals who tend to mugging people are themselves, often children, (not over, or just barely over eighteen). And that makes him MORE dangerous, not less! Because, on top of a dysfunctional, violent and pathological existence, you also have the self-centeredness, lack of foresight, lack of maturity and emotional capriciousness of a teenager. But this teenager has a gun.

If such a person perceives that something is going wrong with the mugging or carjacking, then it is the next logical step to pull the trigger -- at least according to what he considers 'logic.' That's if - using the same logic - he didn't just walk up and shoot you in the first place.

Why would he do that? It makes sense to him that by just shooting you up front you
    a) are going to be in shock and therefore won't be able to identify him later 
    b) won't be able to resist as you are laying there bleeding on the floor and  
    c) seeing you writhe and scream in pain shows how powerful he is.

The bottomline is that most muggers are young, dysfunctional and violent and they may or may not be borderline retarded. And yes, drugs are often a significant factor in their mental state. While it is easy to pity their abused, drug addled lifestyle from the safety of your office, when you are looking down the barrel of his gun, you are going to discover that these animals have fangs and they are so stupid and self-absorbed, they don't care who they bite.

It is important to realize that when you are looking down the barrel of a gun, the mugger, whose finger is on the trigger, is literally an alien species.

He doesn't hold the same values as you do. He has no sympathy or empathy for you - whether you live or die is no matter to him. Except as it might affect, him, he has no concern about your emotions or what you think. If those do affect him, he'll view it as interference with him getting what he wants -- and you won't like the results. While he could pull that trigger on a whim, most people are harmed by muggers because quite frankly, they pissed him off. They either tried to stall him, argue with him, resist ineffectively or scare him away.

Realize the mugger is only concerned with two things. Himself and the NOW. He has no fear of the police Nor does he have any concern that his actions may have long term repercussions for him (the threat of prison is like threatening to send him to his room). Often he considers that YOU are holding HIS money for him (so it's not robbery it is getting back what is rightfully his) And - most importantly - he has absolutely no hesitation about pulling the trigger, because to him, you don't matter.

What matters to him is that he gets what he wants and with little to no risk to himself. And what exactly that might be in his stunted, drug addled mind is anybody's guess. It can change from moment to moment and even he won't know until after he's acted.

 Do you now see why avoidance of the whole problem is the best solution?

Remember earlier we mentioned that crime is the criminal's profession? Well, as far as it can apply to violent crime that concept really comes home to roost with robbers.

Robbers tend to be a little more self-controlled than muggers. Well that's both good news and bad news. We say this because they pose a different kind of danger. While a mugger might shoot you on a whim, robbers commonly are more predictable. The problem with this is that, if you give them reason, they will shoot you faster than a mugger.

And this can include announcing their presence by committing extreme violence (such as shooting or stabbing the security guard). Even if robbers do not kill anyone out right they need to overwhelm and take control of the situation immediately. Due to the more high risk high reward nature of their crime robbers cannot afford to chance an effective resistance to develop or an alert to be issued (e.g. silent alarm to be pressed. Which would bring an effective response).

Remember we mentioned that muggers tend to rob individuals? As such muggers can -- and often do -- work solo. While a robber can work alone when he overwhelms a single clerk at a store, it is just as common that robbers work as part of a team. This is especially important when there are numerous people to control in a situations (such as a bank robbery). This requires a greater degree of coordinated effort and by extension increases the danger of trying to resist a robbery. You may be focusing on one person and his partner will shoot you. This can be complicated by a not unknown strategy of robbers. Namely that not everyone who is 'in' on the crime announces his (or her) presence. The 'sleeper' goes in first and pretending to be among the customers, serves as a back up against something going wrong (e.g. an armed customer).

Another complicating factor with robbers is their love of risk. This is like the high of a gambling addict. There is often something within the personality of robbers that enjoys the rush of power and the thrill of knocking over a high risk/ high yield target. A successful robbery is a coup. It not only gives him the rush, but it also ups his status in the criminal world. This is why there is a distinction between robbers and muggers in that world. Unfortunately, this 'rush' can often lead them to making lethal decisions in the heat of the moment. Although most robberies are committed with just the threat of violence, it is very easy to slip over line of yelling, screaming and threatening with a weapon to using it.

It is both their willingness to use extreme violence against innocent civilians and to target businesses that makes robbers a higher priority than muggers. Realize that businesses are an integral part of a communities well being. If businesses pull up stakes and leave the community suffers.

The -- and we use this term loosely -- good news is that robbers tend to be more 'job oriented.' They want what they want and and if they get it, then they are done. In many ways this makes them safer to deal with -- if you cooperate.

That is to say their motives are based on financial gain rather than  gaining the more subjective and fluid 'props'  common among the younger, less experienced and dysfunctional criminals(4). As far as robbers are concerned they are offering you a choice, cooperate and give them what they want or be hurt. If you cooperate there is no reason to hurt you. In fact, if the target is the business money you may be no more involved than being ordered to the floor while the cash is collected.

This is why -- unless you are ordered to a secondary location -- it is advisable to cooperate with a mugger/robber who has gotten the drop on you. This gives your best chance of not being hurt.

When The Two Blend
Anyway you cut it robbers and muggers are dangerous. Although for explanation purposes we have differentiated between the two, there is often a great deal of overlap. Someone who has the character traits of a mugger will often attempt robberies of small businesses. In the same vein, a more experienced and dangerous robber will engage in muggings if the need or opportunity arises.

That makes it hard to predict what circumstances you will be facing. The simple fact is you can find yourself in the middle of either a mugging or a robbery just by going about your normal business. Walking to your car or waiting in line at the bank there is always the possibility of something happening. Unfortunately, there is no way to predict whether you are going to be confronted by a 'professional' or a strung out addict trying to get money for more drugs. The former will probably take the money and run, while who knows what the latter is going to decide to do.

For ease of explanation we have largely talked about muggers and robbers operating as individuals. The unpleasant fact is both often operate in groups. This further complicates the situation because you can often finding yourself facing a mixed group.

For example, it is not uncommon for older, more experienced gangbangers to commit muggings and low scale robberies by using younger, less experienced gang members. The younger gangsters are used not only as 'muscle,' but also cannon fodder. The older gangster hangs back, while sending the younger ones forward to commit the crime. Not only does this protect the older gang member from immediate harm if something goes wrong, but it gives him time to react (e.g. pull his gun and shoot a person who is resisting). Unfortunately, this means that if you are the victim you will be facing not only both types, but possibly everything in between. The older member gets the lion's share of the booty, while the younger gangstas up their street credibility for having participated in a crime with the older, more respected gang member.

Another problem with these mixed groups is that any one member can decide to take the 'threat of' into the commission of violence. And there is nothing that the other group members can do to stop it. Often when this happens there is a lot of screaming and yelling between the group members before the group flees. This is an extremely volatile situation that can explode into complete and utter chaos. The robbers, having broken the contract of "don't resist or we will hurt you' now have to face people who have no reason not to resist. Furthermore, because of the actions of one member, they are now all facing murder one charges.

The intent of this page is to show the average person the problems inherent in dealing with violent criminals. While we don't advocate paranoia or passively submitting to violent in order to understand the dangers, one must first understand who commits these kinds of crimes. For the average person -- and even the average martial artist -- there is no reliable way to muster enough firepower to effectively stop these people before they harm you. While it can be done, it takes intensive training and a different mindset than most people are comfortable living with. Knowing the dangers that violent criminals pose, hopefully will help you (the average person) understand the importance of avoidance. And why it is your best chance for personal safety.


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1) Add to this that many of the smaller drug dealers are part of a larger organization that the threat of revenge serves as protection. You may kill that particular dealer, but his organization will be hunting you. The price for this 'protection' is that many of these organizations are like pyramid schemes where, most of the money being made by the street dealers is being turned over to the higher ups. We use the term 'protection' loosely as street dealers are considered expendable assets by these groups. They can always get another one. Return to Text

2) In most states in the US, a killing committed during the commission of a felony is automatically deemed Murder One (the highest degree of murder). The thinking is that because the felony was planned (often using the threat of force) any death resulting from it constitutes preplanning. Return to Text

3) Unfortunately, this is not name calling. Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) is extremely common among the most violent and dumbest criminals. That is the condition when an expectant mother drinks and does drugs during pregnancy. There are mountains of research that proves the damage such behavior can do to a fetus. However, one of the most common effects of FAS is brain damage. While mental retardation is common, even more common is severely diminished IQ -- often bordering just above retardation. Also Google Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) and Fetal Alcohol Effects (FAE) Return to Text

4) Props is the street shorthand/slang for 'proper respects.' Life in the criminal and street underworld by-in-large revolves around a nearly pathological obsession over status and deemed 'respectful' behaviors towards oneself by others. In those circles, not showing a violent person the proper respect is considered a justifiable cause to kill someone. Return to Text

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