Bad Guy Triggers

This week I’m teaching about bad guy triggers which is helpful for my brothers and sisters working as security guards and for loss prevention officers, but if you’re a private investigator and anticipate working on hit skip (or hit-and-run) auto accidents, you’re going to find value here as well!

This week, the idea of triggers for bad guys comes up because of a comment I got from a Loss Prevention Officer on one of my training videos.

The Shoplifter Case

He said as he was approaching the theft suspect, who had walked out of the store, the suspect turned and swung on the Loss Prevention Officer. He said he instinctively swung back, but the problem was that he already had the handcuffs in his hand and when he swung and it scratched or cut the bad guy’s face.

Of course, the bad guy sues the store.

The Loss Prevention officer said, all they had to do was show the video recording of the theft, of the blatant ,obvious concealment of merchandise and the judge dismissed the case.

I can argue both sides of this situation, but, in public, I’m not going to explain to bad guys some of the things that they should have thought about or mentioned in their lawsuit.

However. let’s talk about it from the good guy’s point of view.


When I worked loss prevention and used handcuffs, there were just hundreds of cases like what I just described. I would approach the suspect and he would try to flee or fight or both.

So based on my experience (been-there-done-that) is to not have your cuffs out until you have some sort of control over your subject. This is for two reasons.

One, you’re probably going to want both your hands free in case you’ve got to lay hands on the guy, move him, direct him, defend yourself, etc. I like to have my hands free for that.

Also, if you have a pair of cuffs, a lot of times the instinct is to pull them with your strong hand and now you’ve lost that primary self-defense hand.

I say wait until you have some control over the suspect before pulling out your cuffs.

The second reason is, having those cuffs out can be a trigger for the bad guy!

I don’t know about this case in particular, and I am not second guessing this LPO. I don’t do that. But, when the bad guy sees those cuffs, he can say in his mind, “No. We’re not doing that.” Then it’s on.

If you approach someone with empty hands with the cuffs hidden and completely out of view, the bad guy, even some die-hard bad guys, might not go to violence. The first thing they think is that they can lie to you. After all, they’re doing a shoplifting and trying to be sneaky rather than an outright robbery! They’re thinking they can say, “I don’t have anything on me” or “I paid for it. I have my receipt”. They think they can fool you. They think they can talk/lie their way out of it.

That allows you, as an experienced professional, to manipulate and hold the situation as needed for everybody’s safety and to get a good clean apprehension.

Don’t forget this…

One thing you have to remember is that the shoplifter may have a lot of experience with theft. They may steal a lot. If it’s drug-related, it may be everyday!

But, what you also have to take into consideration is that the Loss Prevention Officer has way more experience in apprehending thieves!

This guy may steal every day, but he only gets caught once or twice a year.

However, the Loss Prevention Officer has way more apprehension experience under his or her belt! That means you know ahead of time what some of these bad guy triggers are and can anticipate and adjust for them, like keeping the cuffs concealed.

Another Shoplifter Trigger

Another trigger that I ran into when I worked loss prevention was, as we would bring people back in, there was an archway that led to where our loss prevention office was.

On the right was a fitting room. On the left was a stockroom door. When you went back to the stockroom, there was the loss prevention office behind another door.

It wasn’t going through the door to the stockroom that was the trigger for a lot of people, it was when they came to the archway and they realized, “This is it. They’ve got me.”

When you do your job enough, you learn what the triggers are. Prepare for them.

Security Guards

Security people, you’re probably not taking people into custody like that, but you know the area where you work.

You know that there’s a certain alley where people go and smoke dope. Or you know that behind these dumpsters, people go back there and causes trouble. You know the places.

I’m always surprised that total random, unconnected strangers will find the same use for the same space. It’s just human nature that we see certain things and react in certain ways. When you work security, you’ll know the geography of your work space and what things you have there that trigger certain behaviors.

Private Investigators

Let’s step into the private investigation world, where you might be doing accident investigations.

Specifically, I want to talk about hit skips, also know as hit and run accidents.

If you see these in real life, you’ll see that there are two basic types. If you’re investigating in hindsight, you’ll see them as well when you review, say, nearby surveillance video.

Two Types (according to the world).

All of the world, and certainly in law enforcement, divide hit skip accidents into two categories. Those with injuries, and those with just property damage. (And of course, I do too!)

Those are the two categories and that 911’s going to want to know about.

But, for you as an investigator, or maybe even as a security person on the scene, let me divide these into two different categories.

Two Types (according to Larry).

1. People who immediately flee the scene.

2. People who stick around for a few minutes, and then they flee.

Either way, this is why it’s really important to get a license plate number right away.

It’s probably the first move, in my view, because you can do as you approach the vehicles, even before you’re assessing for injuries or anything else.

WARNING: With the people who flee right away, a lot of times it will initially look like they’re not fleeing. It may look like they’re just backing their vehicle out of the intersection to make room for traffic to pass. But, they’re moving their vehicle for a reason (and maybe it’s a legitimate, lawful reason), but you need to at least consider they’re doing it to flee.

Of course, they can be running with what we call counterfeit tags or bogus tags, but you’d be surprised how many times a skilled investigator can still turn that around and figure out who the person is. (I worked a hit-skip once where the bogus tags belonged to the suspect’s brother-in-law.)

The second type of person, who sticks around for a few minutes and then takes off does it for a reason and I’ll share with you the trigger that makes them run.

You may not know this if you’re just viewing security footage from a nearby store or something like this, but watch carefully. Here’s what happens. They’re scared. They’re mind is racing.

I see this mostly when they’ve striking a bicyclist or a pedestrian verses another car.

Here’s the trigger: It’s when they hear the sirens arriving.

When the medics are a couple of blocks off, they hear the sirens and the driver is fearful. Then they flee. Not because they’re a bad person, but because they’re really scared.

Of course. they’ve just made their whole predicament a hundred times worse. They’ve taken something that was a traffic accident and turned it into a crime. But that’s the trigger. When those sirens start to sound.

So if you’re on the scene, beware. Know that, as the sirens come from a distance, that may be a trigger for the person you’re dealing with.

Committed to your success and safety,
Larry Kaye,
Private Investigator

P.S. – And, of course, don’t miss my special report titled… If You Want To be a Private Investigator Give Up… Unless You Do These Three Things. You can get it right here…

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