Everyone’s had an aunty, a second cousin, a neighbour, and a pet hamster who’s encountered a real life bad guy. The country’s crime rate is increasing, and as if news of snatched bags, robberies, or kidnapping are not enough to convince you of this, here are fancy stats as proof.
The thing about bad guys is that unless they are trained professionals (unlikely) or ninjas (even more unlikely) is that they usually give out tell-tale signs before they do bad guy things. Ordinarily, a criminal observes his potential victims by following them and their movement patterns for a period of time. A recent news report in The Star tells about two women who live in fear of their ex-husbands, one of them who hired thugs to spy on her.
“He even called me, pretending to be someone else, just to check on my daily movements,” — Anis, stalker victim.
So if bad guys follow and observe their targets before taking action, a good form of prevention is to identify these characters and take note of their behaviours and habits. Here, we look at the common places the everyday Malaysian finds himself in, and the tell-tale signs of a stalker bad guy.
1. The Shopping Mall
The shopping mall is the petty criminal’s haven because people tend to let their guards down in the public, enclosed space which offers a false sense of security. Also, no one’s worrying about getting their wallets pick-pocketed when the retail salesperson is robbing you of your Ringgits in broad daylight.
The Scenario: You’re just done with a six-hour yumcha gossip session with your girlfriends. You leave the cafe and notice a man who exchanges eye contact with you. You don’t think much of it; You are after all, a fine specimen. At the bookstore, a hottie on the August Man’s latest issue catches your attention. The man you noticed earlier is here too. He seems slightly suspicious now, so you walk to a shelf at the opposite end of the bookstore just to see if he follows you there.
Stalker Bad Guy: He follows you there and makes sure not to lose sight of you. He’s fidgety and displays suspicious body language. You turn to look at him and he scratches his nose, then picks up a book as distraction. He whips out a mobile phone, crosses one arm over his torso in a defensive posture, and acts like he’s answering a call. Notice his shifty body language and nervous tics like nose-scratching and ear-tugging.
Kes Salah Faham: He follows you there, looks you in the eye, then offers a handshake while enquiring, “Eskew me miss, have you heard of the pyramid scheme?”
But If For Reals: When you’re out and about, constantly be alert of your surroundings, especially when you’re alone. Being alert means noticing suspicious behaviour earlier, it also means that you look alert. The common criminal is untrained and looks for an easy prey. If you look alert, you look like you cannot be caught off guard, making you a difficult target. Walk swiftly to more public areas like the centre courts where events or promotional booths are usually at, and where large groups of people gather. Make your way to the information counter or to security guards and tell them about the situation. According to Malaysian Insider, in 2012, a large number of mall security guards throughout the country were slated to receive training from the Royal Malaysia Police as preventive measures. Don’t be ashamed to make a report; The sooner you tell somebody, the sooner the stalker will give up his tailing.
2. The Parking Lot
Another common area for fishy business is the parking lot. This especially applies to underground lots, which are typically dark and dingy. Additionally, the multitude of cars and pillars are effective hiding places.
The Scenario: You finally escape the train and the perfume blend of a thousand armpits and feet. A man follows closely after you as you hurriedly make your way to the parking lot. You rifle through your bag for the keys and when you come up for air, you notice that same guy who’s eyeing you from a few cars away. You walk ahead, distracted with your search for the lost ark keys. That man is now approaching you with speed.
Stalker Bad Guy: You quicken your pace to get away and he quickens his. When you slow down, he slows down too. The only way he knows how to keep up with you while remaining fairly inconspicuous is to match your movements. When you turn to look at him, he looks around you. That’s him over-compensating for his suspicious behaviour by not looking entirely away when you look at him, but because he is still nervous, he cannot look you in the eyes.
Kes Salah Faham: He calls after you, “Aunty, aunty!” You clutch your bag tightly. “Touch ‘n Go tertinggal la. Sape nak ambik beg you? Gucci pun tak ori”, he says as he hands to you your transportation card, and your dignity.
But If For Reals: Equip yourself with daily items that can also be used as weapons. This includes keys, pepper sprays, umbrellas, and steering locks (hur hur). Before you approach your car, locate your car keys and hold them firmly. This way, you can quickly get into your car and if you face an attacker, you can sound your alarm. In a matter of fight Vs. flee, always choose to flee first. In the infamous attempted kidnapping of Chin Xin-Ci at a shopping mall parking lot in The Klang Valley, she reflects on how she successfully escaped…
“I did not fight for the sake of fighting…I was in an enclosed space, with no clear escape route. I would never win in a fight with these two guys, especially when they had sharp weapons. Had I fought from the get go, I may not have been in a position to escape…”
If you find yourself without an escape route, shout at the tailer to “Back off”, then throw your valuables (excluding your keys) some distance away and start running to the entrance, exit, or brightly lit areas. Do not run into a room or an enclosed space. If attacked, use the hardest parts of your body; elbow, knees, and head to attack the assailant’s vulnerable bits like his eyes, nose, and baby-maker.
3. At Your Comfort Zones (Home, Office, School, etc)
Bad guys love catching you at your comfort zone because that’s where your actions are most predictable, and where let your guard down. For the same reason, most car accidents happen close to home. When you’re going about your daily routine at your most familiar places, you unconsciously switch to auto-pilot, making you vulnerable to bad guy tactics.
The Scenario: Like every other day, you step out of the office at 5.59pm, the same time your Dragon Lady Boss leaves work. You head towards the bus stop to indulge in your evening cat videos. Snapping out of your stu-purr, you notice a familiar stranger across the street. You saw him there on Monday, Tuesday, and again on Wednesday, yet thought nothing of it. But seeing him there today is just icing on the creepy cake.
Stalker Bad Guy: Like the typical stalker we’ve gotten to know in this article, he displays nervous or shifty body language. He also matches the pace of your movements, trying to make sure that he doesn’t lose sight of you.
Kes Salah Faham: He hurries towards you and exclaims, “Girrrrrrl, is that fabulous sunglasses Prada? So. Hot.”
But If For Reals: To avoid becoming an easy prey, change your daily patterns frequently. Instead of heading home immediately after work, stay back to butter up the boss or grab some ice cream on the way home from work. The more unpredictable your schedule, the less likely it is for you to fall into auto-pilot mode. Your movements also become less predictable, making you less vulnerable to stalkers.
4. On The Road
Our roads lack not traffic jams, pot holes, and wannabe stunt drivers. It’s no wonder that they witness road rage, conceiving bad guys in all shapes and exhaust pipe forms.
The Scenario: On the way home from supper, the fishballs from the lok-lok truck start a brawl in your tummy and you‘re in a panicked search for a restroom. You cut to the fast lane and step on your accelerator, said fishballs getting rowdier by the second. Behind you, a car engine and its turbo accessories grunt. The driver accelerates so that the car almost kisses your sedan’s rear end. You accelerate under the pressure, but that doesn’t keep the disgruntled driver from tailing you.
Stalker Bad Guy: To confirm your suspicion that you’re being tailed, you make four left turns to end up on the same road. Angry turbo driver is still behind you. He is mouthing cuss words at you and giving you a one-finger high five. An irate driver is hard to miss.
Kes Salah Faham: Angry driver catches up during a red light. He drives to the lane beside you and winds down the window, then calls out before speeding off, “Ah moi, lampu kereta takda bukak la.”
But If For Reals: Firstly, don’t drive home, to the office, or anywhere the stalker can locate you on another day. Secondly, don’t step out of your car or wind down the window, and thirdly, head to the nearest police station. Familiarise yourself with the routes to the police stations nearest to home and the areas you frequent.
5. On Social Media
“Cyberstalking, simply put, is online stalking. It has been defined as the use of technology, particularly the Internet, to harass someone. Common characteristics include false accusations, monitoring, threats, identity theft, and data destruction or manipulation” – Marian Merritt on Norton.
This is not the kind of stalking where you follow your favourite celebrity or that cute girl from school because she’s…well, cute. Cyberstalking is just as scary as physical stalking because it’s done more covertly, taken more lightly, harder to persecute, and can sometimes cause psychological harm more adverse than physical injury. In some cases, cyberstalking is an extension of physical stalking and vice versa.
The Scenario: Your Instagram alerts you with a heart-shaped notification. Ahbengz88 has liked another one of your pictures. At first he just seemed like a fan of your #selfiephotography but then he comments on all your pictures to tell you how genetically gifted you are. He somehow gets his hands on your personal email address and has started contacting you.
Stalker Bad Guy: His emails are not only lewd, but he manages to tell you personal things about yourself, like your family members names, your current and past employments, and where your most frequented hangout joints are. A Google search of his name brings up his online profiles and forum contributions where he talks about you. All these are signs of obsessive behaviour.
Kes Salah Faham: He sends you an email to tell you that you were primary school classmates. You finally recognise him from his profile picture and acknowledge him. He replies, “No problem. By the way, you got play pyramid scheme?”
But If For Reals: While it’s hard to maintain anonymity on social media – which help you connect with friends– it’s still important to maintain privacy. Ensure that your security settings are privatised so that only accepted requests can view your profile. Leave out personal information such as email address, home address, and phone number. Other things to keep private are your locations, calendars, and events. If you have to tell the world about your meal rituals, do a #throwback so that you are not immediately locatable.
Comedic attempts aside, we at CILISOS would like to remind you to stay safe. Always be on the lookout for yourself, your friends, your family, and the people around you. Remember the old adage, ‘It’s better to be Seth than Cory.’ Eh?