I always feel like somebody’s following me.

A few weeks ago we had a minor incident at the karate school. It didn’t turn into anything physical, but heated words were exchanged and threats against property were made. An encounter like that has the effect of inflating my awareness bubble for several days. One thing I did as a result of that encounter was make sure I wasn’t followed when leaving the school. Really I do this any way, but I was extra cautious for a few days after the incident.

Oh, so how do you know if someone is following you? Here is what I do. It will work for some lone yahoo or maybe a couple of guys who mean to do you harm. These methods will probably not identify a professional tail by the police or trained Hollywood Columbian Drug Lords. This also just applies to vehicle tails, identifying a tail while on foot is an entirely different problem.

So watch for this:

  • When getting in your car, definitely note any other vehicles with people in them or standing next to them. If those cars leave with you, suspect them of being a tail.
  • When leaving the immediate area cars you pass that immediately pull out should be suspected of being a tail.

You need to develop a good memory or even better, just write down the car’s details on a notepad. As you are driving to your destination and cars that followed you from the area drop out, cross ’em off the list. If a suspect car is still on your list, don’t drive home. Run an errand or two and see if they follow.

If you suspect you are being followed, but aren’t sure, you can do some active things to flush out the tail. Be aware that once you do them, the people tailing you will know you know. If it is a bad guy he might give up then and there, or he might just go ahead and get violent in the street at the next traffic light. Be ready.

Active detection is basically about driving like an idiot:

  • Make a random U-turn;
  • Turn into a parking lot and go back out without stopping; big parking lots work best for this, like a mall or Home Depot;
  • Drive a pattern to a destination that makes no sense.

Here is a diagram showing a pattern that makes no sense:

Active Tail Detection

You are in your little red car at Richmond and Augusta (bottom of map). You are going to Lexington and Camden (red dot at top of map). The direct route is to turn left on Lexington and proceed to the destination. If you suspect a tail then travel past Lexington and turn left on Baltimore instead. Travel to Camden and turn left again. If a car followed you on that route all the way to the red dot, then you should definitely be on high alert. Either they are lost, a big idiot, or following you.

So what do you do if someone is following you and you fear a confrontation? Some suggestions I have heard:

  • Go to a well-lit parking lot;
  • Go to a police station;
  • Go to a fire station;
  • Place with lots of people (construction site);
  • Where my friends are (call ahead and warn them).

The well-lit parking lot isn’t much help, it just gives you and the bad guys nice lighting for the shoot out. Police stations often don’t have any cops at them except at shift-change. There may be a cop there manning the desk, but he isn’t going to come out to help you. The fire station may be deserted too. If your friends are similar to mine, then that is a good option because all my friends are martial artists and carry guns. Just make sure you call ahead to let them know company is coming. The best option I have heard though (assuming you don’t have friends like mine) is to:

Go to the hospital emergency room (like Baptist Medical Center in the map above).

Why? It is well-lit. There is almost always a cop there writing a report. There is almost always some security presence in the waiting room. And if you get into a violent confrontation the people who are best suited to patching you or the bad guy up are right there too.

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