Getting mugged and the aftermath

Well, the other day, on the street here in Buenos Aires, I got mugged. Broad daylight, nice part of town, moderately busy street. It was a two man operation, a fast-moving runner body blocked me on the street, grabbed my Samsung Note 8 phone which was in my hand, and then ran for an accomplice waiting on a motorcycle.

I reacted fairly quickly, although perhaps not with a lot of common sense. I was after him like a shot. And I had almost caught him when the shoes I was wearing (they were Merrells, soft and extremely comfortable but definitely not good to run in on an uneven street) tripped me up as I passed a manhole cover. I caught a fractional glimpse of my assailant’s face as he looked over his shoulder when getting onto the motorcycle and he looked somewhat startled that I was almost upon them. But my attention was adequately distracted by doing a full-length face plant on the road. And they were gone. A couple of bystanders including a person who pulled over in a vehicle to stop and get out and help me, got me off the road and called the police and an ambulance. I was pretty battered by the fall. The bystanders were so kind and helpful. Thank you Alberto and Gabriel. And Matias the policeman who bought me a bottle of water. And the corner pharmacy that donated alcohol, cotton swabs, and ice packs all at no charge.

A good friend from the hotel that I stayed at came by and helped me with language difficulties and took me to a hospital to get checked out, and luckily everything was okay. Nothing broken, nothing fractured, just some sprains, bruises, and missing a fair amount of skin. As well as a complete write-off of a pair of pants, shirt, and even the aforementioned shoes that tripped me up.

I have several comments about this.

I am kicking myself that my situational awareness was not tuned a little bit higher (especially given the article I posted about this recently). It definitely is now, because I have frankly become, a little paranoid. I don’t know how long that will last though. It is, frankly, tiring. I was in fact ALREADY following basic precautions. I don’t stand out on the street in general with my phone. If I need to check a map, or send a text I normally get off the street and back into a building entrance where I am protected before I do that. This particular case, I was monitoring a taxi that I had called to see how close he was, so I could flag him down.

I had only been on the street a matter of three or four minutes when this happened, having exited from a building prior to calling the taxi. I am amazed at how quickly these predators identified me and struck. That is the point I would make to anybody in any city. As a friend of mine mentioned, there were 14,000 motorcycle attacks like this in London last year. So, the only thing that I can advise, is again, common sense. Keeping your phone out of sight unless you really need it. Be careful about standing out on the street with the phone in full view if you don’t need to. Use parked cars, street signs, or trees as blocking protection when you do. If you call a taxi don’t wait in the street for it. Wait until the taxi gets there and then go out to it.

I don’t know how wise it was to have given chase to the person. And everybody that was involved, the bystanders, the police, my friend from the hotel, all said that it was probably for the best that I hadn’t actually caught them. After all there was two of them, and certainly the one who body blocked me was quite young and strong, what would I have done? The chances are good that they may have been armed, and even if they had not been armed, 2 to 1 would probably not have turned out in my favor. But it was instinct. Because I didn’t go down when the guy first hit me, I was still on my feet and I didn’t even think, I just took off after him as fast as I could.

The other take away from this thing was it forced me to look at the security of my phone and what I had on it. I realize that I didn’t really know (right off the top of my head) how to track my phone or remote erase it. I looked it up, but by the time I got out of the hospital and back to where I had access to the Internet, I’m sure the phone had already been stripped and reset. And checking on my various databases and information, nothing was accessed from that device in the few hours that had passed since I had had it taken from me. Although, to be sure, these guys probably had no interest at all in the contents of the phone, they merely sell it as quickly as they could.

If you have an Android device, and you have a Google account, I didn’t realize how simple it is to log onto your account and send a remote lock and/or erase command to that phone, in addition to the ability to be able to track it. Now these guys were professionals, and I’m sure that they would’ve done something almost immediately to prevent the phone being tracked, but I do wonder, had I immediately gone to someplace where I can get on to the Internet, could I have made things more inconvenient for them? And I know Apple devices have a similar capability. So - for your device, whatever it is, take an hour of your time and figure out how to do the following:

  • Track it
  • Remote lock it
  • Remote erase it

I also use a password and critical information manager. That was installed on the phone. Has huge amounts of my information (in an encrypted database to be sure). However, that turned out not to be an issue, because although pin protected, three tries of the wrong pin will make it revert to a much longer master password. In addition, I have the ability to delete that device as an authorized device via their website.

I only point these things out, because even though I talked about security and I talked about situational awareness, when something actually happened, I wasn’t as prepared as I thought I was. So, lesson learned.

One thing that I do that did pay off? I keep my stuff backed up almost obsessively. When I got to my condo and turned on my backup phone, I was back in contact without skipping a beat.

I think writing about the experience is good for me as somewhat of a catharsis. I am not as upset as I would’ve thought I would be though. But I must admit, that occasionally, flashes of my dark side surface in my mind and I think about the terrible violence I would’ve wished to inflict on this black-hearted, scum sucking, motherless @!!##&&!!@@ had I in fact caught him. But it was after all, only a phone. Yes, I damaged myself but that was from tripping. (note to self – wear good shoes 😊)

And although I have been unfortunate to have had two incidents happen to me in Buenos Aires (remember the taxi I wrote about some months back?), I don’t hold this against Buenos Aires or Argentina. Not at all. This could happen anywhere in the world. For all the years that I’ve been knocking around the world and all the countries I’ve been in, I have been incredibly fortunate. These are the first instance of that types I have ever had. And maybe that’s a good thing that it happened, and it is made me realize that I have perhaps become a little complacent.

I also have to say that I think my general level of fitness probably helped in being able to protect me from greater injury when I fell. I seem to be recovering quite quickly. And – I think I still have fast reactions still. Now if I can just learn not to trip 😊