Distracting Questions

Written by Greg Ellifritz

Topics: News and Tactical Advice

  • SumoMe

Written by Greg Ellifritz



In order for a criminal to get close enough to commit his crime, he has to appear non-threatening.  If he appears dangerous, his “prey” are likely to spot him earlier and either run away or call for help.  Hence, the criminal will close the distance, often using the pretense of asking a question to appear less threatening.


The same questions seem to get asked over and over again.  Criminals use them because they work.  Read the story linked below.  Here’s one such example of a distracting question used to facilitate the commission of a crime:


Victim In Vicious Assault Speaks Out About The Attack


In this incident, the attacker asked the victim for the time.  According to the article:


“Debbie Watkins was out on the Centennial Trail near her home Thursday afternoon, when she walked by a man she didn’t know, who asked her for the time. When she was getting out her phone to answer, he attacked. “

  “When I saw him raise his hand, at first I was like this is not happening. I have never had anything like this happen in my life.”

Asking for the time is one of the most common distracting question criminals use.  It serves dual purposes.  Not only does it provide justification for the attacker to get closer to the victim, it also causes the victim to momentarily look away to check the time.  The criminal will use that moment to attack.


In my research, I’ve found two other very commonly used distracting questions.  They are:


1) Asking for directions

2) Asking for a cigarette or lighter


Many criminals will use some version of these three questions when targeting an adult victim.  Criminals who prey on children tend to ask different questions.  They target the child’s desire to help an adult by asking for assistance with something.  Questions like “Can you help me find my lost dog” are more commonly used.


The best response to such questions is to say something like “I’m sorry.  I can’t help you.” as you quickly walk away.  Don’t stay around and debate.  Be firm and be ready to escalate both vocally and physically if your response doesn’t cause him to stop his approach.


Your homework assignment this week is to come up with good responses to the three most common distracting questions used by criminals.  Once you determine your responses, role play them with a spouse or friend.  Have your partner make an approach and ask one of the questions.  Make your response and execute your escape plan.  It won’t take many repetitions to ingrain these responses into your verbal repertoire.




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8 Comments For This Post I'd Love to Hear Yours!

  1. Chris says:

    “I like walking up to people and saying ‘Scuse me, you got the time?’ and then punchin’ ’em in they damn face.”

    Everything I know about criminal behavior, I learned from SNL: http://www.nbc.com/saturday-night-live/video/thugs/n10547

  2. Andrew says:

    I had the cigarette approach used on me at a rest stop on SR32 by dude that popped from around the blind side of the restroom entrance wall. I bluntly told him NO I don’t smoke. He came into the restroom again as I was unzipping and made another attempt to engage me with same. I was even more curt with my response “I said NO!” and I moved my hand toward my concealed gun. He spun around and left. I zipped up and made a beeline for the door and found him within a few feet of my car and my wife. I barked at him “What are you doing?” He again said “does she have a smoke?” And I gave him “NO!” He had a look about him that said bad news. We think he had been released from Adams or Highland county jail. The dude was off.

  3. Pam the Goatherd says:

    I usually look at them so I can identify them later if needed, shake my head no, and keep walking. Mostly, though, if I’m walking down the street or across a parking lot, I make sure to be walking purposefully, looking around me, and keeping access to my personal protection device as clear as possible without revealing it. (I’ve paid attention to what you and William Aprill have taught me) My goal is to be dismissed as a target altogether.

  4. Bob in MS says:

    I keep it simple. I have one response for all. Strangers, solicitors at the door or on telephone. I use the same answer for everyone every time.
    Stranger: Hey do you have the time?
    Me: I don’t answer questions.
    Stranger: Don’t you want a good deal?
    Me: I don’t answer questions.
    Telephone solicitor: Is the homeowner there?
    Me: I don’t answer questions.
    Telephone solicitor: I need to talk to the prime decision maker.
    Me: I don’t answer questions.
    Having the same predetermined answer (no matter that you might not be addressed with a interrogative) allows you to watch hands eyes and environment better. If this standard answer does not seem to fit into the other persons head, so much the better for you, just keep moving and making the distance between you and him grater and greater.

  5. Case says:

    My favorite response to someone asking for change is “Change comes from within, man!”

  6. Brian says:

    Excuse me, what time is it? Time for you to get a watch.
    I’m sorry to bother you man, but do you know how to get to YXZ? Yes.
    Hey bro, you wouldn’t have a light I could bum off you, would you? Nah, sorry.

    Ask the question, get the answer!

  7. Paul says:

    In the UK those usual questions are asked.
    The newest one is do you want a “Big Issue” (Street newspaper), again, and again, and again. ARGH!

    But mainly it’s in a foreign accent roughly on the line of “Give us your money bitch”.

    I’m not much of a talker preferring to let the 30 inches of ash walking stick I carry answer that one.