Thinking Militarily about Laptop Theft

I’m typing this from a defensible position high above the cafe because the other day I saw a laptop get snatched. Today I am in a loft extension above the service floor. That day I was two tables from the front door, and the laptop which was stolen was at the table closest to the front door. I am nowhere near the front door today.

I was typing with headphones on. I heard a crash right in front of me and looked up. There was a woman half-standing beside a chair that had been knocked over. The exterior door was closing. The thief was already outside. I rushed to the door but saw nobody on the street.

The snatcher planned his line of retreat with care. There was nothing in his way. It was the shortest possible hop from the point of attack to the outside. Inside the cafe, many things could go wrong. Outside he had the advantage.

I must have been his second choice. That there was a slightly better victim is the reason I still have this machine I’m typing on.


The attack was similar to another one I saw once – a phone snatching on the subway.

The train was half-crowded, like the cafe I had been in. There were enough people for there to be a well-positioned victim and for the thief to blend in. There were not too many people for the thief to move freely.

The victim was in one of two seats closest to the door. It was a woman. She was in an aisle seat with no seats ahead, exposed from her right side and in the front. The attacker positioned himself just behind, with a clear path to the door.

The train was pulled into a station with the doors open, but the attack didn’t happen until just before the doors closed.

The victim must have been looking down, into the screen and her interior world. The attacker was waiting just behind her shoulder. The train pulled in. The doors opened. A few people got on or off. He moved. Grabbed. Ran out the door. Made a sharp left. The doors shut. She was hardly in motion. He was gone before she had time to react.


Can I watch your laptop while you go to the bathroom?

A better question is whether you can watch your own laptop while it’s right in front of you, while your own hands are on the keyboard.

I won’t say no, but I can’t really help you. You have to be aware before crime happens. Attackers may be dumb, but they don’t want to be caught. They plan carefully.

To protect yourself you have to establish a reasonable line of defense. Sometimes you just have to think militarily in daily life.