Urban Legends

Three Simple Steps

The Legend

Submitted May 2005

Read and Learn!

Sometimes, just by paying attention to the details of a situation you can learn that difficulty is coming in time to fend it off. Lack of awareness can spell disaster, but there is one specific dangerous condition that you can identify by just watching for three simple signs.

If someone comes up to you and...

1) Asks you to SMILE

2) Asks you to RAISE BOTH ARMS.

3) Asks you to answer a SIMPLE QUESTION

Then you are likely being robbed -- call 9-1-1 immediately!

The American Police Officer's Association, in their annual meeting last February, announced that these steps could be used to identify a crime situation, so that police could be called at the first possible moment.

The chief of police says that if everyone who gets this e-mail sends it to 10 people, then the people receiving this message will represent just 10% of the people who will soon receive it.

Behind the Legend

Steps very similar to those listed in the legend above were, at one time, used to identify the victim of a stroke. They are still useful, in the absence of a portable stroke detector, but have become even more useful in crime detection.

Why do the steps work? It's really quite simple. More than 90% of robberies begin with a criminal:

1) Telling the victim to act like nothing's wrong

2) Telling the victim to put up their hands

3) Asking the victim a simple question, such as "What's the combination to the safe?" or "Your money or your life?"

This procedure, which works just fine, is in stark contrast to similar procedures that are currently making the rounds but are less than effective. For example, walk up to someone and say:

1) "Look up" (while pointing up)

2) "Look down" (while pointing down)

3) "Look all around" (while moving finger in circular motion)

4) "Look at my thumb" (hold up left thumb, hit victim in chin with right cross)

5) "Gee, you're dumb."

This "stupidity test" (as it is advertised) does work in some cases, but it is unreliable and is not endorsed by any professional organization (with the noteworthy exception of World Wide Wrestling).

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