A tradecraft guide on how to be street smart for foreign and domestic urban scenarios. Skills per operatives, civilians, nomads and urban survivalists.

The street smart concepts of engaging in urban environments are less for severe emergencies and life-threatening scenarios – it’s focus is more for the human element and operating day-to-day city life.

Being street smart is less commonly but just as situationally important and naturally practical for urban survival, warfare and any civil crises.

*These skills and examples on being street smart will be continuously updated over time with new intel.

064)     When driving through a desolate area and you see police lights behind you to pull you over but you’re suspicious if it’s an imposter cop car, don’t stop. Drive normally until you get to a busy area with witnesses or in sight of an unmistakable cop car.

063)     If you’re a man and find yourself walking behind a lone woman at night, slow down or cross the street so she can gain distance. This is mostly for her benefit and to avoid a misunderstanding.

062)     Be wary of “secondary locations”; when someone from the street entices  you to go to a different location than you’re already in. It may be a set up for robbery, kidnapping etc.

061)     When getting into a taxi and there’s a meter, make sure the driver turns it on. It’s a common scam to charge you whatever they want after the ride if they intentionally don’t activate the meter.

060)     Whenever entering a new building, make a mental note of all entry and exit points as you move around in it so you can navigate out efficiently and quickly for tactical or emergency situations.

059)     Sprinkle and smudge dirt / dust on new shoes and expensive looking baggage to give it a worn-in “street camouflage” look.

ATM-Skimmer Street Smarts | TRDCRFT

058)     When using a questionable ATM, firmly tug / pull on the card scanner to see if it’s a skimmer (steals your data). ATM card skimmer devices are often literally glued on top of the actual scanner.

057)     If people around you suddenly drop down to the ground, follow suit. It could be a reaction to a sign of incoming gunfire or a bomb detonation.

056)     If a stranger comes up to you to “talk”, start or keeping walking – don’t stop or slow down. If you can’t get rid of them easily, keep momentum or speed up, never letting them veer you in a different direction.

055)     Wear shoes that you can run properly and always have the laces tied up tight.

054)     People with cauliflower ears are likely to be adept in martial arts or at least have experience in fighting. A good way to size a person up.

053)     Look like a mugger to avoid being mugged.

Airplane Graveyard in Bangkok Thailand with Det V Cader of trdcrft - URBEX

052)     Be careful of the colors you wear in known gang territory. You could be at risk by flaunting their colors from them and the police as well as be instigative by wearing their rival gang colors.

051)     When listening to music with headphones on in unknown streets, don’t have it too loud that you can’t hear footsteps behind you or the engine of a car.

050)     If you make uncomfortable eye contact with a stranger while crossing paths, don’t shy or look away fast in fear. Give a very slight head nod then redirect your view straight and keep walking.

049)     A very large group / gang of people while seemingly more intimidating, are less likely to attack you in public than if it was just 1, 2 or 3 people.

048)     The degradation levels (color fading / paint cracking) of graffiti in abandoned or hidden urban spots is a good indicator of how busy that section is with potentially dangerous / territorial people.

047)     Don’t be so clean (literally) with the clothes and shoes you wear in rough neighborhoods.

Street-in-Manila-Philippines (1)

046)     When you pull out a weapon on the streets for defense, it’s rather to deter / de-escalate an assailant from attacking you but without actually using it, or, it’s to prevent / stop an assailant by attacking them by actually using it. So be prepared to act accordingly.

045)     If you’re in a bad neighborhood or have a feeling of (or are) being followed, set up an UBER / Grab to pick you up outside of the local police station (if reasonably close). Waiting there should be secure.

044)     Shouting “cops!”, “five oh!” or equivalent while pointing at a non-specific direction at the right time and situation can clear a street of thugs or get them off your back as they may scatter.

043)     When using an ATM in a shady location, use the mirror on the machine to see behind you, don’t count your money just standing there, put the cash in your pocket immediately then walk away.

042)     Knowing how to be street smart is not like knowing how to solve math problems, it’s more like knowing how to create artistic drawings.

041)     When taking public transportation (bus, train etc.), try to arrive just in time, not too early. These are commonly targeted mugging hot spots that assailants cover from afar waiting for a target.

Street Smarts via 410 Gang in London, England | TRDCRFT

040)     Being fluent in the country’s language is a start, versed in the dialect and accent is good, also knowing the local street slang is better. As this is the most practical and usable way to communicate with “real” people as a “real” person in “real”, live settings

039)     Don’t assume all cops are “bad”, but do assume that all cops may think you are. This should reflect your actions, behavior and appearance.

038)     Always carry at least a compact tactical flashlight, beyond illumination, they can be utilized as “permissive” self-defense weapons; blunt force multiplier / strobe vision blinder.

037)     Split your cash and cards in different pockets. Or if carrying large sums of money, split the bills up into 2 different places on your person.

036)     In certain circumstances, “reverse urban camouflage” is optimal street concealment – blending in to your surroundings by using overt visibility.

035)     Hone your sense of hearing to observe and analyze approaching and following footsteps of nearby people; gait, speed and direction.

How to be Street Smarts in Kathmandu Nepal Counter IED Tradecraft - TRDCRFT

034)     For directions, don’t ask a stranger if possible, it’s safest and most reliable to ask a cop, mailman or an employee of any shop along the way.

033)     Never let anyone know what you’re (really) thinking. Keep them guessing or manipulate.

032)     Trust your instincts. It’s usually backed by actionable intel that we’re not even aware that we’ve taken in. Treat it like a street sixth sense.

031)     After an altercation in a ghetto, flee the scene immediately, even if you’re not at any legal risk. It’s not to run from the police, but to run from the assailant’s friends that may be on-scene or nearby.

030)     Minimize task-fixation (using mobile phone, texting, reading a book etc.) in public spaces, it reduces your situational awareness and increases your status as a potential mark (target).

029)     When looking each way crossing streets, take a mental snapshot of the “whole picture”, not just if there’s any oncoming traffic. Ideal for direct / deep yet unsuspicious passing observation.

Queensborough Bridge in NYC Streets Guide | TRDCRFT

028)     During a critical situation where evasion or practical defense is not an option, make a loud “scene“ to get the attention of bystanders and to increase the risk factor of the assailant(s).

027)     The practice of deliberate situational awareness is the single most important element of how to be street smart in any scenario.

026)     It’s strategic to have a tough appearance but dangerous to overtly act like a tough guy.

025)     Never have any valuables (including coins) or bags visibly placed inside your parked vehicle, regardless if it’s a good or bad neighborhood.

024)     The police exist for a reason. They can be an asset for survival or a tool for street-strategy.

023)     When navigating or lost in an obviously rough and shady neighborhood, avoid backtracking and constantly hitting the same streets.

Los Angeles, California in How to be Streets Smart | TRDCRFT

022)     Try to always have a generous amount of small bills for change. Taxis, street vendors, black market dealers and others may falsely claim they have no change, forcing you to pay a much higher cost.

021)     Never mess with a stranger, even for a good reason. Despite their appearance or size, you don’t know who they are or what they’re capable of.

020)     Keep whatever weapons you may carry a secret, even to your friends and associates. Or at the very least, don’t show the world how and where on your person they’re equipped (holstered, clipped).

019)     When carrying a concealed firearm, refrain from constant holster adjusting / position reassuring and be mindful of visible printing.

018)     When going to known dangerous neighborhoods or venues, equip a “decoy wallet”, aka mugger’s wallet along with your actual one.

017)     How to have a street smart game face: Eyes and eyebrows slightly squinted like you’re thinking or reading, raised chin to exude confidence, not smiling but with a subtle grin for toughness.

Dark streets of urban survival in Hanoi, Vietnam | TRDCRFT

016)     Don’t “see” the world like a tourist; looking up or around confused and or excited, looking at maps, walking without direction or purpose.

015)     A decent indicator of a relatively safe neighborhood is the busy activity and obvious presence of women and children on the streets.

014)     On the streets, the best escape route isn’t always a straight line and distance from an assailant, it’s often the first available turn into a public space; shop, restaurant, park, police station etc.

013)     Never turn your back on a stranger during an active conflict unless to evade.

014)     When in need, calling out “fire!” will get more effective attention than calling for “help!”.

013)     Don’t take it personally when a cop is being an asshole to you, it’s (typically) just a responsive byproduct of enforcement authority.

How to be Street Smart with Soldiers on the street in Kashmir India  | TRDCRFT

012)     When called for or approached by a stranger on the street, it’s typically best to ignore and keep moving, cancelling an assailant’s first move.

011)     If an assailant is in range, so are you.

010)     Real (active) urban camouflage isn’t about blending into your physical surroundings, it’s about blending into the localized society, the people.

009)     Wound only to slow down an enemy, maim if you must and kill if only your life is at risk.

008)     Knowing where you’ve just been is as important as knowing where you’re going, utilize the post-route mental street mapping technique.

007)     When possible, carry a force multiplier; tactical knife, expanding baton, knuckle duster etc.

Street urban survival EDC KIt | TRDCRFT

006)     When in doubt, think how to be street smart by realization first then reacting or responding, never reacting or responding before realization.

005)     When applicable, the best defense is disengagement – to run away, evade, escape.

004)     It’s strategic to appear as unimportant, but dangerous to appear as weak in the streets.

003)     Your everyday carry (on your person gear) is your city toolkit / urban survival kit, equip it as such with mobility and utility in mind.

002)     The “streets” should be considered the wilderness – populated with some of the world’s most dangerous animals, also known as homo sapiens.

001)     Street smart skills is part urban survival, part casual tradecraft and part social engineering.

Survival in any form for any environment is an act of prevention and or recovery, to adapt.

Det Cader

– Book smarts tend to be technical thinking and streets smarts tend to be practical reasoning.