Let me begin by saying that my time as a DA was probably the most important experiences I have ever had. I was around criminals every single day. Sometimes I would talk to them (and their lawyer, of course). But most of all, I basically got a crash course in behavioral psychology that has been invaluable since I left.
Tonight I was on the train (yes, LA does have a train) headed home after a lovely and fulfilling day of reviewing documents. I'm always aware of my surroundings, but at night, downtown, and on the train are places I'm specifically on my guard. I notice EVERYTHING.
In the six-months-worth of time I have taken the train, I've only noticed maybe two or three people ever that I could tell were looking for some kind of victim - an open purse, someone with headphones playing on a phone they could grab, basically an easy grab-and-go situation. I make sure my body language shows that I'm paying attention and that I'm probably not the person you want to try to mess with. Generally looking someone directly in their eyes is enough to have them change their mind about you. And fear - just like the movies, "they can smell fear." I never look afraid. I look like I know exactly where I'm going, what I'm doing, who's around me etc.
We were about three stops away from the end when the girl sitting next to me got off. Then a guy with wicked BO sat down next to me and I had to hold my breath, but for only one station. Luckily, he got off, but as I turned my head back towards the door and saw a guy come in. He was creepin'. I really don't have a better word for it. Walking kinda slowly, checking everybody out. Then he comes and sits right next to me. There was a completely empty seat in front of me, but he sat next to me.
He also didn't move. He didn't look at me, he didn't shift to get comfortable, he didn't look around. This was fucking suspicious as shit. I made sure that I didn't shirk away next to the window as though I was scared of him so perhaps he'd decide I wasn't the best target. My purse, as usual, was nicely secured on my arm in my lap. The way he was acting, I thought he might try to grab my purse and run out at the next station, but he didn't. Wouldn't have gotten it off my arm anyway.
Train gets to North Hollywood. Everyone exits. Despite having to exit before me since he physically had to for me to get out, he appeared a couple of feet behind me. I was still in a crowd of nearly a hundred people, so I wasn't creeped out yet. I walk faster to get in front of this crazy lady with a dog stroller. Get on the second escalator. Hmm, still a couple of feet behind me. When we got outside where people are being picked up, I turn and begin walking towards my car - when I saw him in my periphery following me I decided to try something.
I walked over to a bench area where a guy was on his phone, and I stopped to get my keys out. Well whaddaya know, the stalker stopped too. Because there were so many people being picked up right there and my car was one row back, I decided to see if he'd go that far. He kept about 20 feet back, but he followed me the entire time, so I decided to walk in circles. Then I walked back to the station. Dude, I can fucking see you, are you kidding me? He was obviously a very bad criminal. So for a few minutes I walked around the crowded area to see if he'd give up. I thought he had, so I head back out towards my car. Turn around, guess who's there, 20 feet back, coming back to the parking lot.
When I get to my car, I just turned around and watched him. He wasn't stopping so I headed back to the pick up lane. This time he just sort of stood a few feet away from my car and lit a cigarette, thinking I'd come back while he was there (SERIOUSLY HOW STUPID ARE YOU?). I literally stand in a handicapped parking space next to a car with a man and his daughter waiting on someone for two minutes. I watched him. He was just waiting. Finally he seemed to give up and headed back to the station area, since I was too close to people.
After another couple of minutes, I thought he'd completely given up, so I headed back towards my car. I turned back and saw him speeding up behind me, since he'd given himself too much room and I might be able to get in and away before he could reach me. And then the beautiful sight of black and white passed my lane and I just sprinted towards the car, waving at the sheriffs to stop. I told them this guy had been following me for 10 minutes back and forth to my car, and we walk around the corner and there he is, just waiting.
The officers detained him, searched him, and started asking him questions. I stood back and waited, knowing they'd want to talk to me. Eventually one of them came over and asked me what had happened, and I told him the whole thing. They said he had no weapons on him (whew) but had admitted to being arrested before. They sat him down on a curb while they went through all the shit he had in his pockets and got my information.
Since obviously he hadn't yet committed a crime, the sheriff told me they were going to run his record and "hopefully he has a warrant," but also said they'd keep him facing the other way if I wanted to get in my car and go so he didn't see which way I went. He was pretty dim, so the officers weren't too worried about him remembering my car. I thanked them and went on my way. A+, LASD. There when I needed you.
But I noticed him because I know criminals. Most people don't. He didn't stand out in any way physically or by his clothes, but by his actions. Someone who didn't know what to look for likely would have been followed to their car and robbed. So be careful. Watch people's demeanor, and for the love of god look behind you at night. Walk in circles. Do what you need to do to make yourself know you're safe.