Crime Signals: How to Spot a Criminal Before You Become a Victim


Crime is never unpredictable. 

Before a lie is spoken, a pocket is picked, or an assault is inflicted, each and every criminal gives off silent cues.  They can be as subtle as a shrug of the shoulder, a pointed finger, or an averted gaze.  But together, they make up a nonverbal language that speaks loud and clear—if you’re trained to see it. 

CRIME SIGNALS is the first book to offer a comprehensive guide to the ...

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Crime is never unpredictable. 

Before a lie is spoken, a pocket is picked, or an assault is inflicted, each and every criminal gives off silent cues.  They can be as subtle as a shrug of the shoulder, a pointed finger, or an averted gaze.  But together, they make up a nonverbal language that speaks loud and clear—if you’re trained to see it. 

CRIME SIGNALS is the first book to offer a comprehensive guide to the body language of criminals.  Filled with amazing real-life stories of crime and survival, it's designed to help you stay alert to the warning signs of a wide array of offenses.  From the tell-tale signals of a swindler to the warning signs that experts use to help thwart terrorism and violent crime, this book breaks down a criminal's body language into clear recognizable symbols.

What is the look of a lie?  How do child predators unknowingly give themselves away?  What were the clues that exposed white-collar offenders like Martha Stewart and Andrew Fastow?  Answering these questions and more, Dr. David Givens, a renowned anthropologist and one of the nation's foremost experts in nonverbal communication, offers a fascinating, instructive, and essential tool for warding off crime and protecting the safety or yourself and your family.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“CRIME SIGNALS offers a comprehensive interpretation of nonverbal body language. By giving the reader an anthropological, biological, social, and psychological, perspective of body language, David Givens offers readers insight into the behaviors of criminal personalities. If we are alert to the signals of criminal intent, we can better protect ourselves and the ones we love.”

–Leigh Baker, author of Protecting Your Children from Sexual Predators.

“CRIME SIGNALS gives the reader valuable insights into human behavior and, most importantly, cues to criminal behavior that can help you from becoming a victim.”

–Chief Alan Lanning, La Mesa Police Department

“David Givens has once more written a remarkable book which will be of immediate utility to those interested in the latest research on nonverbal communications. Where Gavin de Becker’s The Gift of Fear introduced us to the brain’s ability to warn us of danger, David Givens’s CRIME SIGNALS completes our circle of knowledge, teaching us how to assess and decipher the warning signs of danger and criminal activity. In one exquisite, easy to read volume, David Givens has dissected the behaviors of murderers, child abusers, even terrorists, as no one else has before. By exposing the pre offense, offense, and post offense behaviors of criminals, David Givens has put together an exceptional text for reading criminal behavior. Incorporating the latest research in nonverbal behavior, psychology, neurology, physiology, and the social sciences, David Givens simplifies the complex and marries it up with actual cases from today’s headlines. This book is not just for law enforcement officers, it is for anyone who is concerned about their own safety and the safety of their loved ones. This is a must read.”

–Joe Navarro, FBI Special Agent (ret.), author of What Every Body is Saying.

“This savvy, street-smart field guide to the many ways the hands, eyes, jaws, shoulders, and sweat glands of criminals betray what they’re about to do and what they have done is a must-read. Find out why you should worry, for example, if you see men entering an airport in single file, or if you see people standing like statues within a convenience store.”

–Connie Fletcher, author of Crime Scene: Inside the World of the Real CSIs

“Sorting the truth from lies and trying to understanding the criminal mind is a frustrating and elusive goal, but in CRIME SIGNALS David Givens takes us one step closer with a useful and fascinating overview of the movement, voice, and body language of those who do us harm.”

–Gary M. Lavergne, author of Sniper in the Tower: The Charles Whitman Murders

“An essential tool for warding off crime and protecting us against people who want to harm us… Filled with fascinating real-life stories of crime and survival, Crime Signals is a highly informative book that will help us read a stranger's body language so that we can eliminate many of the harmful situations that are, unfortunately, more and more common in the dangerous society in which we live. In the criminal world, nonverbal signs, signals and cues speak louder than words, and many of the survival tips in this book should help many of us feel more secure and safe in our daily lives.” —Tuscon Citizen

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312362614
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 1/8/2008
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Pages: 240
  • Product dimensions: 6.21 (w) x 8.11 (h) x 0.93 (d)

Meet the Author

David Givens, Ph.D., is the Director of the Center for Nonverbal Studies. He has been contracted by the Department of Defense, where he decoded the body language of Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein, in addition to having given countless seminars on nonverbal communication to law enforcement agencies, lawyers, judges, and members of U.S. intelligence. He lives in Spokane, Washington.

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Read an Excerpt


As Sherlock Holmes wisely taught, a crime seldom happens in a vacuum. Crimes rarely go unannounced, without prior notice, clues, or warnings. Before and after the swindle, stabbing, jewel theft, sexual assault, or mysterious death by poisoning there are clearly readable signs. Seeing an armed robber shake a pistol in your face is an obvious and tangible sign of danger. The most commonly experienced danger signs, however, are intangible feelings and suppositions that something is wrong.

The highly publicized murder of Kristin Lardner, twenty-one, is a case in point. Her homicidal boyfriend, Michael Cartier, twenty-two, telegraphed a medley of tangible and intangible warning signs before he killed Kristin on a Boston sidewalk with his .38. Had Kristin heeded Michael’s danger signs, she might be alive today.

“I had a very bad feeling about him when I met him,” Kristin Lardner’s friend Lisa recalled (Lardner 1995, 155). But blinded by love, Kristin herself felt good about Michael, and described the tall, black-haired, blue-eyed nightclub bouncer as “cute.” That he wore a large tattoo of a castle drawn prominently on his neck did not seem to matter. As we will see, tattoos worn on the face, forehead, or neck—called “radical tattoos” or “job stoppers” in the tattooing business—can often raise serious crime issues. Tattoos worn on or about the face can scream, “I’m in your face!”

For Michael Cartier, the neck tattoo forewarned of antisocial personality disorder or APD. When they first met, in February 1992, Michael was friendly, charming, and sweet. He took Kristin to dinner and escorted her to clubs. For Valentine’s Day, he gave her a rose and a teddy bear. Michael swept the promising young art student off her feet with devoted affection until early in March 1992, when he screamed in anger, punched Kristin’s bedroom wall, and then savagely punched Kristin in the head (Lardner 1995, 161). Barely a month had passed before the tattoo’s tragic promise of cruelty came true.

In April 1992, Michael’s anger shifted into chronic mode. On April 15, he argued with Kristin and shoved her down on a sidewalk near the Boston University campus. When she got up, he tossed stones at her and struck her in the calf with a hurled steel rod. Michael threw her on the sidewalk again, cursed her, then threw Kristin into the street and brutally kicked her legs and head. Around two o’clock the next morning, April 16, concerned motorists stopped to help Kristin home.

If these were incredibly tangible danger signs, there were others Michael tried to hide. He had a three-page criminal record and had spent time in jail. In 1989 at a Massachusetts café, he injected his own blood from a syringe into a ketchup bottle as his skinhead friends watched and laughed (Lardner 1995, 102). In 1990, he beat his previous girlfriend, Rose Ryan, and savagely attacked her with a pair of scissors.

Like Kristin’s, Rose Ryan’s romance with Michael ended after lasting barely a month. Rose and Michael were out walking in the Boston Common when, without warning, he playfully threw her into a city trash can. Playful or not, his behavior clearly showed that “something was wrong.” They argued afterward, and then, as she explained, “Something stung the side of my head. It came unexpectedly, like a bird’s dropping. He had punched me. Bare knuckles, backed by his full weight” (Ryan 1993).

I call Michael Cartier’s nonverbal warning signs “crime signals.” Had Kristin Lardner only known the history and breadth of her boyfriend’s crime signals, she might have moved from Boston to a safer place far away. But, trusting her fate to police protection, she sought a restraining order instead. Then on May 30, 1992—after Kristin left her boyfriend, after she received her court-mandated restraining order, after weeks of relentless stalking by her predatory ex-boyfriend—Michael Cartier approached Kristin from behind and shot her in the back of the head with his pistol. After she’d fallen, mortally wounded, to the sidewalk, he shot her twice more. An hour later, Michael Cartier was found dead in his own apartment after killing himself with the same .38.

Copyright © 2008 by David Givens. All rights reserved.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix

Preface: A Preliminary Musing xi

Introduction: Crime Signals Before And After The Crime 1

1 The Look Of A Lie 10

2 The Meaning In Hands, Shoulders, Lips, And Eyes 26

3 Marks Of The Swindler 43

4 A Silent Cry: The Killer's Warning Signs 57

5 Prelude To An Assault 73

6 The Predatory Look 93

7 Terror Interrupted 120

8 Reading The Gang Signs 139

9 Corrupt Business Designs 158

10 The Symbols Of An Addiction 175

11 To Catch A Thief 188

Conclusion 206

Bibliography 211

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