For my sins, I have been mugged three times so far, the last just a few days ago. Thus I consider myself--while no expert in a criminological sense--experienced enough to do a write-up here.
Follow these simple tidbits of advice, and your mugging experience will be harrowing and emotionally defeating, financially only modestly depleting, and hopefully not physically damaging.
You don't really get to pick your mugger, but generally expect a rude thug, desperate enough to attempt hurting you if you resist. As in the case of my last assailant, he may not wait to hurt you, but be the kind to knock you down with a swift, hard blow to the temple first. Mugging is not an exclusively male profession, by the way...this last one brought his obviously agitated woman along.
It's been my experience that muggers generally "don't want any trouble," as I've been told as much on all three occasions. They just want the money--if they could get (all of) it by asking politely, I bet some would. Since it doesn't work this way, they resort primarily to intimidation: easier when they are armed. Twice I've had a handgun pressed to my midsection. The last guy, armed with only 200+ pounds of angry bulk, decided to intimidate me with his fist first. (I immediately became quite cooperative.)
They often work in pairs and approach a single individual from both sides. This seems the most professional, effective way to get mugged for both thoroughness of looting and freak-out capacity. Two of my previous muggers--about two years ago--approached me from opposite sides, so I never even saw the one behind me as he dug through all my pockets and pulled my bag off my shoulder. I found the gun in my belly as held by my forward mugger to be quite enough to quell my curiosity for the entire 15 seconds of the ordeal.
Expect a pat-down after you have surrendered your cash and/or wallet--do not expect to be allowed to keep your wallet, though I fortunately have been two out of three times. Your mugger's goal is usually to move along quickly, not to help you avoid the excruciating inconvenience of replacing credit cards, ID, etc.
You generally get to pick the city where your adversary lives. If it's where you grew up in the first place, chances are you'll know by now where in town he's likely to pounce on you--not to the absolute exclusion of other places, of course. My experience has varied. I've had best results on the classic dark, deserted streets, especially where there are shadows or parking spaces for muggers to lurk conveniently. If you really want to taken by complete surprise, make sure it's late, you're tired and/or drunk, and alone...casually strolling along, looking at the sidewalk, and muttering to yourself.
The dark street need not be in the waterfront warehouse district; you can also get jumped in a nice neighborhood, especially late at night. As I found out this last time around, a particularly charming and affluent street in a generally safe part of a small city can work just as well when the dark-deserted-late conditions are met.
And then there's the odd occurrence in the unusual place: my first robbery at gunpoint took place aboard a moving subway train around 2pm. There were other people in the car, but no one nearby, and I was distracted enough reading a book not even to see his face when he sat down and stuck a pistol in my ribs.
- A SharQ-suggested addition:
My mugging venues have been all in the USA (Manhattan, Brooklyn, Savannah, GA), but I reckon these tips will work well in any country where handguns are often more readily available than living-wage jobs for many people.
- GangstaFeelsGood notes that about five friends mugged in NYC all encountered only knives or unarmed but large thugs, and another in London was robbed at gunpoint. So I guess it's anywhere there are people, though the pattern seems to tend toward cities at least.
The victim's role
You can't just wait for your robber to come to you. You must go out late and in the dark, do it alone or in pairs, and make sure not to stay alert. Don't bother to avoid suspicious characters, especially if it means going out of your way. Of course, this won't always work. But if it does happen to you, handing over the money without a fight is most likely your best bet for a horrifying, but ultimately harmless, mugging.
Depending on your personal level of badassary, you may feel it a desired part of the experience to challenge your mugger. I never have, but I know two friends who tried, and in neither case did it work out for the best. In one case, my friend got a knife to the chest and a punctured lung (but hoo boy! got to keep the 50 bucks in his wallet). In the other case, my friend killed his assailant--nothing he feels great about either.
To keep the pain of the financial loss down, don't go out with a wad of cash. Take what you need for the trip, and no more. Wear a cheap watch and no gaudy jewelry.
To truly savor the demeaning, dehumanizing effects of a face-to-face robbery, be prepared to spend a few days, at least, fearing every stranger you see and keeping indoors at night. And to feel lonesome and angry. Very, very angry.
There are no guarantees when dealing with people who forcibly take what does not belong to them and are willing to injure others for profit. God forbid you meet a psycho who actually does want trouble: I haven't so far, and statistically, I'm pretty sure I'm done being mugged. Hopefully.