HOUSTON (KTRK) --Aggravated robberies in Houston are incredibly violent, fast and sometimes completely random crimes.
Gail Stalarow was robbed at gunpoint in Meyerland last April.
"I prayed she would shoot me in the stomach and not the heart," Stalarow said.
Her robbers were caught, with the invaluable assistance of Crimestoppers, she says, but that doesn't mean it's over for her.
"Life changing," she said. "In the moment, I was paralyzed."
Like two-thirds of all robbery victims, the robber shoved a gun toward Gail right away, demanding 'everything.'
"I would tell anybody, you have to comply," Stalarow said.
In our surveys, 85 percent of the armed robbers told us compliance is the best advice - without it, some robbers told us they get very violent.
"Me personally?" asked convicted robber Alex Trejo. "I am going to tell you to shut up and then I will hit you."
"I can't get into the mind of a criminal, but obviously, you got them to talk," Staralow said.
Answers From Inside - Convicted robbers speak from behind bars
Armed robberies in Houston are up very slightly year over year. There's one nearly every hour of every day.
Keep scrolling for a list of tips to avoid becoming a victim and what to do if you're ever face-to-face with a robber.
ABC13 sent surveys to hundreds of Texas convicts looking for the reasons why they did what they did and how to keep you safe.
One convicted armed robber told us from inside prison he walked up to his victims and pistol-whipped them before demanding money.
Another said there's nothing you can do to avoid becoming a victim. But others said the opposite, saying there are things that you can do, answers we found by talking to the prisoners themselves behind bars.
"[It felt] like I had control of their life," Alex Trejo said.
Trejo was arrested in Harris County in 2015. He was convicted and sentenced to 17 years in prison.
He didn't know how many people he robbed. 'A lot', he told us.
In the survey, 77 percent of the aggravated robbers admitted they'd committed more than the crime they were serving time for.
One out of eight admitted to committing more than 20.
Alyssa Gambino-Perales is another one of them.
"The adrenaline made me feel like nobody could touch me," Gambino-Perales said.
Don't confuse her small frame for a polite criminal. Like 71 percent of the armed robbers we spoke with, Gambino-Perales most often carried a gun and let her victims know she had it.
"I know I look innocent. I know. But out in the world, I can't explain how horrible I was. There were times people had to beg me not to hurt them," Gambino-Perales said.
She assured us this trip to prison will be her last. Her plan is to move away from everyone she knew in her old life of crime; she plans to move to her birth state of Colorado.
Of the armed robbers we surveyed, 67 percent always showed a gun to the victim from the start.
"If anyone has a gun to their face or body or leg, they will be scared," Gambino-Perales said.
Not everyone was that polite.
"Every time I rob somebody, they start screaming and yelling and doing all this, I hit them, pow, pistol whip them," Trejo said. "Pow! Shut up!"
Talking was apparently a big no-no.
"I'm going to ask them, where is it at? Give me the money," Floyd Johnson said. "They put their hands up and say, 'What are you doing?' That's already the first mess up, because they asked me, 'what am I doing'?"
Most are looking for cash, not drugs or booze or power.
Of our respondents, 91 percent said they robbed because they needed money.
And if you got picked - why?
"If I picked you, you're picked," Johnson said.
RELATED: Answers from Inside - Convicted rapists describe how best to protect yourself
74 percent of respondents said sex didn't matter.
Aside from kids or elderly people, age didn't matter.
52 percent said they looked for a victim who was alone. 23 percent looked for a big purse and 36 percent looked for fancy jewelry.
For Perales, it was shoes or a new phone.
"If they had a nice phone, I assumed they had money."
Trejo trolled social media.
"Facebook and all that, people let me know," Trejo said. "They flaunt their money, watches, this and they got pictures."
Only 44 percent of respondents say victims fought back, most often just by screaming.
Only rarely did a victim pull a gun on the armed robbers themselves.
Running away seemed to be a decent strategy since "I am not going to chase you," Johnson said. "It exposes me."
The vast majority of those surveyed, 85 percent, said (somewhat self-servingly) the best thing was to give up the cash and comply quickly or risk an escalation of violence.
"I am not going to shoot you, but I am going to hit you," Johnson said. "I have to hit you in the head."
What would that do?
"A whole bunch of compliance," Johnson said.
RELATED: Answers From Inside - Killers and their guns
Tips from inside: Avoid becoming a victim
Do you have a story tip, idea or question for Ted Oberg Investigates? Let us know, at abc13.com/tedstips Report a typo to the ABC13 staff