Showing posts with label Crime Prevention. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Crime Prevention. Show all posts

Saturday, July 18, 2015

OPINION: Panic is the New Normal, America

The last few weeks have been an interesting time in the world of security. We've seen the death of nine innocent lives at the hand of Dylann Roof, seen the panic derived from the unfounded speculation at events like the Navy Yard active shooter scare, and most recently, our nation has suffered an unimaginable blow at the hands of a young man who killed four Marines. In all of this, our discourse with one another has gotten more combative and often, bordering on nonsensical. People are allowing mass hysteria to justify an enormous amount of gross speculation and outright lies and misconceptions about security and mitigation to infiltrate our discussions about the things which provide protection. At times, I have found myself engaged in some of these discussions to only find myself more frustrated and wary from addressing the problems of allowing this mass hysteria to grow at the rate it has. In fact, here, I'd like to address what are the problems and what are some possible solutions.

Lately, it seems like I constantly rehash my favorite topic - the semantics of security. If you're not familiar, I'll digress and explain briefly. I look at security as a mental construct we use to nullify our fears long enough to meet certain life-sustainment activities. In other words, security is nothing more than the things we do to "feel" safe. When we practice "security", we're addressing what we think the adversary will do. Ironically, we do this often without ever seeing the bad actors in action. That's right. We lock doors and windows, primarily, because we believe bad guys will be turned away from locked doors. Time and time, we do this under the assumption bad guys don't pick us to steal from because the doors are locked. What this never accounts for is the determined adversary. Who is this? Someone who gives not a single iota about that locked door, only that it may delay him from gaining entry. What protects us from the bad guy is really something called mitigation.

Basically, mitigation is about dampening the effects of an attack. It recognizes the threat is real and will come eventually. It looks at the complete threat profile and determines its capabilities, opportunities, and motivations. By doing so, we can implement a comprehensive mitigation strategy that not only detects the adversary but possibly, deter, delay, and destroys him. Earlier, I mentioned locked doors. They aren't bad. In fact, those "secure" entry-points are a part of mitigation because they aid in detection, deterrence, and delaying further infiltration. Most novice security practitioners are unaware locks and doors are rated based on their ability to delay penetration. So what does this have to do with our current discussions on security?

Most of your average citizens promote ideas about security based on things they think will work. As someone who has done this kind of work, how many people have you encountered that don't do it but swear they get security? How many of their ideas are lofty, unrealistic, unfeasible, unsustainable, and just pure wrong? Whenever I talked with people about securing the homes, a common statement was "I already have security - it's called a *insert dog breed, gun caliber, or pretend-military/MMA status*". These folks assumed whatever that one thing they had would be adequate to address one kind of threat using one or two vectors. Some would argue one or two of those things will cover most threats to them. That may be true but it neglects other viable threats which may possess other capabilities that aren't countered.

The fix, in part, lies in how we think of the threat. Take the military recruitment center shootings. Loads of people have been saying for the last 48 hours, we should send military police to secure these facilities. They claim these guards would possess the skills and equipment needed to neutralize the threat. What's strange is that most of these people are only considering one type of threat before we even have a confirmed motive from the FBI.

Most believe banks with guards don't get robbed because the posted guard at the bank has a gun. A secret among many bankrobbers is most aren't armed. Bank policy, as is widely known, is to give up whatever money is designated by the bank for robberies to the robber. The bad guys know this and many don't want to jeopardize more time in prison by getting caught with a gun AND the cash. So they opt for the note. The reason they don't hit banks with guards is because the guard has a gun AND radio. A saying I was always fond of when I did security as a civilian was "You may outrun me but you'll never run faster than my radio". What most miss in the discussions about MPs at recruitment centers is that most profiled jihadi active shooters FULLY expect the police and do so expecting to be shot. Remember this - the Dalton gang and others robbed a many of banks and trains that had armed guards. All in all, armed guards only turn away less determined adversaries.

This work, called risk management, requires us to analyze the threat for what is, what it can do, the damage a successful attack can cause, and our mitigation. In the current FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt) environment we're in, there's a tendency to deify the adversary to a point where they are seemingly omnipotent and omnipresent. One successful attack and we're suddenly unsafe and at danger of losing everything. What's crazy is that it never acknowledges the connection between the mental construct of "security" vs protection. Is it no wonder, then that after one successful attack, we assume the sky is falling? It's as if the sanctity of safety we constructed our actions has blinded us to what is real and imagined in security. Naturally, we assume we need to do more to "feel" safe rather than fix, eliminate, or upgrade our existing mitigation. Additionally, the loss of human life is unacceptable for any security setting. Having his enemy lose one life, regardless if the shooter lives or dies, is considered a victory for some shooters. Given our intolerance to having personnel killed, this is not wholly untrue.

There are a number of solutions to our current security crisis. Some are good. Some are very good. Some are faulty. Some are flat-out dangerous and wrong. These attacks will only increase, as will the speculation about future attacks, hoaxes, and troubling events. Even more certain is we have to continue having the difficult discussions we're having. Nothing gets solved by having discourse with people who always agree. Ultimately, the solutions don't rest with the victors of our collective shouting matches. They lie in how we understand the threat, the risk they pose, our mitigation, and how we define "safe".

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Riots: The Physical Security Considerations

LONDON, ENGLAND – AUGUST 08: A rioter throws a rock at riot police in Clarence Road in Hackney on August 8, 2011 in London, England. (Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images)

Last night, riots erupted all over Ferguson, MO after the grand jury announced they would be declining to indict Darren Wilson, the police officer who shot and killed Michael Brown. This post isNOT about that decision or the investigation itself. My opinions on that will remain out of the public sphere. However, I would like to discuss the unique physical security considerations mass protests and riots present for security practitioners. I’d like to discuss what those challenges are and how we can counter the physical attacks against assets during these events.
  1. Protests are extremely dynamic and what looks peaceful five minutes from now could be a full-blown riot the next. People assume they can do a lot of things they simply can’t. Predicting the actions of hundreds of people and whether they view your assets as a legitimate target is one of them. This is almost impossible to do. So don’t. Just err on the side of caution and just assume your assets are.
    Social media and the news can lull practitioners into believing the intelligence they’re receiving about the threat is accurate. In many cases, it can be. However, you should never use anyone else other than yourself to determine how a crowd will behave and view your assets.
  2. Agitators carry an assortment of tools to target your assets. Just because you’re seeing rocks and water bottles being thrown now does not mean you’ll only see that as a weapon against your assets. They may use chainsaws, bats, pipes, bricks, Molotov cocktails, guns, etc. against you and your assets. Consider the full gambit of tools they will have access to, factor in the time they have had to pre-stage gear, and experience. Make sure your preparations are comparable for probable threats.
  3. The people protesting aren’t always your biggest threats – they can also be your savior. In many cases, as we saw in August and last night, bystanders and peaceful protesters stood up to defend local businesses in Ferguson. Most of those storefronts were businesses who had made in-roads with protesters beforehand. Also, the peaceful protesters realized their protest was being hijacked by anarchists and thus, losing the narrative. Because of this, many protesters actively protected storefronts. You should make every effort to reach out to protesters beforehand. In some cases, I would consider offering a reward for any protester caught seeing defending your assets.
  4. Some storefronts are targeted not because of who they are but for what they have inside. Last night, I advised any pawnshop owner to remove all weapons from their locations. Why? Because most physical security measures used to defeat thieves is usually meant for one or two persons attempting the threat and reliable police response. As last night proved, the police will be to busy with other response to ensure adequate protection to those stores. If you can’t move the guns, then remove their firing pins and ammunition immediately. If you have some clue that rioting could occur, you owe it to yourself and the community you service to at least remove the weapons or firing pins until you know for sure the threat is gone.
  5. Consider how we’re trained as professionals to protect assets in your riot contingency. We detect, deter, delay, and if necessary, stop the threat. Are the measures you’re implementing do that? Can they do that with a crowd amassing your facility? If not, can you afford the risk of failure?
Here are some measures you should think about about implementing, in my opinion:
  • Remove any weapons or explosive materials from stores.
  • Shutdown gas station pumps.
  • Consider constructing steel shutters or a roll cage around your storefront. The shutters and roll cage should be secured with a heavy-duty lock with a buried shackle to prevent cutting it or using a shim to pick it.
  • Install heavy-duty glass or board windows from the inside and outside.
  • Remove cars from parking lots to other secure areas. If this is not possible, consider erecting a larger fence where the top is bent facing towards the adversary. This configuration is used in prisons to prevent scaling which is difficult to do for most people. A ladder is required in most cases. Also, remove those assets closest to the fence.
  • Conduct counter-surveillance daily before the protest is said to occur. Be on the lookout for any suspicious behavior. Have you noticed new people around your stores you haven’t seen before? How much loitering occurs and is any of it out of the ordinary? Are people asking strange questions about when you typically shutdown for the day or when do you “really lock the doors”? Have your loss prevention guys noticed any increased observance of camera locations?
  • Barriers.  Use them. I can’t say this enough. When I was a young Airman, barriers were a part of my everyday life. We used them a lot for increased threat mitigation, civil disturbance, crowd control, and even presidential visits. My preference is for the plastic jersey barriers to be filled with water or sand. Water should be used in winter because it’s more likely to freeze than like, unlike in summer where it tends to so a lot. Jersey barriers, when not filled, are highly mobile and allow the practitioner flexibility in how, when, and where they can be deployed. In many cases, a pick-up and a few able-bodied people is all you need to move them, where concrete and sandbags require forklifts and more bodies.
  • Fences. Put them up. You should make every effort to ensure protesters will have to struggle to get to your assets. The cheapest and best way to do that is through proper fencing. You should install a fence typically around 10 to 15 feet and weigh whether or not your insurance can handle barbed wire. Another consideration, if you’re using barbed wire, is aesthetics. Can you do business with the barbed wire on the fence? Some customers respond differently to that.
  • Consider guards if you have no other choice. Seriously, don’t hire guards if you don’t need to. Security officers are great at what they do. If the target of the protests is law enforcement, who do you think the rioters will look at as a potential target? Those stores with guards in uniform. Not saying you shouldn’t use guards but understand their risk and that they don’t always lower your threat profile.
  • Don’t get political. Seriously, if you have a Twitter profile for your store and you’re talking about how you hate the protesters all the time, you’re making yourself a larger target. That’s what we call “begging for a fight”. Stop. Instead, talk about how many people in the community you employ, how long you’ve been there, and how the damage impacts you and other businesses. Stay away from any discussions about what is being protested.
My list here is not all-inclusive. I am sure there are other ideas. Please, submit your ideas below so we can continue the discussion.

Sunday, October 19, 2014


This has to be the coolest undercover cop/narc I’ve ever seen in my life.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

How And Why Mass Violence At Schools Happen

There's been yet another act of mass violence at a school and, or course, the media has lost its mind. People are wondering how this could have happened and why. As security professionals, these questions are not new and nor is the answer. For those in the field, bear with me, I'm going to over how and why these things happen.

  1. It has nothing to do with WHO at times and more with WHERE. Let me explain. We always assume people target us because we mistakenly believe the target is "special" to the attacker in some sort of way. This is a common theme in our attempts to understand attacker methodology with respect to terrorism. All over electronic punditry, we're saturated with folks who proclaim "they attack us because they hate us." So this has become our mantra for every attack of any variety. What we fail to account for is that it's not entirely exclusive as to who they attack but where. On Twitter, I have been practically shouting when it comes to mass violence, one of the most key ingredients, if not the key ingredient, is the presence of crowds. Nothing is more appetizing to an attacker but to make his attack seem grand and above-average for a swath of reasons I'm not qualified to adequately explain here. Let's just say, you should NEVER EVER be surprised by the actions of mentally disturbed people.

    Crowds are also, normally, not difficult to get large casualty numbers from. Think about the last time you were at baseball game or major sporting event. Ever notice the large crowd at the ticket or embarkation areas. As a security professional, whether you're working or not, this is perhaps one of the most precarious chokepoints to be at. A chokepoint is a place where people have no other choice to be at in order to go some place. Everyone working anything from Secret Service to convoy security will tell you to ALWAYS avoid chokepoints. Why? They offer the presence of crowds, very narrow escapes for victims, and the ability of attackers to conceal themselves in the crowd.
  2. Violence has very little to do with the tools. Think about that for a second. I have made it no secret I enjoys guns. I do. However, I also understand the temptation to want to ban them. I've seen the statistics and the simulated models in whitepapers from folks who have never fired a gun or actually witnessed violence. I have a problem with this overly simplistic conceptualization of the problem. Erroneously, we believe the issue is with the mass proliferation of guns. Unfortunately, the discussion rarely acknowledges the socioeconomic, psychological, political, and cultural issues that drive some violence. More importantly, we ignore what mankind has known for decades - you can ban the tool but violence will always remain and the loss of any life is intolerable. Do you think if mankind had no guns he wouldn't find a better way to commit acts of violence? Think about that for a second. We had no electric chair until Thomas Edison did a proof-of-concept demonstration to show the dangers of electricity. Man will always find ways to commit acts of violence against one another for whatever reason it deems fit. This is not to say we can't have mitigators in place but we can't for one second believe we're getting rid of the problem solely with a ban of the tools or knee-jerk "reforms".
  3. People mistakenly use "mitigation" and "prevention" interchangeably. Security professionals understand the difference between the two. Websters defines "mitigate" as "to make (something) less severe, harmful, or painful". Many people believe we can prevent acts of mass violence "if only we do X,Y, or Z." There's a huge fallacy that we can prevent crime. This comes from a sublime arrogance of humans who believe we can stop our fellow man from acting out against us.

    The issue may seem to be one of semantics but I argue that it's not. You can't "prevent" me from speeding. Only I can do that. I used an analogy the other day where I articulated, "Just as doesn't make marriages, you can't "prevent" crime. You can set conditions with good mitigators but ultimately the decision to move forward or stop is on the principle actor(s)." Think about that for a second. No matter what measures you put in place, whether it's a guard at a school or metal detectors, my ability to accomplish the task of killing a large amount of people at a particular location is solely left to my motivation, intelligence, ability, and imagination.

    I have long argued that we have to move away from the idea that we can "prevent" crime to one where we "mitigate" attacks. A while back, I said people mistakenly believe by locking a door that somehow they have thwarted a burglary without seeing any firsthand information a burglar attacked the door and left because it was locked. Yet, everyday, most of us lock our doors anyway thinking we're doing crime "prevention" when in fact we're doing crime "mitigation". Mass violence occurs many times because we mistakenly believe our mitigators can prevent it.
  4. We rely too heavily on certain mitigation tools. Having an armed guard at a location is a mitigator not a prevention tool. The guard is there to ensure you have the means to adequately respond to acts of violence until police arrive. School administrators have for far too long relied on guards as prevention tools and have stopped doing other things which are more effective in mitigating these acts like deploying good cameras, training personnel on monitoring camera feeds, practicing lockdown procedures with teachers and other staff during non-working hours, talking with local police about their capabilities, training staff on conflict deescalation, and paying attention to warning signs.
  5. We don't train staff on attack methodology and psychology in school. Teachers and other staff are often taught how to respond to these events which is great. However, solely doing this ignores how often teachers and staff are the best sensors we have to students who may be a danger. Many times, they may observe a student doing reconnaissance or testing security and not even know it. Imagine how many lives could be saved if teachers and staff had a threat working group chaired with the school safety official and principal in schools where these incidents have taken place.  
  6. We used to do a really good job of being very proactive with mental health incidents in this country. I'm not advocating going back to asylums. Most were wrought with abuse and shoddy practices. No, what I want is for us to become much more proactive with mental health. We can no longer see mentally ill people as "someone else's problem". Mass violence has taught us we can no longer think of it like this. Yet, we do. When we removed the ability of doctors and other mental health professionals to intervene immediately and possibly treat long-term issues, we placed our citizens at risk. How? When most seriously mentally disturbed people come to the attention of authorities, it is often too late and the nature for how long and where they can be adequately be treated has greatly diminished. In some jurisdictions, the police can only place you on a "mental health hold" at a local mental health facility for 72 hours or less, in many cases. If you don't exhibit the behavior further and can be treated, you're out.

    As a former law enforcement officer, I can tell you the most distressful call to go to is a mental health one. Given that most mental health hospitalizations are never found (either because they can't legally or no measures exists to enable it) on background checks for firearms, the problem grows exponentially worse. Many of those who have committed acts of mass violence had already been diagnosed as being seriously mentally ill but couldn't be put in long-term care because they hadn't been deemed a danger and even if they had, I'm unaware if this would have barred them from having firearms (as discussed previously, I'm not sure a ban for them would have been effective in preventing violence in some instances).
I understand this list is not all-inclusive but this is how I see the problem in a more condensed manner than I believe can be adequately addressed on a forum such as this. You may have other solutions or know of other ideas. As always, they are greatly appreciated.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

10 Ways to Mitigate The Risks and Issues Associated With Theft From Motor Vehicles

When I was stationed in England, one of the most pressing issues we faced was theft from motor vehicles. It seemed like everyday I received a report a US service member had something stolen from their vehicle. What amazed me was not the item stolen but the simplicity required in helping prevent and mitigate the issues surrounding these thefts. Here a few simple things you can do:

  1. If you leave it on your car seat, it WILL get stolen. There's no question in mind if you leave something of any value in your vehicle in plain view, it is not a matter of if but when it will be stolen. Take your valuables and secure them. If it has to remain in the vehicle, place it in your trunk. If you can take it inside, take it inside. NEVER EVER leave valuables in your car overnight. Period.
  2. Remember when I said "anything of value"? Well that also includes your GPS. The most common things most people forget to take in their homes, at the end of the day, is their detachable GPS unit. Take it inside. If you have to leave it in the car, lock it and the mount you use in the trunk. Also ensure your window doesn't have the infamous "GPS markers" - the residue left when the mount's suction piece is disconnected from your window. This is a "tell" that you have stuff of value possibly still in the vehicle.
  3. Limit things that tell everyone that you routinely store valuable things in your vehicles. If you're a cop, limit the "Thin Blue Line" or FOP stickers. It tells potential thieves that on occasion (perhaps today) you leave a gun or other department-issued gear in the vehicle. If you're in IT, now might a good time to take the ethernet cables and the old router boxes and leave them in the office or at home. Again, this tells thieves the wrong thing.
  4. Park your car in a lighted area in plain view of you and other pedestrians, passing motorists, and police officers. Most people think if they hide something, then thieves are less likely to attack. That is not the case always. Chances are you're not near as good as hiding stuff as you think. If you can't move the car to a well-lit area, at least consider moving it somewhere closer to your home.
  5. Your locked door means nothing. People normally laugh when I say this. I suspect this has to do with the fact that they forget that most thieves prefer easy methods of entry. If it's on the front seat and they want it, they will choose the path of least resistance - your windows.
  6. Get an alarm but actually go outside and turn it off when it annunciates. One of the biggest mistakes people make is they hear the car alarm go off but take a quick glance out and immediately turn off. What your car alarm is saying every time it goes off is "Hey you! Someone who is not you just touched me - as in I think someone is trying to steal stuff" It's a pain in the butt for sure to go out every single time. However, I'd rather know I actually went out and saw for myself rather than find my stuff gone because I deactivated the alarm with a visual inspection.
  7. Make securing your car a part of your nightly security routine. I do it every single night. I check all of the doors and windows in my house. Once I'm done there, I arm mine and my wife's vehicle, ensuring the doors are locked. This has to be done. 
  8. Buy insurance for all of your stuff. Seriously. Buy insurance that covers loss of stuff from your vehicle. Remember, it's not a matter of if but when your stuff will get taken.
  9. If you're parked in a public garage, practice all of the steps above AND consider parking near cameras. Thieves often hit public garages and lots because they believe they'll have some privacy (i.e. areas to hide and do their business). You rob them of that privacy by placing the vehicle some place where natural observers can see them and where there are cameras. If the garage is manned, consider parking the car nearest where the attendants are at. Also, always take your parking passes, gate keys, and ticket stubs with you.
  10. If you're in a business that requires tools in your vehicles, be extra vigilant when taking the vehicle home with you. Seriously. Of all the vehicles that get attacked, work vehicles are targeted the most. Why? You're more likely to have expensive stuff.
If you're a law enforcement officer or security manager charged with preventing these crimes, I recommend the following site to assist in helping you. -

Monday, July 22, 2013

Dude, You've Got Mad Pickpocket Skills

I have seen a lot of criminal acts in my 30-something years of being on this blue rock. Occasionally, I find myself amazed by how ingenious and brazen certain criminals are. This story out of China is one such case. A lady was innocently riding her bike when a pickpocket jogs next to her. As he gets closer to her, he uses chopsticks to retrieve her phone from jacket. That's right - chopsticks. You have to see it to believe it.

Yup. That's what you call a smooth operator.

Monday, July 15, 2013

OPINION: Why Crime Prevention Fails

I have a pet-peeve with the current spate of "anti-theft" apps for mobile devices. My problem doesn't lie with their technology. Nope, my issue is with their marketing. There are a plethora of these apps that are being called "crime prevention tools". I know what you're thinking, "But if someone takes my cell phone, this app will use the GPS to track my phone and send me an email so I can tell the police where to get my phone." True, but answer this question - What crime did it stop? Seriously, what crime did your app stop? And therein lies the problem with the app and with how we view crime prevention.

Part of the reason we have such a high rate of crime in this country resides mostly in our definition of "crime prevention". Many times, we mistakenly believe "prevention" relies on the response to the crime. A faster recovery means we've sent a message to the bad guys that they can't take our stuff without the cops coming to get them. Stop laughing. That's the message the creative marketing teams behind these apps and other products will have you believe. Remember Nancy Reagan's "just say no" campaign and the "war on drugs/crime". Those sent a clear message to the bad guys - we have no clue how to stop you.

Stopping crime is a noble objective but no crime is totally preventable. As a matter of fact, it's a safe bet that at some point in your life, you will be a victim of a crime. After 10 years of doing law enforcement in the military and my current job, I have an idea as to why this is. Simply put, the reason you will be a victim of crime at some point in your life rests in two places and neither of which needs the other for the crime to take place.

The first place where the crime onset takes place is with the criminal. Remember what I said a few posts ago about how the attacker will ultimately attack you regardless of what you do? The same idea applies here. You can't control what an attacker will do. If he/she is motivated and skilled enough, which are two things you can't always plan on, there is very little you can do beforehand to stop them. That's not a defeatist attitude. This is me directing you to the second place where the crime onset occurs - the victim.

Victims, typically, do a lot of things good before an attack occurs but they also do some things terribly wrong. Where things go wrong for them is in their attitude - "I never thought it would happen to me.....But I lock my doors....Why me?" There are loads of reasons you were selected to be a victim. None of which you may have had any control over. It is for this reason I think we need a new crime strategy - crime mitigation.

As we've discussed before, your attitude towards crime mitigation has to be proactive. You have to be thinking about the best way to lower your chances of being a victim and lessening the damage from an attack. Whether you purchase a smart phone or sports car, you should have a proactive attitude towards engaging the threat. Buying an alarm or an app won't stop theft but planning on it to happen at some point may not only mitigate the damage but provide more creative solutions to prevent the loss from happening in the first place.

Monday, July 1, 2013

10 Ways to Help Mitigate and Repel Home Invasions

In my real world job, I come across many crimes. None of them is more troubling than home invasions. According to the Department of Justices' Bureau of Justice Statistics:
  • An estimated 3.7 million burglaries occurred each year on average from 2003 to 2007.
  • A household member was present in roughly 1 million burglaries and became victims of violent crimes in 266,560 burglaries
  • Offenders were known to their victims in 65% of violent burglaries; offenders were strangers in 28%.
  • Overall, 61% of offenders were unarmed when violence occurred during a burglary while a resident was present. About 12% of all households violently burglarized while someone was home faced an offender armed with a firearm.
Often, victims seem to picked at random or targeted by someone they know. However, in my experiences there a few things I think could mitigate the risks and the aftermath associated with home invasions.

  1. Prepare, prepare, prepare, prepare. Seriously, prepare. Most people assume because they lock their doors and have a gun that will stop someone from coming into their homes. Sometimes it and sometimes it doesn't. In order to mitigate this crime, potential victims have to prepare for the unthinkable and oftentimes, unlikely - someone will come and eventually break into your home while you're there. Just like every other disaster, homeowners and tenants should make preparations as if it could happen.
  2. NEVER EVER receive a visitor at a door you have never received someone at before. Many people who do home invasions often pick rear entrances to force their way inside. Think about it. Why don't you receive guests at your back door? Is it because it's dark, away from the drive, or is not in a place where you can see them approach? These are all of the reasons attackers love these entrances.
  3. NEVER EVER leave a door open that you're not close enough to shut when needed. I get it. The weather is blazing hot. Your entire house feels like an oven and all you want is a breeze. So you leave a door open. If an attacker is looking places to commit this crime, an open door is too appetizing to pass up. No matter how heroic or brave you think you are, you can never react in enough time if an attacker can open an unlocked door into your home.
  4. Consider a dog. I know. I know. Stop rolling your eyes. Seriously. Dogs can't fix everything and they are not a crime solution. However, if you live alone, a dog can be both an alarm and a defender. In a home invasion, you need all the help you can get. Imagine that it's 3am and you hear your backdoor being kicked in. So does your 100 pound German Shepherd. He goes to investigate or stays with you. Either way, there's a good chance whoever is in your home will know you have a dog (probably because he sank his teeth into the invaders flesh) or your neighbors could hear his bark.
  5. Consider buying new windows or new window locks. Older windows are ideal for home invasions, primarily because they are difficult to adequately secure. Over time, people paint over their locks which then become immobilized. Many people never bother to check if the windows lock. Checking your window locks is very important and should be a part of your daily routine.

    (Source: Bureau of Justice Statistics)

  6. Buy or build a duress alarm. I know this sounds a bit extreme and complicated. I can assure you that neither is true. I recently, built a home duress alarm for my home in less than 15 minutes using speaker wire, a rocker switch, a piezo siren, and D cell battery pack. Once I flip the switch, the same siren you hear on a car alarm is heard throughout my home. I won't divulge where I keep it but suffice it to say I have it somewhere I plan to go the second I hear or see someone break into my home. You should consider doing the same. If you don't have the materials to make one, you should buy a window/door alarm sold at "dollar stores" found across the United States. Just keep one near where you plan to be during a home invasion and activate it once it occurs. The sound will distract and alert the bad guy that you know they are there and so will most of your neighbors. Some alarm companies can install a duress alarm in your home that will emit a siren and call the police. I prefer my method only because I know firsthand that phone service can go down and cellular backups aren't installed in every home security system. Plus my method cost me $20 when I made it myself and was $2 when purchased as a window/door alarm.

    Here's a duress alarm I built. This is without an enclosure which I'll add soon enough
  7. Have a phone at your bedside and wherever you are in your home. There's nothing worse than having someone break into your home, getting to your safe haven, and not having a phone to call the police. Have a phone near you at all times. In the military, it was a cardinal sin not to be within arm's length of your weapon at all times. I consider the same to be true of your phone. Also don't have a phone near you that won't work like a cell phone you know that doesn't get reception in your home. I also can reiterate the need to have a landline phone. Stop rolling your eyes. Seriously. If your cell phone doesn't work, you'll need to get help somehow. Trust me. You'll thank me later.
  8. Figure out your safe haven. Many people call this a "panic room". I hate that term. During an emergency situation, you can't afford to panic. You need to be ready to fight off the attacker in a deliberate fashion. Ideal places for safe havens are places you and your loved ones can get to when the attack occurs. I also find it useful to think of this place as an area where I will make my last stand. In other words, should the attacker breach the door into this area I will use any and all force available to repel him. Should you find yourself in a position where you have to defend an area while your family moves to a safe haven, have a "password". You may find yourself having to gain entry into their safe haven should you believe the attacker has left or you have repelled him. Your family should know to never open the "safe haven" door unless they receive the "password". Consider giving the dispatcher this "password" so she can tell first responders and you can know if they are friend or foe.
  9. Consider your armaments. Most people think a gun is the perfect solution. In some cases, it might very well be. This isn't a discussion about calibers or rifle vs handgun vs shotgun. This is about whether your weapons can and will repel an attacker. I can't tell you what to arm yourself with. There are some folks who are just as lethal with a carpenter's pencil as they are with a shotgun. What I will tell you is to ARM YOURSELF!! Trust me. Don't get caught without a weapon during an attack. You should have armaments stationed in places you can get to immediately during an attack. Whether it be a knife or a gun, have it ready and nearby. Also don't use something you haven't trained in using and retaining. An area most gun owners fail in doing is learning weapons retention skills. There are loads of classes and seminars on this topic. Do your research and learn about how to use and retain your armaments.
  10. Secure places you have left unsecured. Sun Tzu says, "So in war, the way is to avoid what is strong and to strike at what is weak." This is true in crime prevention. Your enemy will always hit you where you're not preparing for him at. That's why you check the first floor doors and windows, basement entrances to include windows, storm shelters, etc. Any place a human being could get into you should be checking daily for signs of weakness. 

Monday, May 6, 2013

VIDEO: Billboard That Displays A Hidden Message For Abused Children

The video you're watching above is a viral piece created by a Spanish organization called the Aid to Children and Adolescents at Risk Foundation. Basically, it's an ad created that "displays a different message for adults and children at the same time." It does this in the same way 3D illusions are created for children's toys. From different angles, each viewer gets to see a different image. Adults will see a child and message about abuse while children can see an abused child with a message just for them. It's a very cool crime prevention tool I think that could be useful in the United States. Imagine if there was a similar ad but also displayed safe locations or a hidden telephone number.

For more information:

Saturday, March 16, 2013

VIDEO: Security Threats by the Numbers - Cisco 2013 Annual Security Report

The kind folks at Cisco published their Annual Security Report. What I like about what they did is they chose to publish in a video infographic format. As you can tell, I'm a HUGE fan of infographics. However, if you're a stickler for PDF reports, I'll have a link below the video of the entire report.

Some interesting facts:
  • Global cloud traffic will increase sixfold over the next five years, growing at a rate of 44 percent from 2011 to 2016.
  • Only one in five respondents say their employers do track their online activities on company-owned devices, while 46 percent say their employers do not track activity.
  • 90 percent of IT professionals surveyed say they do indeed have policies that prohibit company-issued devices being used for personal online activity—although 38 percent acknowledge that employees break policy and use devices for personal activities in addition to doing work.
  • Cisco’s research shows significant change in the global landscape for web malware encounters by country in 2012. China, which was second on the list in 2011 for web malware encounters, fell dramatically to sixth position in 2012. Denmark and Sweden now hold the third and fourth spots, respectively. The United States retains the top ranking in 2012, as it did in 2011, with 33 percent of all web malware encounters occurring via websites hosted in the United States.
To read more of the report, click here.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

INTERVIEW: Guardly Offers Insight Into Indoor Positioning System and The Future Of Emergency Dispatch

I'm just going to put it out there. I love Guardly. After writing my last piece on the public safety mobile app, I decided to subscribe to the service. And to be honest, I'm blown away by it's user-friendly GUI, the depth of its coverage, how robust its emergency protocols are, and the overall potential it has for much greater deployment. So last week, when I saw that they developed a new feature for some of their college campus clients, I became quite curious and called Guardly to find out. Here's my interview with Guardly CEO, Joshua Sookman.

Josh, it's great to speak with you again. I love the product and I'm calling to find out about your latest development.

Scriven, it's great to hear from you. Well, we've been developing a new feature called Indoor Positioning System which will relay to emergency contacts and dispatchers where you are in much greater detail. By greater detail, I'm referring to your location inside a building.

Wow. Is that like GPS? If so, that sounds like an incredible development. 

Not quite. So here's how it works. We begin using the features that already exist in your phone to analyze certain data like WiFi connections and various radio frequencies to narrow down where you are.

How does that look to the dispatcher?

It works just like the original display but with added metadata. It can tell the dispatcher if you're in a specific room or the elevator shaft or a stairwell.  We use those radio frequencies and WiFi hotspots to do this. Each location in a building will have a different frequency signature. So that data can point to a specific location in the building. Basically, we want to take what used to be a 2D world and used augmented metadata to depict a 3D environment for the dispatcher. We believe doing this will decrease response times in getting help to you, as so much time is used in the initial moments of an emergency dispatch call to get this information out of the caller. Having that information available immediately, should reduce the time from call to dispatch.

Where is this available and on what platforms?

It's available only to select customers and is available on the Android OS.

So I've made no secret that I love Guardly and I see it as part of a greater movement in emergency management to decrease response times and provide better and more timely information to emergency responders. What are your feelings about such initiatives as Text to 911?

Great question. Honestly, I think it's a great step in the right direction. With it and services like guardly we should lesser response times. Again, the more information you get, no matter how you get it, is absolutely the key. An area of concern for us and those of us in emergency management is the potential for emotional stress and possible PTSD-related issues given the level of information dispatchers could be exposed to. As we expand what is capable from using all of the features mobile phones come with such as video and audio, there is a potential for having too much information exposure for those who may not be accustomed it.  We also believe services like Guardly are an evolution of technologies that have made things more "hyper-local" and personal. We believe, as these technologies grow and evolve, so will services like Guardly and the quality of information available to first responders.

Josh, as always, it has been great talking to you. I look forward to seeing more of what Guardly has in store for the public safety sector.

For more information on Guardly's Indoor Positioning System, see the link below:

To read my review on Guardly, click on the link below.

To download Guardly, click here.

INFOGRAPHIC: Tips and Facts You Need to Know About Break Ins

(Click to enlarge)

Break Ins Infographic

Thursday, February 21, 2013

VIDEO: Top 10 Home/Office Security Camera Considerations

So you're thinking about buying a camera system for your home or office. Great. Buying a camera or an alarm system demands that certain criteria be met before purchase in order for them to meet your security requirements. Many people ask if I like this camera or that camera. I often find myself asking each customer the same things.
  1. What exactly are you protecting and is it worth the hassle?
  2. How credible is the threat?
  3. Where do you want to place the camera?
  4. What kind of security will the camera have?
  5. What kind of video are trying to capture?
  6. Can you monitor it?
  7. Have you considered lighting?
  8. Have you considered distance to the subject? Height?
  9. What are your storage requirements?
  10. Will you be turning over what you capture to a third party? If so, does the device you're contemplating have the ability to transfer your video to another device?
As always, if you're stuck and don't know what to do, find a home security system provider in your area. Our partners at are an AWESOME resource. You can search for providers by zip code to determine who's the best in your area to consider. Well worth a look if you have a moment.

There are a ton of other considerations and things you can ponder on. So I put together the video above explaining my thoughts on what considerations if any you take a look into. As always, feel free to give any feedback particularly if I missed something.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Top Ten Ways To Protect Your Car and Those Shiny New Rims

So we've talked about how you can protect your home and your office. What haven't gone over and should is how to secure your car. This is perhaps the most frequent place people become victimized by criminals. There are a lot of reasons for this.  So let's go over a few and talk about how we can mitigate those issues and secure your car and the property inside of it.
  1. People leave too many valuables in their cars. I can see my wife reading this and giving me the "Oh really, Einstein" look. Why? Because I'm guilty of this at times. We leave everything ranging from laptops with sensitive information to cash inside our vehicles. Let's be frank. The only thing the lock on your car is good for is keeping amateurs out of your car. If a thief wants in your car, he can break a window and get inside. I tell you this so you will get out of the habit of thinking you've "secured" your belongings by simply locking the doors. This is a good start but irrelevant if the thief can and will choose another entry point. You should always move your belongings to somewhere safer than your vehicle when you can.
  2. If your car has cool gadgets and gizmos, hide it from public view when possible. I can always spot a car that will be broken into and the demographics of its owner. 16 to 24 year old males who drive "suped up" cars with racing stickers are great targets for thieves especially during the summer. Why? Because victims like leaving these cars in public view during the summer so everyone can see them. What's worse is these cars are often parked in public lots overnight with no natural observers which makes them a prime target for criminals. Park your car in a garage or in an area where it is well-lit and can be seen fully from the sidewalk. I don't suggest hiding it in the rear of the lot. That's the area thieves pick first because they feel either these cars are abandoned or the area provides a cover and concealment for their activities.  At home, try not to park your car on the street. Get it as close to your  as house possible and lit by a motion-sensitive light source.
  3. Buy an alarm or security device for your car. These are helpful for a variety of reasons. However, you have to respond when it goes off. Letting the alarm go off and resetting it without visually verifying the nature of the alarm is a recipe for disaster. People realize car alarms are often very temperamental  The problem is so do thieves. If a thief has an interest in your car and its belongings, he may set it off to see what you do. If you don't go outside and just reset from inside, he/she will assume you thought it was a false alarm and treat the alarm as false (which you will). I suggest before buying a car alarm that you do some research. Start by "Googling" the exact title of the alarm system and words like "bypass", "hack", or "review" along with the alarm system's title.  You'll be surprised how many car alarms are advertised in being the "best in the market" yet are cracked by amateurs daily.

  4. Roll up your windows. In the summer months, it is breathtaking how many cars are left with windows wide open. I know it's hot but I'd rather be hot and have a car than to be hot with no car walking to work. 
  5. Fill up your tires. People laugh when I say this but I have a good reason. The broken windows theory in crime prevention says criminals pick buildings to burglarize and commit crimes near with broken windows because they communicate a lack of citizen vigilance in the area. The same can be said of cars that don't work. People leave vehicles in dilapidated conditions with flat tires and are surprised when their car is broken into. Filling your tires with air may communicate to a potential thief the car works when in fact it doesn't. At the very least, it says the car has an owner who still cares and is still in the area. That being said, try to locate the vehicle in a parking space that is well-lit and observable from the sidewalk or close to your home as possible.
  6. If you have a truck, get a cover that secures with the tailgate.
  7. Convertibles should be covered whenever parked. I always find it hilarious when someone parks a convertible with the top down and loads of shopping bags are in the back. Seriously. Put the bags in the trunk and cover the top.
  8. If you have to leave things in your car overnight, use your trunk. Thieves can't steal what they can't see. Lock your stuff in the trunk. You'll thank me later.
  9. Never leave your ID or sensitive information in your car overnight. This includes the REGISTRATION AND TITLE of the car. Nothing like having a car stolen only to have the thief sell it someone else with a title. Worse yet, get a loan on the title of your car as collateral. Ouch. Oh yeah. I forgot - TAKE YOUR KEYS WITH YOU!!  Loads of people forget to do this and get their cars and stuff stolen. Be careful where you leave those keys like in gym lockers where thieves love to search for credit cards and keys to cars they can break into while you work out.
  10. Always remember to take your ticket stub when parking your vehicle in a garage. Also, try to use a garage that is manned. Most people forget to take their stubs with them. If a thief breaks into your car and takes it, he will have to go through a lot of red tape (hopefully) to get out of the garage. This is something he won't want to chance. If you leave the stub in the car, that obstacle is removed. You also want to keep your car in garages and lots that are manned for the length of your stay.
You might also consider buying a mini-van. They were listed by the National Insurance Crime Bureau as the Top 10 vehicle type stolen in only 5 states and D.C. while trucks were number 1 in 23 states. They may not be sexy but they rarely get stolen. Just saying.

Here's an awesome report by the NICB on how to prevent car theft:

Here's a guide from the Center for Problem-Oriented Policing on Thefts of and From Cars From Streets and Driveways

This video below is a great place for suggestions on keeping your truck secure:

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