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: Who You Callin' An "Expert?!

Recently, someone called me an "expert". While I was extremely flattered, it made me think a lot about my initial reaction to that label. If you've been in this field, you will note there are several people who go around calling themselves "experts". A few of them are and a lot of them aren't. Most of my introspection was with where I saw myself and how I allowed others to see me.  Am I an "expert" or a guy who likes to talk a lot about security?

The answer to both of those is a paradox of sorts, as they are equally complicated and simple. According to some, being an "expert" means knowing a lot of stuff about security and sounding half-way intelligent about that stuff. Some would argue I fit into that category. While I hope I'm not, I certainly can understand how people can see me that way. Many people know a lot of stuff about a lot of stuff and "talk a good game" but lack real depth in their knowledge or experience. So, I can help but wonder, with 10 years of doing various jobs in security, a blog, and some above-basic knowledge, where does that place me? I'm also very passionate about security. Does passion, knowledge, and an audience make someone an "expert" and should I even want to be considered one?

When I first decided to start this blog, I did it with the intention of sharing security news and information with my audience. It soon became an opportunity to share my opinions and insight. While all that was very important, I always felt I needed something more constructive. There are tons of people all over social media and the rest of the Net who believe the "smarter" you sound, the greater your expertise. I have found a great deal of those people lack expertise and oftentimes, real knowledge of the subject matter. Don't get me wrong. I'm guilty of this as well at times. Very guilty, as a matter of fact.

So what am I? I'm a student of security in both the literal sense and the rhetorical as well. I'm eager and willing to learn from anywhere. I'm not afraid to test an idea or hypothesis in the field or be reviewed by my peers. Sometimes, what I say and do sucks. I get stuff wrong - A LOT. My ideas may not be preferred or have any chance of success. Occasionally, I don't stay in my lane. Okay. I can hear you laughing. I don't stay in my lane enough at times.

So how do I go about fixing this? I decided to start changing how I viewed my interactions with people and the objectives I set for them. In other words, I felt it was less important to demonstrate knowledge than it was to receive and learn from others. I had been afforded an opportunity to label myself as an "expert" many times. It always felt hollow and empty, as if it was undeserved. After all, I was a security guard not too long ago and I had very average experiences in the military. I wasn't Special Forces or with a federal agency doing anything "special". My resume is a reflection of being very lucky and being at the right place at the right time. I did a lot of cool things and saw some cool places in this world. But was I an "expert"? No, I am not.

Too many "experts" are not willing to admit they are in fact still learning. Too many believe it is more important to demonstrate knowledge than to receive it. Too many believe the best analysis of a problem is the one that is more conducive to a "solution" they've created. Instead of more people willing to tell us about security, we need more people willing to sit down, shut up, and listen to what others have to share. From now on, I'll be sharing my knowledge in an attempt to learn more than I teach. The only question left to ask is "Will I be alone?"

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. 

About Us