Friday, April 15, 2016

Harden Your Targets

Personal security is something truly near and dear to my heart. I recently purchased a stun gun. 32,000 volts is charged through someone who has the misfortune to be stunned by this one. I’ve never felt a stun gun. I’ve felt paintballs and they hurt. Even BB’s during our BB gun wars as a kid hurt and left a welt (do NOT have BB gun wars, they are VERY dangerous!). I’ve been in a tear-gas chamber and even experienced pepper spray. So I’m not sure about a stun gun. They are supposed to be less than lethal but I remember reading about someone dying from a stun by a policeman. Obviously, death is possible but not probable. I like the idea of having another option in weapons. I’ve been involved with shooting for many years and know that I can defend myself with a gun, but my skills with a knife or a less-than-lethal weapon is something I would like to change. I have a good friend who has been into martial arts and hand-to-hand fighting for most of his life. He taught his family (and many Boy Scouts) how to defend themselves for years. I had my older children take a class from him when we were together at Christmas. I have forgotten just about everything I learned in the military. There is so much more to learn!

On occasion I work late. I find myself needing gas or stopping at a convenience store at an early hour of the morning. This happened the other night. As I walked into the convenience store I looked through the window to assess what was going on inside the store. I couldn’t see the clerk because of the signs in the window. As I got closer to the door I had an uneasy feeling. I stopped and quickly returned to my vehicle and decided on a different store. The second store was well lit, I could see the clerk clearly and even the other customers in the store. As I walked into the store I did not have the same uneasy feeling as before and completed my purpose for stopping. I’m not here to debate my instincts, or even divine intervention on my part. I’m only referring to this experience because there are many people who walk into a store or even a bank in the middle of a robbery. Had they used a little situational awareness, or even listened to their gut feeling, they could have avoided putting themselves in danger. I don’t live in a big city, or a high crime area. Stores don’t get robbed very often where I live. But many people live in a large metropolitan area that may not have high crime all the time, but at 2 in the morning the chances for crime may increase. Being aware of your surroundings is very important. Most people walk through a parking lot with their nose in a cell phone not paying much attention to what is going on around them. They make themselves prime targets. Unless you are Chuck Norris or you are an experienced concealed weapon license holder you may need to pay better attention. To be honest with you, Chuck Norris or an experienced CW holder would not be oblivious to their surroundings. We must train ourselves to be more like them. How many stories have you read where someone was robbed "in broad daylight"? It happens if the victim lets it happen. Most criminals are not hardened. They commit crimes of opportunity. Who would they rather stick up, the person engrossed in their cell phone in a deserted parking garage? Or instead would they think twice about approaching an alert person in a busy part of the mall parking lot? Do you put across someone ready for anything and confident in their posture and stride, or someone so timid that a car alarm would scare the daylights out of them? The way we look to others may determine whether we look like "an easy mark" or not. Also, avoiding drawing a weapon is always at the top of my list. Like the "strange feeling" convenience store, I try to avoid places or people that may be a problem for me. But if thrust into a situation I try to have a plan in place. Something like, "If he does this, I’ll do that." Most of us won’t be a victim of crime, but the more careful we are, the better our chances of never being a statistic. Think it will never happen to us is a recipe for disaster.

One of my favorite websites, StratFor ( has a weekly column called Security Weekly. On July 26, 2012 Scott Stewart wrote “The Persistent Threat to Soft Targets.” This is a portion of that article.
“In the 1960s, the beginning of the modern terrorism era, there were few hard targets. In the 1970s, the American radical leftist Weather Underground Organization was able to conduct successful bombing attacks against the U.S. Capitol, the Pentagon and the State Department buildings — the very heart of the U.S. government. At the same time commercial airliners were easy targets for political dissidents, terrorists and criminal hijackers.
Nongovernmental organizations were also seen as soft targets. The Black September Organization conducted an operation targeting Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympic Games, and Ilich Ramirez Sanchez, known as Carlos the Jackal, and his compatriots seized the OPEC headquarters in Vienna in December 1975.
Embassies did not fare much better. During the 1970s, militant groups seized control of embassies in several cities, including Stockholm, The Hague, Khartoum and Kuala Lumpur. The 1970s concluded with the seizure of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and the storming and destruction of the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad. The 1980s saw major attacks against U.S. diplomatic posts in Beirut (twice) and Kuwait.
Just as the Weather Underground Organization attacks prompted security improvements at the U.S. government buildings they had targeted, the attacks against U.S. and other embassies prompted increased security at their diplomatic missions. However, this turned into a long process. The cost of providing security for diplomatic posts strained already meager foreign affairs budgets. For most countries, including the United States, security was not increased at all diplomatic missions. Rather, security was improved in accordance with a threat matrix that assessed the risk levels at various missions. Those deemed more at risk received funding before those deemed less at risk.
In some cases, this approach has worked well for the United States. For example, despite the persistent jihadist threat in Yemen, the new embassy compound in Sanaa, which was completed in the early 1990s and constructed to the strict security specifications laid out by the Inman Commission in 1985, has proved to be a very difficult target to attack. However, as embassies became more difficult to attack, militants turned to easier targets. Often this has involved targeting diplomats outside the secure embassy compound, as was the case in the 2002 assassination of U.S. diplomat Laurence Foley in Amman, Jordan, and the April 2010 failed suicide bombing attack against the motorcade carrying the British ambassador to Yemen.
Transnational groups also changed regions to find softer embassy targets. This shift was evident in August 1998, when al Qaeda attacked U.S. embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Similarly, during the 1991 Gulf War, Iraqi agents attempted to conduct terrorist attacks against U.S. diplomatic facilities in Manila, Jakarta, Bangkok and Beijing — far from the Middle East. The February 2012 attack against an Israeli Embassy employee in New Delhi is an example of both changing the region and targeting an employee away from the security of the embassy.
There was a similar trend with airliners, which initially were very vulnerable to attack. After many high-profile hijackings, such as that of TWA Flight 847, airliner security, particularly in the West, was increased. But as security was increased in one place, hijackers began to shift operations to places where security was less robust, such as Bangkok or Karachi. And as security was improved globally and hijackings became more difficult in the 1980s, attackers shifted their tactics and began using improvised explosive devices against airliners.”
The same can be said for crime and criminals. Criminals are getting “smarter”. They are still pretty stupid but several are seeing the additional security that has swept across this country since 9-11 and have shifted their focus to easier targets. This is why situational awareness is so important. From a petty pursesnatcher to a smash and grab artist to a typical robber on the street, criminals take the path of least resistance. If you have your head up and on a swivel the average criminal will go after the person with their nose in a cell phone. The softer target.
By being alert you can increase your chances of a problem finding you. By being smart and listening to your gut, what LDS members know as the spirit, you can avoid many bad situations and harden your target. Pulling your key and locking the other doors on your car and being alert when you get gas, watching what is going on inside a convenience store, paying attention to who is following you when driving are all ways to become a hard target. With just a little attention and common sense you will be able to see areas in your life, or your families lives, where you may be vulnerable and make changes that can ensure your safety and security. Look at your traveling habits. Do you take the same route day in and day out to and from work or school? Change it up randomly. Is your house fortified? There are many ways you can get rid of that chain lock and have something that will actually keep out a home intruder. Simply taking charge of your life will make you a harder target. Security is a mindset. It’s not paranoia, but preparedness. Criminals and terrorists do exist and can touch your life. Instead of cowering in the corner like a sheeple, become a sheepdog and be in control.
Semper Paratus
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