Graffiti seen in Houston…
Violent crime is soaring and it has become crazy dangerous to be a cop.
I talk about this newer, more dangerous landscape on this week's DOWN RANGE Radio podcast, but some of the points need to be reiterated here.
We tend to lump "awareness and avoidance" together, often as one single word, "awarenessavoidance," but our focus is usually on the "situational awareness" side of the equation. We've talked about that a lot lately, but I think the times calls for more focus on the "avoidance" side of the equation.
As I talked about in TRAIL SAFE, the best solution for you and violent crime is for you not to be there; to put it bluntly, let the crime happen to someone else who hasn't been paying attention. The big problem with avoidance, especially among men, is that it is sometimes seen as a capitulation, letting the bad guys control your life. "Are you telling me that I should let a bunch of thugs tell me where I can or cannot go? Where I can or cannot eat? Where I can or cannot drive? Hey buddy, it's a free country!"
The example I use in TRAIL SAFE is of a scene I saw years back when I was in Joshua Tree in California rock climbing. The sun had already set, and as I was on my way out I passed a designated campground. On one side of the campground was several car-loads of LA gangbangers, in full colors, riotously dancing around a huge and probably illegal bonfire, passing bottles, breaking off into scuffles.
On the other side of the campground, about 50 feet away, was a very grim elderly couple outside of a small tent camper, cooking tiny on a tiny camp stove while watching nervously as their campmates got louder and more violent.
My point? Did the elderly couple have every right in the world to be in that campground.? Absolutely! Can a few carloads of LA 'bangers turn your life into a living hell? Absolutely! Is that risk worth it to make your point?
When I was a professional speaker (such as I was), I suggested to my audiences that one of the way to think about "taking a stand" on something was to ask yourself whether you are willing to die for that stand. If the answer is no, the temperature of the water of the water cooler isn't sufficient grounds for one to go all John Wayne, then maybe there were better ways to address the issue from the very beginning, ways that you never saw because you were spinning up to make that big "stand."
And the campsite...stay or go? Well, that is purely your decision. Me, I don't believe in walking into fans unless I absolutely have to. There are lots of campsites in Joshua Tree. I think more importantly we need to make some hard decisions about how we are going to get through the new altered world, which show every sign of getting worse before (or if) it gets better. In TRAIL SAFE I made a point of saying that none of us need to go out looking for High Noon.
The noonday train may indeed bring Frank Miller, and each of us may indeed have to walk alone down that dusty street. Don't worry, it'll find you, and when you least expect it. But in uncertain times like these, it makes sense to as much as possible arrange our lives to minimize risk. Of course, everyone's situation is going to be different. Example...I don't have kids and would rather stick my hand into a blender than go to a mall, so that's an easy one for me.
But think through the places you need to go, and seriously ask yourself if there are lower risk options. It many cases, we're talking about small things here...keep your car gassed up, so you won't find yourself looking for the proverbial all night gas station in the wrong part of town. Pay attention to the routes you take to and from work, recreation, etc. In strange cities, where I am a lot, I like big highways and 4-lane streets...I don't take shortcuts. I might do a "drive-by" of, say, a restaurant that's been suggested to me in a new city before I hope out of the car and walk in. And yes, I've based on more than a couple of places.
Be willing to listen to local advice. I am reminded of one Saturday night in LA when I offered to buy my clients a nice sushi dinner, listing a sushi place I just read about. One of my clients, who'd been a cop, said, "Dude, you might want to rethink that...the block that restaurant sits on just became a contested zone between a Crip set and a Blood set." We had Vietnamese lobster instead. I think of it as listening to the "jungle drums." Pay attention! It's better to have delivered pizza in your hotel room than becoming the latest mugging statistic on that trendy downtown mall!
I can't state John Farnam's dictum too many times: "Don't go stupid places. Don't hang out with stupid people. Don't do stupid things."
I avoid large groups of people like the plague. This comes from having spent a lot of time in major urban riots as a journalist back in the day. I've been tear-gassed, pepper-sprayed, beaten, dragged off to jail and and shaken in my boots looking down the barrels of great big guns, but that was back when someone was paying to be there. These days, I remember the lessons I learned...the difference between "angry crowd" and "riot" is plus-or-minus about millisecond...once the first rock is thrown, everyone is in the soup...there are no "bystanders" once the balloon goes up (e.g., if you want to watch the riot, watch it safe at home on television as opposed to making it a day trip).
Crowds have their own minds and tend to lose that mind very quickly. I prefer not to be in the middle of the crowd when that happens. If you must be in a crowd, keep near the edges and make sure you have your exit strategy planned. And do not hesitate to leave the scene! Always err on the side of caution, especially if you're armed...and you are armed, aren't you?
I don't like walking through even small groups of people...it only takes a moment to walk around said group, and I don't put myself into a potential s$%t sandwich. Trust your gut here. It's probably worth going back and reading de Becker's The Gift of Fear. I don't agree with everything in the book, but by all means absorb what is useful. If you haven't read Rory Miller's Facing Violence: Preparing for the Unexpected, now would be a good time to correct that error.
In truth, the world is not a safe place, and it doesn't give a damn whether you live or die. That decision depends on you.