M4S 069: How to Get Inside a Criminal Mind to Stop a Bad Guy
The reality is that once you begin thinking with a criminal mind, you’ll be better prepared to stop a bad guy.
The lesson of thinking like a criminal took hold with me during my time providing diplomatic security in places such as Iraq, Pakistan, and elsewhere. When I say diplomats, I am speaking about protecting everyone from members of the US Senate, Congress, and the White House Cabinet, to lesser diplomats and representatives of the US government.
Learning to think like a bad guy was one of the first lessons we received when going through the high threat protection course. I’ve probably mentioned it before, but instructors expected us to look at our missions from the bad guy’s point of view during training. They taught us to think like the attackers to determine their most likely courses of action when attacking us. Then, armed with that knowledge, we’d work our plans to address our vulnerabilities.
I do have to say that it worked spectacularly because we never lost a diplomat to the bad guys.
Thinking with a Criminal Mind
Thinking with a criminal mind, especially when contemplating how a criminal may target us, can be unnerving. After all, when we honestly think like a burglar or a person bent on violence, we are forcing ourselves to confront our weaknesses and vulnerabilities. However, once we move past any uneasiness of delving inside a criminal mind, we’ll find ourselves in a much more safe and secure position. We can discover the chinks in our armor and work to repair them.
Some things to understand when thinking like a criminal are:
- Knowing the trends in crime.
- Studying your neighborhood.
- Studying your home.
A Few Crime Stats to Consider
To begin with, according to the FBI, US Department of Justice, and others,
- One property crime, which the FBI defines as the offenses of burglary, larceny-theft, motor vehicle theft, and arson, happens every 4 seconds, with an average of over 1,000,000 home invasions happening each year between 1994 and 2010.
- One burglary occurs every 20 seconds, with over 2,000,000 homes experiencing a burglary or break-in this year.
- One violent crime occurs every 25 seconds.
- One aggravated assault occurs every 45 seconds, with 38% of all assaults happening during home invasions.
- One robbery occurs every 90 seconds.
- One rape or attempted rape occurs every 5 minutes, with 38% of all rapes occurring during home invasions.
Know the Trends
Sir Francis Bacon is credited with the Latin phrase “scientia potentia est,” which translates in English to “knowledge is power.” In thinking of getting inside a criminal mind, the phrase knowledge is power is 100% accurate. The same goes for just about anything else we do in life. Heck, it’s one of the reasons we all listen to podcasts, right?
When it comes to maintaining knowledge of potential threats, a good method is to work inwards from the macro to the micro. In other words, study what is happening on a global scale and work inward from there. The global scale provides a good representation of the overarching trends in terrorism, cybercrime, and other significant criminal tendencies. It’s also good to remember when studying international crime trends that other potential future problems may become apparent. These problems include financial upheaval, infectious diseases, and other issues that warrant our awareness.
International Crime Trends
Studying global crime trends does not always provide information that requires action at the local level. However, understanding trends on the macro scale does help to establish an overall mindset for detecting developing crime trends. Additionally, when international methods make their way to the local level, having knowledge ahead of time will reduce a person’s chance of becoming a victim.
It’s important to know upfront that researching trends may take effort at first. However, over time, the effort involved will decrease. Eventually, practice, experience, and awareness will improve to the point that staying informed becomes an easy to perform routine.
When it comes to studying crime trends, Google provides a great tool called Google Alerts. Google Alerts is a free and easy to implement method that anyone can use. In a nutshell, a keyword or keywords are entered into Google Alerts. Then, depending on what delivery option you choose, Google tracks those keywords. As it does, it will email you with links to blog posts, articles, and such based upon the keywords you choose.
National, Regional and Local Trends
It’s a reality that crime trends are specific within a set population. Culture, laws, and a variety of other defining factors are responsible for guiding national crime trends. For example, in the U.S., firearms, our level of freedom, and the legal system, set us apart from others. The same goes for Russia, China, England, and New Zealand. The defining factors that are specific to their countries set them apart from the rest of the world.
As national crime trends vary from nation to nation, so do regional and local trends within a country. Therefore, it’s a good idea to stay on top of regional and local trends. It’s these trends that will have a greater potential effect on people. Therefore, knowing the tactics, techniques, and procedures (also known as TTPs) of criminals in each of our local areas will be the most useful. When people are aware of and understand the methods of local criminals, they can better analyze their security posture and take appropriate action.
A great source of information in the United States is the website City-Data.com. Not only can you find statistics of all sorts, but there are also forums for cities and regions where you can ask questions or quietly lurk and read.
Know Your Vulnerabilities
The next step to thinking like a criminal is to study your local area. Just learning about trends and working from the macro to the micro is effective for understanding vulnerabilities. Start by examining your local neighborhood.
When studying the neighborhood, the saying KISS comes to mind: Keep it Simple Stupid. In other words, don’t overcomplicate this. Start by taking a walk around the neighborhood. As you do, think about your neighbor’s homes as if you are going to break into them.
Think about which homes appear to be more vulnerable and why. As you begin thinking with a criminal mind, ask yourself questions about the houses as you pass by.
What Home Looks Like a Good Target to a Criminal Mind?
The first question many criminals want to know before invading a home is whether or not anyone is home. After all, rummaging through a victim’s belongings is much easier if no one is home to bother you. Ask yourself these questions.
- Are newspapers filling up the driveway?
- Is there a pile of Amazon boxes near the front door?
- Do you see several UPS delivery slip stuck to the door?
- Is the mailbox overflowing with mail? (Here is how to put your mail on hold while you’re away)
- Does it look like no one has cleaned the yard in a while?
- How about the trash cans? Is it the only home with garbage cans on the street several days after trash pickup?
- Is there a car in the driveway?
- Next, are there overgrown bushes, lawn furniture, etc., that provide places for criminals to hide?
If you answer yes to any of these questions, then that home may have criminals taking a second, more intent look at it.
What Makes the Bad Guys Want to Steer Clear of Your House?
Some things make your home less appealing.
- First, are there any alarm signs or closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras visible?
- Are there any signs of a dog living at the house?
- What about motion lights that appear to be for security rather than homeowner convenience?
- Is the home maintained and the mailbox empty?
- Are there lights on inside at night?
- Are there signs that make it appear like somebody is home?
And the Winner Is…
With the decision made as to which homes are more vulnerable, it’s time to pick a winner. To be clear, that’s a win for the bad guys, not the homeowner.
Once you’ve narrowed down your choices from thinking like a criminal, it’s time to pick the winner. With your last few options in mind, begin thinking about the payoff. After deciding which homes haven’t done much to discourage criminals and are probably vacant, a criminal mind will look for the one that appears to have more valuables.
Do you see expensive furniture inside? What about an expensive car or truck in the driveway? Is there a pricey RV or boat parked in the yard? All of us know the signs that advertise someone is more affluent than others in the area. When you see it, you can bet your last dollar that the bad guys see it as well.
Study Your Home Using a Criminal Mind Thought Process
Now that you know what vulnerable homes in your neighborhood look like, it’s time to study your home. When studying your home, make sure to do so from an unbiased perspective.
As you do, follow the same techniques you used to determine what neighbor’s home is the most vulnerable. Look to see if you have any indicators that may tell a bad guy no one is home. Then, look to see what crime-stopping measures that you’ve taken. Do you have an alarm, a dog, CCTV cameras, etc., set up? Are there areas where a home invader can hide while either watching your home or when breaking in? Finally, are you telegraphing that you have valuables worth the criminal’s effort inside?
After studying your home during the day, go back and do it at night. One area to focus on is blind spots due to darkness. Walk around your property and look for places bad guys can hide at night. Make a note of any dark hiding spots near any windows and doors. Can you see into your house from the street?
Did You Close the Garage?
How many of you have forgotten to close the garage door? I know I’ve rushed to do something and, along the way, drove off without closing it. Heck, I don’t know how many times I’ve made a U-turn to go back and make sure I closed the garage.
While we’re talking about the garage, does your garage connect to your home? If so, do you ever leave the inner door unlocked?
What about light? Does your garage light up enough when entering to see into all the corners? If not, the bad guys have a great place to wait for you to come home.
The Bottom Line About Thinking with a Criminal Mind
The best way to make yourself safe from criminals is to think like one. Think with a criminal mind and figure out how YOU would break into your home or take you by surprise. Get some input from friends and family. Then create a plan to thwart the efforts, and you’ve just made yourself, your family, and your home much safer.
Stay safe, secure, and prepared,