The reality is that once you begin thinking like a criminal, you’ll be better prepared to stop a criminal.
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 for members of the US Senate, Congress, and White House Cabinet, to lesser diplomats and representatives of the US government.
The lesson of 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 during training, instructors expected us to look at our missions from the bad guys point of view. In other words, think like the attackers in order to determine their most likely courses of action when attacking us. Then, armed with that knowledge, work our plans to address our vulnerabilities. I do have to say that it worked and worked spectacularly because we never lost a diplomat to the bad guys.
Some things to understand when thinking like a criminal are:
- Knowing the trends in crime.
- Studying your neighborhood.
- Studying your home.
To begin with, according to the FBI, US Department of Justice and others,
- One property crime, which is defined by the FBI 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.
Thinking Like a Criminal
Thinking like a criminal, especially when we’re contemplating how a criminal may target us, can be unnerving. After all, when we are honestly thinking like a criminal, we are forcing ourselves to confront our weaknesses and vulnerabilities. However, once we move past any uneasiness of thinking like a criminal, we will find ourselves in a much more safe and secure position. By thinking like a criminal, we can discover the chinks in our armor and work to repair them.
Step One to Thinking Like a Criminal: Know the Trends
Sir Francis Bacon is credited with the Latin phrase “scientia potentia est,” which translates in English to “knowledge is power.” In the case of thinking like a criminal, 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 in 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.
Studying 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 do 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 up front, 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 a method that anyone can use. In a nut shell, 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 blogposts, articles and such based upon the keywords you choose. It’s not hard to set up Google Alerts. However, to help out, I’ve created a short YouTube video that you can find by going to the Mind4Survival YouTube channel. Oh, and when I say short, it’s under six minutes. So, head on over to YouTube and check it out.
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 nation. 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 TTP’s) 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 are better able to analyze their security posture and take appropriate action.
Step Two to Thinking Like a Criminal: Know Your Vulnerabilities
Study Your Neighborhood
The next step to thinking like a criminal is to study your local area. Just like learning about trends, working from the macro to the micro, is effective when it comes to understanding vulnerabilities. Therefore, start by examining the local neighborhood.
When studying the neighborhood, the saying KISS comes to mind; Keep it Simple Stupid. In other words, don’t over complicate 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 like a burglar, ask yourself questions about the homes as you pass by.
Who Makes the Bad Guys Initial Cut?
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.
Are newspapers filling up the driveway? Is there a pile of Amazon boxes near the front door? Do you see a number of UPS delivery slip stuck to the door? What about the mailbox? Is it overflowing with mail? 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? Do you notice any obvious signs of a dog on the property?
If you answer yes to any of these questions, then that home may have criminals taking a second, more intent look at it.
The Winner Is?
With the decision made as to which homes are more vulnerable, it’s time to pick a winner. Just to be clear, that’s a win for the bad guys, not the homeowner.
First, are there any alarms signs, or closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras visible? What about motion lights that appear to be for security, rather than home owner convenience? Next, are there overgrown bushes, lawn furniture, etc., that provide places for criminals to hide?
Once you’ve narrowed down your choices from thinking like a criminal, it’s time to pick the winner. With you last few choices in mind, begin thinking about the pay off. After deciding which homes haven’t done much to discourage criminals and are probably vacant, 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
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 neighbors 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. setup? Next, 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 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 the garage door. 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.
Never forget, you’re just one prep away.
If you have any other thoughts or questions about thinking like a criminal, please leave a comment below. Don’t forget home invasion statistics too!
Stay safe, secure and prepared,
Thanks for listening to this episode on thinking like a criminal.
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