Prediction, prevention, and response are the general terms for the three options each of has when dealing with potential risks. We can predict that if we drive a vehicle at high speeds with a flat tire, we are more likely to be involved in a accident. That typically leads us to avoid the risk by taking some sort of action. We can prevent it from occurring by checking tire pressure periodically, or visually inspecting the vehicle prior to operation. We could respond by decreasing vehicle speeds when the car starts to become unstable. Clearly, response is the inferior option here. When it comes to safety these concepts are easy to grasp, but when it comes to personal security, they are largely ignored.
The term ‘personal security’ brings up a variety of thoughts, ideas, and definitions that vary widely from person to person. Some view it as a locked door, a security camera, a policeman or security guard, or an alarm. Having participated in, managed, and taught security practices for most of my adult life, I am continually confronted by two common misconceptions about security. These misconceptions hold true for military personnel, law enforcement and private citizens alike, and they likely stem from our tendency to generally define security in the terms previously mentioned.
The most common approach to personal safety and security is to simply ignore the potential that violence will impact you. We see this attitude in the bulk of people with whom we interact and it spans the spectrum of experience and backgrounds. This slice of society chooses to ignore the fact that criminals and miscreants might choose to target them. While they will readily acknowledge the existence of crime, they simply cannot conceive that it will impact them.
There are a number of factors in our society that reinforce this belief. The first is that, statistically, two-thirds of our society will not be the victim of a violent crime in their lifetime. If each day I look back on my lifetime and I have never been the victim of violence, then I have quite likely conditioned myself to believe that I will not be a victim today, or on any day in the future. This self-reinforcing delusion, is a powerful motivator to ignore potential risks and focus on “more pressing issues”.
The second is that the education system in America is convinced that if you insulate children from failure, risk, or negativity, we will produce happier, healthier citizens. We see this in the ‘no grades, everyone gets a trophy, everyone is special’ mentality. Worse, we see
it in zero tolerance policies towards altercations or the suspension of students for pointing “Finger guns” or “pop tart guns” at fellow students. These police and actions remove the learning experience surrounding violence or simulated violence. Certainly, if I was the victim of a finger gun day after day, I could ignore it, enlist classmates or teachers to assist me, or change my behavior so that my finger gun pointer would choose to point it at someone else… Unless of course, I had no option save dependence on the system to protect me. It places the responsibility on the education system to protect them, leaving the child helpless in the equation.
While I understand the theory, unfortunately what these attitudes and policies actually produce is a society of victims. From an economic perspective, that upward pressure on the supply curve (supply of victims) places downward pressure on the price of crime, creating more incentive for criminals activity. The more victims in a given population, the more criminals that will be produced to accommodate them. Creating a system of dependence is exactly how third world politics is played, and it is sad to see the American political system following suit.
Another counter-productive societal norm is that there is a persistent belief that someone else is responsible for an individual’s personal security. The reality is that no one can effectively take responsibility for someone else’s security. People who live in an environment where they are told they are helpless, or that it is unnecessary to take a personal interest in their own security, are unlikely to do so on their own. This leads to the next most common misconception; that personal security is the responsibility of someone else.
Be it police, military, or firemen, any safety or protective services professional will tell you that it is impossible for another person or group of people to guarantee the safety and security of any single person. Protection of any individual or asset is a resource intensive operation and society cannot afford the economic burden of providing for the security of each and every individual. Even if it were feasible, that society would look like a police state and not the America into which we were born.
The last group in society that exists is the segment that believes that security is my personal responsibility. They tend to seek training in first aid, martial arts, and / or weapons. While this group is better prepared to deal with crime or violence then their counter parts, they are typically functioning in the response realm. Their presence in society provides slight upward pressure on the price of criminal activity, but ultimately it is not enough. It is generally easy for criminals to identify and steer clear of the more capable individuals, and the deterrent effect is minimal.
These are the most common attitudes towards security and the single option they address is the response option. A very small segment of professional security forces play in a different arena. They were generally trained in intelligence or protective services and
the same concepts have been in aviation, workplace injury prevention, and numerous health and safety applications across the spectrum. Somehow, personal security missed the boat with the general populace. If we could accurately predict crime and violence, we could take actions to prevent crime from occurring. If we knew what criminals and miscreants must physically accomplish in order to be successful, we could work to eliminate any single key component of success, and stop the criminal process prior to violence occurring.
When we look at the entire progression of a criminal or violent act, Steve Tarani has made a very sound argument that the occurrence of an attack is but 10% of the entire progression of a threat. His book Preventative Defense lays out exactly how to identify, and take advantage of the identifiers and keys in the other 90% of the cycle to prevent violence and crime from occurring in the first place. Unfortunately, both response and prevention are predicated on society accurately predicting the personal risk of crime and violence. As we have seen, there are significant hurdles to overcome in that arena.
When we look at the statistics, one-third of our society will be the victim of a violent crime. That means most if not all of us know someone who has been victimized or have been a victim. Typically those victims will fall into the trap of training to respond more effectively to the next potential attack. While there is nothing wrong with this approach, it is far from the most effective solution to the problem.
Learning to identify threat indicators and how to effectively respond to minimize the chances of that threat impacting you and your family are the keys to prediction and prevention of criminal behavior. Just like response, this is a learned skill that anyone can master, and typically with minimal effort. Actively participating in the prediction and prevention arena is the key to long term personal safety and security. As much as I and everyone at Aegis Academy wants you to be a skilled and effective responder, we are all far better served by your ability to be an effective preventer of violence!
Stay engaged and stay safe!