Why Should I Care About Personal Defense?
Personal defense has become a growing concern among American citizens in recent years. Despite the many news stories and official pronouncements that violent crime statistics are lower than they have been in quite some time, the fact remains that violent crime is still with us, and it continues to threaten everyone. According to the F.B.I.’s Violent Crime statistics for 2012 (the most recent year available), there were 1,214,462 violent crimes perpetrated in the United States that year; a 0.7 percent increase over the statistics for 2011.1 That works out to one violent crime occurring every two and one-half minutes throughout the entire year. And these statistics are based on reported violent crimes. Some studies suggest that, on average, an additional three million violent crimes go unreported each year. Statistics be damned; the threat is real. There is simply no way to guarantee that you will never become a victim of a violent crime, so the subject of personal defense is always pertinent, no matter who you are.
But The Police will Protect Me!
Yes; they will – if and when they get there. In almost every jurisdiction, the police are hopelessly over-tasked. Some people in large metropolitan areas draw a sense of comfort from the knowledge that their police department consists of several thousand officers; all sworn, trained, and ready to protect the citizens from dangers great and small. Unfortunately, the reality of the situation is very different. Consider the following: According to the City of New York’s official website, the NYPD – the largest municipal police department in the nation – has 34,500 sworn officers. That is quite a lot, but not nearly as many as you might think. In 2013, the City of New York had a population of 8.6 million residents. That works out to about one police officer for every 249 residents. As troubling as that is, it does not end there. Of those 34,500 sworn officers, how many of them are non-patrol supervisors, lieutenants, captains, detectives, special details, or command staff ranks? Suffice to say, only a fraction of those 34,500 sworn officers are assigned to regular patrol duties. And those officers are disbursed over several shifts, which brings the number of officers on patrol at any given time down considerably. They are also more heavily concentrated in known high-crime areas, so they are by no means disbursed evenly throughout the city. Factor in how many officers are, at any given time, busy with calls for service, arrests, administrative duties, or just stuck in traffic, and the number drops down even more. Then factor in the sheer size of the City of New York (all five boroughs), and you begin to wonder if there are any police actually patrolling the streets. And this is with the largest municipal police department in America. Most cities, towns and counties face the same situation, but with far fewer sworn officers. In the event of an emergency, you might be lucky just to get the attention of your local police. Now who is going to protect you?
Even if you manage to contact your police, it does not mean that you are saved. They still have to get to you. As of 2014, the average police response time to a “911” emergency call is 11 minutes. In many locales, it is longer because of the distances involved and the lower number of officers available at any given time. This is particularly true in rural areas, but some cities are no better off. A blog article on the Wall Street Journal’s website dated August 2nd, 2013, reported that the average police response time to emergency calls in Detroit was 58 minutes.2 A lot of bad things can happen to you in 11 minutes. A lot more can happen to you in 58 minutes. And that is assuming that the “911” call system is not overloaded when you call. If it is, your cry for help will become one of the countless thousands of emergency calls that are “dropped” by the system, in which case no one is coming to assist you. Your local police department will never receive the call, so they will never know that you are in danger. The conclusion is clear and undeniable: the police cannot and will not guarantee your safety. You have the primary responsibility for the safety of yourself and your loved ones.
But We Have a Private Security Force!
Many people contract with private security companies; some of which utilize armed personnel who wear uniforms like those of the police. In some neighborhoods, signs for these companies are quite common outside of homes. The signs usually state “Armed Response,” or something along those lines. The thought of having such a security force that will respond in a heartbeat if you ever hit the panic button is comforting, but the reality is often very different from the image. While the majority of the men and women who work as armed security guards are dedicated and serious about doing their jobs, the truth is that more than a few of these security companies issue strict orders to their officers not to enter a residence until the police arrive and secure the scene. Even if they hear you or your loved ones inside the home screaming for help, they are forbidden to take action beyond calling the police and “being a good observer.” Why? Because of civil liability. The last thing these companies want is for one of their officers to become involved in a shooting, because they know all too well that it will result in a huge lawsuit. In such lawsuits, there is an inherent bias against private security officers utilizing any kind of force – let alone deadly force – and as a result, the security company usually loses the suit even if their officers acted properly and professionally. The payouts in cases against security companies whose officers are sued for using force are often huge. The company’s lawyers have already determined that it will be cheaper to settle a lawsuit with a disgruntled customer because their officers did not act to protect the customer in an emergency than it would be to lose a lawsuit in which one of their officers employed deadly force. To them, it is a matter of money and liability – nothing more. This is certainly not true of every private security company out there, but it is true of more than a few of them. So in many cases, the whole armed response security thing is an illusion designed to make you feel better, but that is about it. In the event of a life-threatening situation, you and your loved ones are on your own. If you already have, or if you are considering contracting with a private armed security company to protect your home, you need to read the contract thoroughly. You need to make absolutely certain that you know in advance precisely what their security officers will do in the event of an attack on you or your family. You may be shocked to learn the answer.
But I Live in a Nice Neighborhood!
If you live in a nice neighborhood with a very low crime rate, congratulations. You are indeed fortunate. But there is really no such thing as a zero-crime rate neighborhood. Even the safest places in the nation – military bases, government facilities, the White House – have experienced violent crime. The fact that such crimes were far less likely to occur at these locations is of little comfort to the victims of the violent crimes that transpired there. Remember: no one is ever a victim of a violent crime until they become a victim. You may reside in a low-crime area, but you do not reside in a no-crime area. Criminals have cars, and they have access to public transportation. They get around. And for that matter, affluent neighborhoods have become prime targets for home-invasion robberies, just as they have always been prime targets for burglars and car thieves. After all; if you live in an affluent neighborhood, it stands to reason that you have something worth stealing. Even worse; violent criminals who target people for murder and rape do not distinguish between socioeconomic classes. Most of them look for targets of opportunity. By virtue of the fact that you reside in a low-crime area, such criminals will figure that they have less chance of encountering a police officer than they would if they confined their criminal activities to high-crime areas, where the police presence is greater. Violent crime can happen to anyone, anywhere, at any time. Since you cannot predict if and when it will strike you or your loved ones, the only thing you can do is to prepare for it.
Please review the next blog on this subject.