Thursday, February 19, 2009

Real World Observations on Fighting Crime and Criminals, by Eli

I sat down to see what I could offer to share with other SurvivalBlog readers. Many topics have already been covered, so I will attempt to go somewhere new.
I am a law enforcement officer by trade, and hope to provide a unique perspective as such. I have seen shootings, stabbing, burglaries, robberies, etc. I have served both search and arrest warrants. I work in the southwest US, and have worked in very affluent areas as well as very poor areas. What follows are some observations of my time on the job, relating to a few different areas and crimes that occur. Hopefully some people will get something out of this. None of this is to be construed as legal advice, strictly observations. All are very applicable to everyday life, and will be highly applicable at TEOTWAWKI .A good teacher once said “I am not showing you the way, only A way.” I apologize in advance if I jump around between topics:

Of all the shootings I have seen, whether officer involved or not, shot placement has been the key to success (success being the death or incapacitation of attacker). Regardless of bullet or weapon type, a solid hit will end a fight. I have seen Black Talon .45 ACP ammo through the stomach fail to incapacitate someone, as well as .223s with poor shot placement fail to stop an attacker. Both subjects lost a lot of blood, but were able to continue to fight. A few recent shootings involved 9mm FMJ ammo. All were fatal, and all were solid hits to the heart/lung area. The take home lesson is that shot placement is key to survival, regardless of caliber. Obviously, proper ammo choice with proper shot placement is best. (I know it has been discussed before, but bird shot is not an effective defense load)
So how can we improve our shot placement? Shoot more. Dry fire. Practice. Then practice some more. If you do not shoot, learn. Whether you are a beginner or advanced shooter, do not forget to work on the basics- sight alignment and trigger control. There is no substitute for trigger time and fundamentals. 22 conversion kits are widely available for many guns for practice at reduced cost. AR-style sights are also available for 10/22s if you prefer that route over a conversion kit. Shorter, more frequent practice sessions are more beneficial than infrequent longer sessions, whether live or dry fire.

After improving static shooting skills, focus on stress shooting. Attend a training course. Practice what you learn in the course. A 2-4 day course will expose you to a lot of new ideas. It is up to you to reinforce them [with practice] when you return home. Only through repetition will these movements become second nature. Join a local IDPA league. The stress of competition will help. Become physically fit. Studies with police and simmunition/judgmental shooting scenarios showed that the more physically fit an individual, regardless of all other factors, the more likely they were to succeed on the simmunition portion and the less mistakes they made on the judgmental portion. (Think about how sports teams make more mental errors late in a game when fatigue sets in) All subjects showed an immediate increase in heart rate and blood pressure. The more fit individuals showed a more rapid return to normal levels, often before the end of the scenario. Combine physical exertion with shooting. Try doing sprints/pushups/jumping jacks, then shooting. Use your imagination.

Learn to clear a malfunction on your weapon. All guns will jam at some point. Ejected shells have bounced off walls and landed back in an open recoiling action. Strange things happen. Know your chosen weapon’s action of arms. Learn to do so with economy of movement. You can purchase dummy rounds or assemble them from spent cases. Throw a few into your magazine next time you shoot, and clear the malfunctions as they happen. It will also show any flinching problems. Teach someone else to shoot. You will be amazed at how much you will learn teaching someone else.


A-Points of entry-
Residential burglaries are an all too common occurrence. The most common points of entry I have seen are door and open windows. For some reason, crooks have an aversion to breaking windows on houses, though it will happen. (Perhaps the Broken Window Theory is true…) “Smash and Grab” activity does happen, but tends to be more vehicle related. (Practice good OPSEC in your vehicle. Do not leave valuables in plain view. Do not place gun stickers on your vehicle, etc)

A few bad guys that have been willing to talk have mentioned that you can shut a door after kicking it in, but a broken window is harder to hide from neighbors. Go and look at your front door. Find your lock plate. When a door is forced, this is the part to give, with the plate coming loose and breaking the trim. Get a screw driver, and remove one of the screws. Realize that this is what is securing your front door. Now go buy longer screws, and replace them immediately. A security door is also a huge plus, as it opens out and requires different techniques to remove. They are not fool proof, but do more to make someone choose another house which is the ultimate goal.

Open windows are the other really common method of entry. Any time any work is done on your house, check all of your windows. It is disturbingly common for workers or anyone in your home to leave a window open in a unused room, or unlock a seldom used door and then return later. Follow workers when they are in your house (Side note on this… I recently had a water heater replaced. I would have done it myself, but it was still under warranty and was free. While chit-chatting with the worker, he asked if I was a cop. I told him no, then asked why. He replied that the only people who watch him work tend to be cops. Just like you are observing others, do not forget that you are being watched as well.) Sterilize your house prior to allowing workers in. Do not leave out firearm accessories, bank statements, etc. Bars on windows are also effective in limiting possible points of entry. They may be against fire code (check your jurisdiction), and reduce points of exit as well. Roll shutters are another really good option here. Many newer homes have a window to the side of the front door. Consider a metal grate or something similar inside to prevent breaking the window, then undoing the locks. These windows, even when frosted, also provide a visible indicator about how many people/when someone is coming to the door, eliminating surprise.

B- What is taken
Cash, firearms, jewelry, electronics, tools, credit cards, personal info, bank statements. Anything that they can pawn or trade for drugs. If you go on vacation, take your spare vehicle keys with you. A recent trend has been to load up the second car parked in the cover of the garage, then drive it away with all of your stuff. Buy a gun safe, preferably a heavy one. Don't forget to lock your safe (No, I am not kidding about this.) Bolt your safe down. I have seen studs cut from the wall to remove a safe. I personally have not seen one pried from the floor yet, although I am sure it has happened. Bolt it to both floor and walls and be safe. Write your serial numbers down also, especially for firearms. (Be very careful with this list, for obvious reasons, especially with private party gun sales. Keep a copy somewhere other than your safe also) It is very hard to prove ownership or log an item as stolen without the serial number.

Robberies occur all the time, everywhere. Situational awareness is the most beneficial for preventing these. You are most vulnerable at times of preoccupation. Fumbling with keys, exiting/entering a car or residence, running with your headphones on, etc Carry bags in a manner to leave your gun hand free, assuming you are carrying concealed. Pay attention. Pause before entering exiting anywhere. Stop, look, and listen. Take a few seconds to do this anytime you enter or exit anything. Make it a habit. You see all the time on surveillance footage of people walking into a liquor store as it is being robbed. Try to stop, look and listen before you enter the store. After you enter, step to one side and do it again. Park in well lit areas. When in your vehicle, keep your doors locked. Do not pull up directly behind the car in front of you and box yourself in. Know where exits are in restaurants and businesses. Listen to your hunches. Home invasion robberies are increasingly common as well. Security doors pay huge dividends here. Even a highly trained SWAT team either has to pry or yank these with a vehicle, before dealing with the interior door. This buys you time. Time equates to distance and options, which equate to safety. Have a dog, and lock all of your gates. See above about window bars. A fenced yard helps. Most states have laws that recognize fenced yards as having a higher expectation of privacy than a non-fenced yard, and a corresponding reduced standard for lethal force action inside said fence. (i.e. the "reasonable person" test, an intruder climbing over a locked gate into a yard with a dog would be expected to be a greater threat than an intruder that was at the front window of an unfenced yard.)

It is not unreasonable if the “police” come to your door to ask to see a badge, preferably a commission card, as these have an officer’s photo. Look though a different window and see if a car is outside. Call the agency they say they are from and verify they are who they say they are. If in doubt, wait and verify. Keep your doors locked when you are home, not just when you leave or before bed.
Police are not trained to look for "bad guys." They are trained to analyze behavior and patterns. When something looks out of place, it is cause for concern.


I work nights, so most of this section will be related to this. I have approached many houses. Let me walk you through what is typical for my squad. Hopefully it will grant some insight into the mind and method of potential attackers.It starts outside of the residence, down the street. Turn off your vehicle lights before you turn onto the street. Park your vehicle so it is not in plain view. Take advantage of other parked cars, as well as the shadows in between street lights to conceal your car. Exit the vehicle quietly. Do not slam your doors. Turn of/disable your vehicle dome light prior to opening your door. Secure any loose or rattling equipment. Stop, look, and listen while still at your car. Let your eyes adjust. Identify the target residence. Depending on the threat level of the suspect or call type we number anywhere from two to six. Approach the house, again taking advantage of lighting and concealment. At the house, stop, look and listen. Are there motion lights? Video cameras? Is there a fence? Is the entire yard fenced? Is the gate locked? Are there cars in the driveway? Are the hoods warm? Most residences have an exposed front and a fenced back yard, so we will assume that is the case. Is there an alley? If so, send one or two people to cover points of exit/look through rear windows. What do you hear? Television? Fighting? Screaming? A shower? A racking shotgun? Whispering? Is there a barking dog? (Pepper spray is effective and commonly used to silence barking dogs. Many SWAT teams now carry suppressed weapons strictly for this purpose. Many cops also carry dog treats.) Look at windows. Can you see through the blinds/curtains? Do an experiment at your residence. Turn on an interior light in a room, and go outside to the window. How much can you see in? Can you see through the corners? What about where the curtains are supposed to come together at the bottom? Do this for all the windows. What do you see inside? How many people? Men, women, children? Are they calm? Are they armed? At the front door, we unscrew light bulbs, adjust cameras, cover them with rubber gloves if they do not move. Spray paint would be effective also at taking care of cameras that do not move. Consider installing a light fixture with a completely surrounded bulb, one that takes a screwdriver to change, or mounting it higher up.. When you knock on the door, move away to a position of cover. Again, stop look and listen. Does the television go off? Who yells to who to get the door? Corners of buildings provide more “cover” than the middle of a wall, as most construction backs multiple 2x4 or 2x6’s up at this location. Have someone watching through a window. Usually by shadow or change in light you can tell when someone is coming to the door, and often how many.

When entering a house
The most common mistakes when clearing a residence are noise discipline and speed. Slow down. Do not move faster than you can take in important details. Be as quiet as possible. The idea is to catch them before they catch you. They are waiting for you. Do not give them any advantage.
There is much debate about building clearance, and many schools of thought. Here are some universal points to all methods:

You need at least three people to be safe. Never search by yourself. More people are better. Cover reflexive angles of one another. Smooth is the goal. Do not stand near the walls. You do not want to risk giving away a position by running your equipment against a wall. This also gives you more options should you engage and have to move. Move slowly (one minute per hundred square feet is not unreasonable). When “pieing” [or "pie slicing"] a room, examine each new degree of the pie from top to bottom , and back again. Hunters will understand this better, but you are not looking for a whole person. You are looking for parts. A toe, an ear, an elbow. Likewise, when clearing, have your upper body move before your lower body (i.e., lean and clear, then move your feet underneath you….repeat….practice with a friend/spouse or a mirror [with and absolutely cleared and double-checked firearm]) and keep your elbow tucked under your weapon, so the first thing the bad guy will see is half the barrel of your gun and half of that eye. (Notice I said “that” eye. Learn to shoot with your off hand, and practice. It is impossible to safely clear a house with the gun in one hand the entire time.) Practice house clearing. Get a friend, family member. Go through your home. Go through theirs. Take turns being the good guy/bad guy. Do it during the day. Do it at night. Repeat. People hide in all sorts of places. Cupboards, washing machines, inside couches, between mattresses, etc. Do not move past anything you have not cleared. You do not want to be worried about something behind you while clearing. If a door is locked and you have to bypass it, get creative. Lean something up against the door so you will know if it is opened behind you. Tie it shut. Do not make more noise than you need to. Do not be afraid to kneel or squat when pieing. People are expecting certain things. Think outside the box.

As far as lights go, there are two schools of thought. The first, turn on lights as you enter the room. You can see, but the enemy can also. The second, use a weapon mounted or handheld light. You can illuminate an area, kill the light, then move. Try both and see what you prefer.

B-Defensive Measures
Consider all of the proceeding section of what attackers do. Apply this to your home. Imagine you are at home, watching television. The neighbor’s dog starts barking, or your's does. The dog suddenly stops. You still get up to investigate, wisely. You go to turn on your outside light, and the bulb does not work. At this point in time the hair on the back of your neck should be standing up. Pay attention to all of the small things. You check your security camera, and suddenly it’s looking at a view of the wall. If a security camera is not working, blocked, etc, lights not working, dog stopped barking (or still barking like mad) these are clues to put on your vest and load your weapon. (You do always put on your vest and grab your weapon when you go to investigate bumps in the night, right? )

Look at your home. Put up a fence around your entire yard. Build a full size fence, not a half one. Clear an area for 8-to-10 feet on either side of the fence, the entire way around. Do not take the time to put up a fence and then provide an easy means over it. Lock the gate. Get two or three large dogs and let them have free roam of the yard. They make “shake” alarms for fences that will go off when the fence is disturbed. They can be made to ring your cell phone (As in your phone rings, you answer, a computer voice states "You have a fence activation on the north side of your property."). Look at your outside lights also. Where are the dark spots? Where are blind spots that you cannot see from your windows? Consider discrete mirrors in strategic locations to check blind spots. Mount your lights high so they cannot be unscrewed, and get fixtures that protect the light bulb. Install security cameras. Consider a few camera pointed towards your house, possibly under eaves or overhangs that will be easy to miss. Where are your children’s rooms in relationship to yours? Where are the bullets that you may be shooting going to be flying? What walls can be made bullet resistant? I have been in homes where the people literally filled the half walls at the top of the stair case with sand/sand bags to provide a fortified fighting position for the family. Other ideas include surplus vests, Kevlar sheeting, etc stuffed in this area. Another option is to fortify your children’s rooms if they are on the other end of the home, but this also provides an intruder with a potential stronghold. Consider interior flood lights. The same people with the sand bagged half walls had flood lights above the stairs, facing down. With the positioning of the lights, it blinded everyone to the defenders at the top of the stairs.

Every home has ambush spots. When you are practicing clearing your house, think about what spots give you problems. Blind corners or multiple doors in close proximity are nightmares while clearing. Find a spot on the far side of the room or down a hallway where you can view these problem areas. One where you can view a problem area and fortify is an ideal location. Stairwells make good options. While you are practicing clearing your house with someone else, take turns being the “bad guy.” See where you want to hide, where you have the best advantage.

I hope this helps. People often talk about hardware versus software. In these tough economic times, hardware is not easy to come by. Software is cheap. Try to still obtain what you can when you can, but focus on learning skills--any skills. Plant a garden. Change your oil. Help someone with a construction project. Read a book. Learn to bake bread. Learn to distill alcohol. Reload. Take a first aid course. Cook with your food storage. Volunteer somewhere where you can learn something. Practice bartering your skills for goods or services. YouTube is an amazing resource out there if you are unsure how to do something and don’t know anyone that can teach you. If you already have skills, teach them (while still learning new ones.) Spread the word to those that will listen. Post a youtube video about preparation, or about any skill that you have. Teach someone to shoot. You can pick up a surplus Mosin-Nagant rifle and 500 rounds of ammunition for around $150, depending on where you live. Encourage everyone you know to buy one or two.) is a great resource also regarding questions about ammo ("I wonder what happens if I shoot layers of sheet rock with "X" caliber...") Show your friends SurvivalBlog. Sow the seeds of preparation in all you come across. Continue to prepare, pray, and be safe. - Eli

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