It’s dangerous to go alone… in Austin

1143362243714

Police are concerned about a trend they are seeing in Austin’s Entertainment District: criminals targeting people walking by themselves.

Police said many of the victims are walking to and from their cars and not paying attention.

“We see both male and females walking by themselves in high crime areas, they’re looking down on their phones because they’re texting, their heads aren’t on a swivel, they’re not situationally aware of what’s going on around them – if people are following them,” said Austin police Senior Patrol Officer, Pedro Loureiro.

full story (h/t Michael Cargill)

Robbery. Assault.

Many stories here in Austin of women jogging alone, with ear buds in, and being sexually assaulted.

Of course, this is talking about Austin’s Entertainment District. To me, that violates Farnam’s Law about not going to stupid places (as part of the way to avoid trouble).

But take it for what it is people: growing trend of crime and violence in Austin.

And much of it is preventable:

  • Don’t be alone.
  • Don’t have your nose in your phone.
  • Don’t have ear buds in.
  • Be aware of your surroundings: have your head up and paying attention.
  • Avoid stupid places. If you must be in a stupid place, see the above 4 points.

 

 

You’re acting suspiciously…

I knew it would happen sooner or later.

Someone noticed me walking home from the gym, and considered me suspicious. Shortly after arriving home, I get a notice via Nextdoor:

My husband left for work around 5:45am this morning and saw a man walking with a flashlight on [the street], which isn’t strange except for the fact that he turned his flashlight off as soon as my husband turned onto [the street].
The only description he could get is male wearing athletic shorts and tennis shoes.

My husband said he seemed out of place.

Could be nothing but wanted to pass it on

That was me. I posted a response acknowledging myself and why I did what I did. That I use a flashlight because 1. I want to see (it’s dark out!), 2. I want others to see me, especially cars – and it worked, since her husband saw me. That I don’t keep my flashlight on constantly because there’s no need to: 1. there are streetlights and they do a decent enough job, but sometimes there are dark patches and that’s when I use the flashlight, 2. if it’s about car visibility, once the car passes me the visibility is no longer needed.

All in all, no harm no foul. I even thanked her and her husband for doing what they did! They are looking out, caring about their neighbors and neighborhood. I am thankful to have such neighbors.

So what’s the lesson?

Consider how things you do that you consider normal may be considered suspicious by others.

When you walk into a room/building, do you find yourself pausing and surveying the room? You’re probably trying to get the lay of the land, look for alternative exits, and so on. But how might your actions be perceived by others? That maybe you’re “scoping the place out”?

It doesn’t matter that you know you’re doing good, that you’re harmless, etc.. What matters is their perceptions. And how might your seemingly innocent “sheepdog” “good guy” behaviors be (mis)construed by others.

Just give it some thought. (Re)think your actions. See how you can improve.

How burglars break into homes (and how you can avoid being burglarized)

Continuing our theme of “ask the criminals how they commit their crimes, because that might give you a clue on how to not be a victim”, there’s a new article going around where “We asked 86 burglars how they broke into homes” (h/t Brian Brown).

Since people don’t like to click through, here’s a summary:

  • How do they typically break in? Through unlocked doors and windows.
    • If something had to be forced, kicking a door was preferred to breaking glass due to noise and risk of injury.
  • Targets? Jewelry, electronics, cash, credit cards, guns.
    • NRA Bumper Sticker = Lots of guns to steal.
  • Where? Master bedroom, then almost anywhere and everywhere else.
  • When? Mid-day, often just after lunch.
    • A time when people are unlikely to be home.
  • Pets? Big, loud dogs deter.
  • Knock first? Typically yes, again to check if anyone’s home.
    • If someone was, give an excuse and move on.
  • Home alarms? If they go off, they will leave.
  • Security cameras? Generally deter, but could also be a signal to valuables.
  • Lights on inside? Mixed. Some saw “lights on, blinds closed” as an invitation because it’s often a signal no one is home and no one will see you.
  • Radio/TV on? Can deter, but not a deal break breaker.
  • Car in the driveway? Good deterrent.
  • Ideal target? Anything that helps them not be seen.
    • Big fences, overgrown hedges, homes isolated from other homes, blind spots, older window frames, cheap doors.
    • Nice home, nice car = person with money
  • Did they ever conduct surveillance? Sometimes.
    • If they did, it was often to determine the best time to break in.
  • What suggestions do they offer to avoid burglary?
    • Visible property. Good lighting. Trimmed trees and bushes.
    • Know your neighbors. Keep your eyes open. Report suspicious activity to the police.

If you look at this, there’s a few common messages.

They want easy targets that have a good chance of a payoff, and will not have resistance.

Minimize advertising of what you have. Bumper stickers, leaving your garage door open, all those boxes you put out on trash day.

Make your home unappealing by keeping things visible.

Make it seem like someone is home. And if someone is home, make it clear that someone is home. Answer your door – that doesn’t mean you have to unlock/open your door, but at least answer it (your voice carries through the door, or get one of those new video/audio doorbells).

And the biggest and easiest thing you can do?

Lock your doors and windows. And if you have an alarm system, use it.

I encounter this frequently: people leave things unlocked, and have alarm systems but don’t use them.

We can’t eliminate things 100%, but we can reduce our chances of being a victim. Learning how burglars work can teach us a lot on how to not be victimized by them.

The Ugly Truth

If you listen to politicians and the mainstream media, where do criminals get their guns? The “gun show loophole”? The Internet?

And of course, the way to “stop gun violence” is through more background checks (e.g. “no fly, no buy”), assault weapons bans, etc.. Right?

The truth is of course something completely different.

ABC 13 out of Houston, Texas investigated.  (h/t Phil Wong)

To get our data, we sent surveys to every killer who used a gun to murder someone in Harris County since 2014. We wanted to know how they got their gun, what they paid, and how often, if ever, they went through a background check.

It may not be the most scientific of surveys, but it’s a pretty good way to go. I mean, why not actually ask the people who committed the crime what the crime was they committed! Nothing like getting the information direct from the source.

Here’s a relevant finding:

Nearly 90 percent of our survey respondents got their weapons outside the legal regulated gun market. None shopped at a gun show – and most traded for their weapons or got them from a friend for free.

Another finding? The overwhelming majority used handguns.

Basically this means things like expanding background checks (heck, ANY background checks) and assault weapons bans (heck, ANY sort of ban) will stop virtually NOTHING. Well correction: it will stop the law-abiding citizenry, who are the so-called “good people” of society. The criminals? The “bad-people”? the ones that are murdering and killing? It won’t stop them one bit.

You know what will stop them?

In the article is a video of an interview with Cedric Jones, a murderer serving time for his crime.

There ain’t gonna be no law to stop you from carrying a gun. It’s not. There’s been laws, they didn’t stop me from carrying a gun. It’s all about me staying alive. A law ain’t gonna stop me. I ain’t worry about no law. I’m worried about this dude come and shoot me.

Let his words sink in.

He knows about the laws. He doesn’t care about the laws.

What does he care about?

Not getting himself shot and killed.

So you tell me.

What do you think a criminal fears?

What do you think will actually stop a criminal?

You might find the answer repugnant, but Truth isn’t always pretty. That’s why it’s called the Ugly Truth.

How to get shot

There are three things that are most likely to get you shot. They rank in this order
1) Behavior
2) Career
3) Lifestyle ‘choices’

These can be understood as
A -Piss off violent people — including being a violent person yourself
B -Have a job that puts you in a ‘most likely to be robbed’ position or as a protector
C – Who you hang out with, where you go, what time and what you’re doing there.

These are FAR more reliable indicators of who is going to get shot. (The reason for the quotes around ‘choices’ is a two year old baby who is killed in a drug related shooting didn’t have a choice about her babydaddy being both a gangmember AND the target of the driveby that killed her. But someone who is in a club at 1a.m. chose to be there.)

[This Chicago Tribue author] ascribes skin color to why people get shot. I’ll instead point toward the exceedingly high amount of recent criminal records of homicide ‘victims’ Which yearly, and city by city fall inside the 85 to 100% range.

Oh and oddly enough, while the race of the ‘victim’ is tracked nationally to perpetuate the ‘race narrative’ it’s only the cities and states that track the correlation — dare we say causation — of criminal records.

A Facebook post by Marc MacYoung in response to this commentary by Edward McClelland from the October 2, 2016 edition of the Chicago Tribune titled “I never worry I’ll be shot in Chicago. After all, I’m white.”

Right at the start of the article, the author states and overlooks the real reason he doesn’t have to worry about being shot:

Even in the midst of a gang war, I had no fear of getting shot. Why? Because I’m white.

No, it’s because you’re not part of a gang.

You don’t have the behavior, career, nor lifestyle choices that get you shot.

Behavior, career, and lifestyle choices are orthogonal to skin color. Plenty of white people make the wrong behavior, career, and/or lifestyle choices that wind up with them getting shot or killed.

Look at crime for what actually causes it, not what you think causes it.

Resistance is NOT futile

Police said the victim resisted and yelled while the suspect remained on his feet and hovered over her. At some point, a man walking a dog entered the area and the attacker ran.

Another assault in Circle C Park here in South Austin. Full story.

While there’s not much information in the story (it does include a description), what there is presents a few things we can learn. Granted, I can only base this off what’s in the story, there’s a lot of context missing, so take this for what it’s worth.

According to police, the victim ran from Escarpment Boulevard onto the jogging trail of the park at around 7:30 p.m. As the victim made her way to the basketball courts on the northwest end and toward a street that runs through the park, she saw a man hiding behind a bush. When she ran past the man, he pushed her down and proceeded to physically assault her.

While the time was in the evening, it was still “broad daylight”. Bad things can happen at any time of the day, not just in the dark of night.

She saw a man hiding behind a bush. Later in the article it described the man as “wearing a black long-sleeved shirt with black pants and a black baseball hat”. I can’t say if she saw what the man was wearing in detail enough to have anything register but… it’s like 100º+ and 110% humidity in Austin right now. Someone in long-sleeves, full pants, hat — and all black — is VERY out of place (not even Austin goths are dressed like that). Throw in “hiding behind a bush” and your alarm bells should be screaming. None of this appears normal; it’s all out of place. This is not someone I would want to continue past – I would do whatever I could to put as much distance between myself and that person as soon and rapidly as possible.

The attacker ran off when someone else came into the area. There is safety in numbers. Having a useful dog has benefits as well.

Most of all? She resisted. She yelled. She fought back. She refused to be a victim.

There’s the biggest lesson.

Perception is not reality

There is half as much crime in the US right now as there was about 25 years ago. Both violent and property crime have declined pretty steadily since the early 1990s.

But Americans are more concerned about crime now than they have been since 2001.

[…]

But the massive disconnect between what crime rates actually are and what many Americans think they are shows two things. One is that in general, Americans think large societal issues are getting way worse than they actually are.

Full story (from Vox) h/t Seth Anderson Bailey.

So the reality is crime is down, and pretty much at an all-time low. Crime still happens in great numbers, but nowhere near as much as you think.

But yet, people think things are worse.

Why might that be?

Could it be due to the news media? The 24/7 need for blood in the headlines? When one thing happens in some remote part of the world, someone decides it’s “newsworthy” and suddenly it’s the story dominating all media outlets for the next week?

Hooray Internet.

Hooray the “always connected” lifestyle.

Hooray for the fear-mongers.

Hooray for those that profit from all of this.

Perception is not reality.

Look beyond the headlines. Look at the Truth.

Don’t believe the hype.

 

More car theft in Austin

I’ve been reading about more and more car theft/break-ins happening in Austin.

And with every story of a break-in, so much is the same:

• Doors are unlocked

• Visible valuables inside

The latest I heard was someone lost about $7000 worth of contractor tools and supplies because they were in the car, parked on the street. Smash and grab and away they went. I’m sorry to hear about this, because even if they were insured, it’s still a lot of downtime and trouble to replace everything. That’s someone’s job, that’s someone’s livelihood that was deeply injured.

Fact is, these things are preventable.

Don’t leave valuables in your car. Or at least, make sure they are well-hidden.

Lock your doors. Keep your windows rolled up.

Take garage door openers inside with you. There are thefts of the openers, then the thief comes back later and now has easy access to your house (or at least your garage and all the stuff you keep in there).

Be mindful of your “valet” key as well, to ensure it’s secure.

Yes I agree. It sucks. We shouldn’t have to live this way. Alas, this is the reality of life and often small measures like this is what saves us from bigger pains later on.

Don’t wait until you get burned before you learn a lesson and make a change in your life. Learn from the mistakes of others, save yourself some pain.

Peace… and bullies

I honestly do support peace, communication and compromise.

But I do so not from a position of virtue singling or that these ideas are morally superior. It’s because I truly understand how much violence and hatred suck. I’m talking screaming, blood spatter and bodies ‘suck.’

Unfortunately, we have two contributing problems to the third. One is that ‘peace’ has become a not just a moral issue, but a moral superiority one. “I’m better than you because I believe in peace.’ Two is that this position has expanded into cowardice and inaction. That is someone who uses the excuse of “I believe in peace” so they don’t have to step up or confront something that is spinning out into extremes and heading towards violence.

The third problem is bullies. See in a peaceful, non violent world, the bully is king. He can be as pushy, demanding, vicious and violent as he wants and nobody can stop him. Or to be more precise, nobody will stop him. It’s a win for the violent bully.

That’s what happens when people think that peace is a morally superior position. First, they forget that the negotiating table is the option that sucks less. Second they’re at a loss when someone realizes the inherent weakness of their unpreparedness and exploits it. Third, they’ve lost sight of negotiation without the ability to back it up is begging. Fourth, way too often they start crossing the lines too. (Different tactics, but very much the same strategy and goals.) That last leads to the fifth problem, which is they see no reason not to become bullies themselves.

That works until the shooting starts.

I’d kind of like to get back to the negotiating table with the understanding that peace is not a virtue, it’s survival. Because the alternative is really really ugly.

– Marc MacYoung

Posted by Marc on Facebook.

What happens when you don’t have anything to protect yourself?

People fucking die.

– Tom Araya, Slayer

During a June 27, 2016 concert in Pratteln, Switzerland, Tom Araya – singer and bassist for the band Slayer – had this to say during his stage rap:

Is it true that every household has to own a rifle or a gun? No? I thought everybody was supposed to have a rifle or a gun in their home. It’s not right? How else are you gonna defend your country?

Where you are in the world, you need to protect yourselves. Not from each other, but from invaders. And you know what I’m talking about, right? You should be aware of your invaders — people that come here to do you harm. It’s not right. You should be able to protect and defend your country. That’s the way it should be everywhere. ‘Cause when you don’t have anything to protect yourself or your fellow countrymen, what happens? People fucking die. They do! Don’t they? Yeah. You can see it going on.

I’m not gonna name names, but you can see what’s going on in other countries. ‘Cause they can’t protect themselves. And that’s what I’m talking about: being able to protect yourself and your fellow countrymen and your fucking country. I’m being serious, man. This isn’t a fucking joke. You know, it really sucks to know that other people die, because you can’t protect them. That fucking sucks.

Video here:

(h/t Blabbermouth)