Intelligence gathering is typically associated with military operations, but make no mistake, as a citizen invested in personal security and protection, you need to gather intelligence as well. To best mitigate the potential for criminal violence in your own life, you should familiarize yourself with criminal activity in your vicinity. Know thy enemy. Developing an understanding of what sort of crime is common in your area, and setting your own defense plans accordingly, makes good sense. Here are some considerations in this regard and some suggestions for gathering this information:
PSA: All Neighborhoods Have Crime
I can’t even begin to tell you how often people have told me that they have considered arming themselves but don’t because they live in a “safe neighborhood.” If you have ever fallen into this delusional line of thinking, ask yourself, what makes your neighborhood safe? Is there a wall surrounding it that is topped with barbed wire? Is there a checkpoint staffed with soldiers at the entrance? Is there a moat with alligators surrounding the neighborhood? I am thinking not. If not, congratulations. Your neighborhood is not safe. If accessible to human beings, it is accessible to criminal predators.
Granted, some neighborhoods have a far greater percentage of crime than others. However, thinking that you are immune to crime because the criminal element can’t afford a mortgage payment in your neighborhood is delusional. While your pristine suburban block might see fewer car break-ins and the like compared to “bad” neighborhoods, keep in mind that some of the most terrifying and deadly home invasions are committed in just such neighborhoods. Think about it, what sort of homes have the valuables that criminals actually want? Also, consider, what sort of neighborhoods have the people that the worst kinds of process predators wish to abuse? Not everything bad in the world happens to “others.” Not all crime is in the hood. Thinking that you are immune to violence because you live in a wealthy area is naivety.
Understanding the Common Crime Trends
All vicinities have certain crime trends that dominate the scene. Usually, this criminal activity is not overtly violent in nature, but you should be aware of it. You might find that your area is prone to smash-and-grab theft from parked cars. This is unfortunately common. If this is the case, consider how you can better thwart such activity. Is your driveway well-lit, or is it dark? Criminals don’t like brightly lit environments. Some visible security cameras looking over your driveway might also do you well. Is your area prone to theft from back yards? Stolen bikes? Stolen lawn mowers? Again, a well-lit perimeter illuminated by motion-sensing lights is in order, and perhaps a security camera to detect and record any such trespass.
You may be living in an area that is prone to more nefarious activity, like home invasions. If so, educate yourself to the best of your ability on how these crimes transpire. Often, recurring crimes of such a nature are committed by the same crew. Find out how they operate. Do they just kick down the front door and enter? Do they get the homeowner to open the door through a ruse, such as sending an innocent-looking female up to the front door pretending to be selling something? Do they pose as delivery people? Etc… Know thy enemy. With an understanding of the MO of a particular criminal enterprise, you can better work towards deterring it.
Tools for Intelligence Gathering
There are several ways to go about acquiring the available information on local crime. First, subscribe to, or at least occasionally read, local news feeds. Most smaller towns and cities have local news outlets of some kind that are more likely to cover local stories that would never make it to larger news outlets. Bear in mind that even small-town news will not be covering the low-level crime that happens daily, such as vehicle break-ins. However, local news is likely to cover crime trends that emerge in an area, such as a neighborhood witnessing consistent nightly vehicle break-ins or theft. Certainly, a rash of home invasions should make the news.
Beyond relying on local newspapers or websites, which will be limited in what they report on, one of the most effective tools to leverage for intelligence is neighborhood-based social media. Apps like NextDoor, or even neighborhood groups on big social media sites, often foster discussion that illuminates criminal activity that would otherwise go unreported. Such apps or groups allow individuals to post regarding their own experiences. Neighborhood people will often share their encounters with theft or violence, and these people often provide information on things that are happening. A large police presence in a vicinity, helicopters circling the park, etc.…, are events that you may see from a distance but not know what has transpired. These apps allow neighborhood people who are close by to report what they see.
Beyond these social media platforms that can help, dedicated crime tracking websites may have information aggregated for your vicinity. Websites such as Spot Crime, Area Vibes, and Neighborhood Scout compile such information, often showing a breakdown of crime type and percentage compared to neighboring vicinities. Another tool that you can leverage is police scanner apps. You can download an app on a smartphone that monitors the scanner activity of the police in your vicinity. In the event that something is transpiring, you can sometimes pick up details about the incident on the scanner.
There are, as demonstrated, many technology solutions to help you identify the likely threats in your area. However, I would encourage you to remember that anomalies are always possible, and you should plan for worst-case scenarios as well. If bicycle theft is common, but there are no reports of violent home invasions or robberies in your vicinity, that hardly means that your neighborhood is immune. Have a home defense plan for the worst of crime, and everything less sinister can be dealt with. Stay safe.