Protecting Yourself Against Crime and Violence

Note: This post deals with personal security, one of the most asked-for topics by this community. However, we realize it is a sensitive if not scary topic for some. The intent here is have an open and mature exploration of an important subject. Please respect the author's efforts to do just that.
My wife and I live in Philadelphia on the “green line” between mostly-prosperous Center City and mostly-wasteland North Philadelphia. People are very aware of crime around here, as you might imagine, and many people have taken numerous steps to avoid becoming victims. That being said, I am still surprised on a nearly daily basis how unprepared and unaware some people are. (I’m a Police Sergeant, so I see many people who have been caught off guard by criminals. And that’s a very important first tip: If the criminal cannot catch you off guard and unprepared, he’s most likely going to pick a different victim. But that doesn’t account for intoxicated/drugged criminals, very inexperienced criminals, and professional criminals.)  

A middle-aged woman who is our neighbor lived alone in a three-story rowhouse one block away from us. At about 10:00 pm one night, she was reading in bed in her second-floor front bedroom. Suddenly, there was a strange man she had never seen before standing in the doorway of her bedroom demanding money. Scared half to death, she pointed out her purse on her dresser. He went through it, took all her money and fled out the second floor rear bedroom window through which he had entered. Responding police were unable to find the perpetrator. Crime is an ever-present threat around here, yet this long-time resident was totally caught off guard. Even more amazing to me was how easy it would’ve been for her to have prevented this whole unnerving incident. She had a burglar alarm system, but she hadn’t armed it, even though she was going to sleep in a few minutes. She also left her rear second floor window unlocked, which enabled the burglar to climb in without making any noise after using her neighbor’s rear second floor deck to access it.
I don’t know the lady, but I’m thinking that before this event she had had a theoretical or abstract awareness of crime from hearing so much about it in the neighborhood and the media. You, too, may have such an abstract awareness that has not affected you on a gut level. She had an alarm system as a way of fending off attack (at home), but she obviously didn’t have the motivation to practice simple discipline to protect herself. In my experience, a person’s first time being victimized by a criminal is a real wake-up call. Depending on the person and the crime they are the victim of, the effect on the person may be life-changing and sometimes devastating. My neighbor was freaked out, as you would have been having gone through something like this. She was glad not to have been physically injured and glad the burglar took such a small amount of her valuables.
Sadly, I can’t conclude the story here, and this is the part that really shocks me. This neighbor had a very powerful emotional reaction to a very dangerous and shocking crime, but she didn’t take the simplest of steps to protect herself from being victimized again. Amazing! A few months after this first incident, my neighbor was asleep in her bed. She had not armed her burglary alarm system (again) and her rear window was unlocked (again). She was awakened from her sleep by a different man in her bedroom who brutally raped her, took her money, and drove off in her BMW. This man had entered through the same unlocked window! I don’t think it was much consolation to her, but police caught the predator several days later, still driving her BMW.  She sold her house quickly below market and moved away. I wonder if she is more prepared to deal with crime now. I wonder how many of the readers here haven’t taken significant steps to protect themselves.
I’m writing this post on preparing for crime and violence primarily to stimulate or inspire members of the community who have not already done so to plan for and begin taking steps to prepare themselves for crime and violence. The next 20 years are going to be completely unlike the last 20 years, and one way they’re going to be different is in the area of crime. Obviously, more poverty and desperation and fewer law enforcement resources will be the main ingredients in generating more crime and violence. It’s going to be more frequent, more clever, and more brutal. From my perspective, these preparations are a normal part of life, because crime is a normal part of the human experience (in varying degrees and types). It only makes sense to think about crime and violence, take some reasonable steps to prevent it, and respond to it if prevention fails. This is true in national parks, rural areas, small towns, and large cities. These are my thoughts, but I believe most people have not thought about these things very much. And more importantly, they have taken very few effective steps to prevent themselves from being victimized and to deal with a crime against themselves once an attack starts.   
This post may not scratch where you itch, because I see people falling into one of four categories in regard to preparation for crime and violence. Look at my four categories and decide where you are:
The first category consists of those who are already aware of crime and violence and have begun taking steps to prepare themselves and their loved ones. Readers in this first category may find they have already progressed beyond most of the material in this post. If so, a second future post I have in mind may be more helpful.
The second category of people are hopefully the largest group, and they are the ones I want to move with this post. These are people who haven’t yet done much thinking and preparing to face crime, but they will if effectively prompted to do so. I say “effectively prompted” because many things could trigger a person’s journey into self-protection. Being the victim of a crime for the first time in your life often qualifies as being “effectively prompted” (though not always, as per my neighbor’s experience). Vicariously experiencing someone else’s crime has “effectively prompted” many people to take their own self-protection more seriously.
My brother- and sister-in-law live in a quiet, prosperous, low-crime area in Connecticut which is very close to a brutal 7-24-07 home invasion in Cheshire, CT. That nearby crime, which resulted in the murders of the wife and two daughters of Dr. William Petit, Jr., “effectively prompted” my brother- and sister-in-law, and many others in low-crime Connecticut, to begin taking their self-protection very seriously. They bought guns, took training and went through the arduous process to get concealed carry permits. (If you need to be effectively prompted by someone else’s experience of crime and violence, go to YouTube and watch all the “armed robbery” and “shooting” videos you can find.  Your blood should run cold and your motivation hot.)
The third way someone might be “effectively prompted” is by a traditional learning experience such as in a classroom or by reading this post. This is the least effective way of the three, and is most effective when combined with one of the other two. Nevertheless, I have hopes that this post might move some people “off the dime” to start taking their personal protection seriously. After all, if you’re on this site, you’ve taken an “eyes wide open” look at the world as it really is, you’ve made some educated guesses about what the future holds, you’ve begun to prepare, and in many cases you’ve started spreading the word. You didn’t wait for a six month “bank holiday” or a 50% devaluation of the dollar to get started. That’s exactly what I’m trying to get readers to do: conduct a brutally honest look at the world as it pertains to your safety, make some realistic projections about what the future holds, and take appropriate action now. 
The third category is also a large group of people. These are the people who won’t prepare significantly in advance to prevent crime and violence toward themselves, but they WILL fight back if attacked sufficiently. Ginger Littleton is the poster girl for this group. Ms. Littleton was in attendance at a school board meeting in Florida on 12-21-10 when Clay Duke pulled out a handgun and began ranting and threatening. I don’t know Ginger, but I saw her interviewed on TV and I know her “type.” She apparently has never taken her personal protection very seriously, but when confronted with an attack on herself and innocents near her, she decided to fight back (sort of).
It’s best if you watch her “counterattack” on YouTube, but allow me to describe it here. Middle-aged Ms. Littleton fled the room when allowed to do so by the would-be murderer. However, feeling an admirable rush of civic responsibility, she decided she couldn’t just run away. She snuck back quietly to the meeting room. Seeing Duke’s back to her with his gun in his right hand, she formed an impromptu plan. She snuck up behind Duke and swung her purse at his gun hand, hoping to disarm him! The attempt failed, and Duke just shooed her away again (lucky for her he was intent on “suicide-by-cop,” not homicide).
Like many others in this category, Ginger Littleton is a peaceable, law-abiding person who wouldn’t normally hurt a fly. And like many others in similar situations, she was completely surprised by her own actions. "Off-the-cuff without preparation" is not a recommended way of dealing with problems, but it is especially dubious when it comes to dealing with crime because so much is at stake. Many unprepared people die or are seriously injured in ill-advised counterattacks. If you think you are in this category, I hope I can reach you. If you’re going to fight back when attacked ANYWAY, why not prepare in advance so you have a better chance of winning and surviving?
Finally, there’s a small fourth category of people who will never prepare or fight back against violence, even if that means they passively die at the hands of an aggressor. Some of these people are pacifists by religion or philosophy, but most simply cannot overcome their natural human inhibitions against violence. If you’re in this category, I may never convince you to prepare to inflict violence on someone who is intent on hurting you, but maybe I can encourage you to take some of the many non-violent forms of self-protection (using burglar alarms, for instance).
Are you still with me? Do you want to further explore this subject of taking personal responsibility for your own protection and that of your loved ones?   
If you’re on the website, to some degree you’re expecting the Economic, Energy and Environmental challenges that our world is facing to dramatically affect us for at least the next 20 years. There are going to be BIG problems all around, and one of those is going to be BIG increases in crime and violence. Since we expect poverty, desperation, and anger to increase, so we must expect crime and violence to increase proportionally. We have to expect drug and alcohol abuse to rise under these stressful conditions, and this will have a proportional effect on crime rates. At the same time, we have to expect law enforcement resources to decline with the economy that pays for them. (Just as crime reaches the worst levels in a century, we’ll be on our own more than ever). We have to expect the number of crimes to increase. We have to expect the locations where crimes are committed to spread to traditionally low-crime areas. And, perhaps most chilling, we have to expect the crimes to be more brutal, more clever, and better resourced than ever before.   
The good news is that human predators will always have certain traits, and we can use that to prepare ourselves to defeat them. And by defeat them, I mean convince them not to choose you as a victim and fight back far more effectively than they would’ve imagined.
Step 1
Accept the reality of the criminal threat and mentally choose not to be a victim. The denial, distraction, and passivity that many people exhibit concerning crime is the predator’s dream come true. Human predators, just like animal predators, want to take what they want without getting hurt or killed. They survey the population looking for a juicy target who is not paying attention and doesn’t look like it will put up much of a fight. Then they arrange a circumstance to maximize their advantages and minimize the target’s chances of escape or counterattack. Defeating predators absolutely must start with a knowledge that there are predators and a firm resolve to not be a predator’s next easy target. The National Rifle Association has a community education program entitled “Refuse To Be A Victim,” which would be a good place to start if this is where you are ( BY FAR the most important factor in your ability to prevent and effectively respond to crime and violence is an authentic, deeply-felt decision to face it head on.
Step 2
Formulate a plan for self-protection from crime and violence that fits you and your situation, both present and future. Your plan should include protecting:
  • Your home, both when it’s unoccupied as well as when you and your loved ones are in it
  • You and your loved ones while away from home (school, work, traveling, etc.)
  • Your assets that are not kept at your home or on your person (which are more vulnerable to fraud and theft than to street-level violence).

My main concern in this post are the first two areas of protection: home and street.

Your plan must be specific and measurable. “Improve the security of our home” is a great idea or objective, but it needs to be made into a series of measurable goals. Without specific, measurable goals, you’re likely to spin your wheels without accomplishing much. Here are a few specific, measurable goals that someone might include under this objective, just as an example.
  1. Install a monitored burglary/fire alarm by April 1.
  2. Repair the lock on the dining room window by March 15.
  3. Replace the burned out flood light bulb in the motion-activated light at the back door by Feb. 5.
Of course, your plan will evolve over time as you learn and grow into it, but at every point you have to be working YOUR plan. Wasted time, money, and effort are to be avoided at every turn.
Step 3
Based on the plan you develop, begin accumulating the skills and hardware you will need to make it a reality.  Again, you will need specific, measurable items on your list. For instance, “By June 1, achieve a rate of at least 95% for arming the burglary alarm system whenever the house is empty or everyone is sleeping.” Keep a chart and watch your discipline grow.  
Self-protection from crime and violence is really that simple to understand:
  1. Mindset
  2. Plan
  3. Skills
  4. Hardware

Of course, your journey into self-protection will influence the rest of your life, so it may look long and convoluted from that perspective. Remember, you’re aiming for steady, sustainable progress in your efforts, not an instant transformation into civilian commando. Your plan may include a long list of skills and hardware and cost $1,000s, but it doesn’t have to. Inducing predators to avoid you and look for someone else can be amazingly simple and inexpensive with the right attitudes and habits. Most of the effort and expense comes from trying to deter determined and well-prepared predators (they are a very small percentage of all predators) and defeating predators who have blundered through all your efforts at prevention and deterrence. It’s all about resilience and flexibility. How much of the threat of crime and violence do you want to be prepared for? 

Remember this is one of those low-probability, high-cost issues. The mathematical probability that you will have your home invaded by three men with guns is pretty low, but if it happens anyway, you could lose everything. (But don’t forget: The mathematical probability that you will be the target of criminal action is going to keep going up significantly for a long time.) Do you feel lucky? Are you willing to depend on chance? Most people are, but if you are reading this on the site, I doubt you are the kind of person who normally buries his/her head in the sand and hopes for the best. Yet in my experience, it is entirely possible that you’ve made big strides in preparing for the Economic, Energy, and Environmental storms brewing on our horizon, but HAVE NOT done anything to prepare to confront the potential crime and violence embedded in those storms.
I suppose the denial and passivity that this is caused by is natural. It’s one thing to prepare for the impersonal difficulties ahead of us, and it’s another altogether to prepare for a VERY personal attempt by another human directed at killing, maiming, or robbing you. A hurricane or a six month “bank holiday” that hits you is going to be a major problem, but there are steps you can take to prepare. That kind of “attack” is not directed at you personally, and that makes it easier for many to “fight back.” Finally, in your response to these two scenarios, there’s no reason in the world for you to have to harm someone else to survive. However, two seventeen year olds with guns who rob you at the ATM is very personal, and to defeat them you will very likely have to harm or kill two fellow human beings. Maybe you wouldn’t hurt a robber to prevent a $300 robbery. How would you feel about those two armed men bursting into your home, tying you and your family up, and using torture and sexual abuse to get you to give them your stash of precious metals? Ask Dr. Petit if he had to do it over again — and he was armed with a gun and skilled in its use — would he kill those two ex-cons who raped his wife and killed her and his two daughters.
At this point, if you are determined and ready to begin your journey into self-protection, I want to point you in the direction of some of the many fine resources in the self-defense “industry.”  I’m not a part of that industry, but I’ve seen some great resources that you might also find helpful. Here are a few:
Both of these books are a great place to start.  They both emphasize the importance of mental preparation and attitude in self-defense, and both deal with self-protection comprehensively at home and on the street. Aguirre’s book is based on his personal experience surviving the 2001 economic collapse in Argentina, which will strike a cord with Chris Martenson readers. Aguirre also debunks the idea that you can escape the coming crime and violence by relocating to a rural area or small town. He points out the self-defense disadvantages of such places and describes how some of the worst crimes in post-crash Argentina occurred in them. In addition to their books, both authors have additional resources. Aguirre has his blog at and Morris has his, which gets you the book and many more resources. I found his bonus chapter on acquiring water in a crisis to be worth the cost by itself. My urban family can be water self-sufficient indefinitely, thanks to it. 

As you prepare your self-protection plan and begin implementing it, you will have to face the issue of firearms used in self-defense.  I suggest Thank God I Had A Gun by Chris Bird because in it you encounter normal people who were saved by their use of a firearm. I hope their stories effectively prompt you! Second, I would suggest an old classic, In The Gravest Extreme: The Role of the Firearm in Personal Protection by Massad Ayoob.  Ayoob is head and shoulders above the rest of the self-defense industry in understanding and teaching the legal and psychological aspects of armed self-defense. I agree that many people should not carry or have access to a firearm, or even a sharp stick or pair of scissors! Ayoob’s book will help you get your head in the right place so you can decide if a firearm is right for you and, if it is, begin your mental preparation to use it legally and effectively.

There are many, many firearms training schools, if you choose to become armed and properly trained. Some have great, well-deserved reputations, but some are all bluster and actually dangerous. The most convenient and least expensive can be accessed through some of your local gun shops. Others serve a regional or national clientele. I would highly recommend the two I have attended: The Massad Ayoob Group Lethal Force Institute (formerly the Lethal Force Institute, it holds training mostly on the east coast) and Front Sight which trains at an excellent facility in Nevada and a satellite facility in Alaska I’ve never seen. Lethal Force Institute builds good shooting skills, but again the best part is the understanding of the legal and psychological aspects it teaches (which are widely used and adapted by other schools). Front Sight promises to make you a better shooter than most military and police are, and it succeeds. (I’m an excellent handgun shooter and one of the best in my big city department, but I’m quite humbled by many of the civilians I shoot with in advanced Front Sight courses.) Front Sight’s mandatory first course is the Four Day Defensive Handgun course, which accomplishes more with first time and experienced shooters in four days than my policenacademy did in two weeks! If you’re considering Front Sight, you really should take that first course and add the fifth day, which will get you a Nevada concealed carry permit which is accepted there and in 29 other states. Both schools offer courses on unarmed self-defense and self-defense with weapons other than firearms.
In January, the media reported that the city of Camden, New Jersey (across the Delaware River from Philadelphia) laid off 46% of it’s police force. Camden and New Jersey are in severe financial straits and leaders are unable to kick the can down the road any further. Severe cuts are being made. Camden is already “the second most dangerous city” in America. What effect do you suppose losing 1/2 their Police Department is going to have on public safety and quality of life? The criminals are already emboldened. Officers have reported seeing thugs standing on high drug corners wearing T-shirts that read, “1-18-11: We Take Back The Streets.” (Philadelphia Inquirer, 1-19-11, p. A7) And to make matters worse, simply buying a firearm in New Jersey is very difficult. Getting a concealed carry permit is, for all practical purposes, impossible.
That doesn’t strike a chord of concern in your heart for your future safety because you don’t live in Camden, and maybe not in any big city? You don’t see that news as a thread being pulled from the reality we all share and have to deal with personally wherever and whoever we are? Really? But you ARE concerned about sovereign debt in Greece and Ireland? You ARE concerned about the policies of the Federal Reserve in Washington? You ARE concerned about Peak Oil, even though you don’t work in the oil industry?  
The coming storm of Economics, Energy and Environment has within it a the potential for a surge of crime and violence. Face the reality honestly. Form a plan to cope. And gather the skills and equipment you’ll need to survive.



This What Should I Do? blog series is intended to surface knowledge and perspective useful to preparing for a future defined by Peak Oil.  The content is written by readers and is based in their own experiences in putting into practice many of the ideas exchanged on this site.  If there are topics you'd like to see featured here, or if you have interest in contributing a post in a relevant area of your expertise, please indicate so in our What Should I Do? series feedback forum.

If you have not yet seen the other articles in this series, you can find them here:

Great job, well put together and very motivating.
I am looking forward to the next installement!


I’m always interested when I see you contributions, but this is absolutely outstanding. 
Thank you for the very approachable and flexible write up - I’ll be directing a lot of people to your thread!



Great post. I look forward to learning from you. Thanks.
I will add to the list of resources for investigating the idea of a firearm for protection. The website author Kathy Jackson’s book Lessons From Armed America is also very good at mentally preparing for how to and how not to act in an emergency. Laurence Gonzales’ book Deep Survival is an outstanding look at the psychology and physiology of what makes a person survive or not in stressful situations. Rambling read, great for self evaluation.


You have written an excellent introduction to personal security.  It is a big topic so a second installment is definitely in order.  Your four categories of people, and three steps for preparation, were well thought out.  Your description of predators was crucial.  Most of us just don’t understand that there are people who stalk and attack other people as a way of life.  They  don’t understand the brutality other people are capable of, and how quickly our lives can be shattered.  Your introduction of the issue of guns for self defense is also crucial.  It has received little discussion at this site and I think it is important that more people think and talk about this.  Our time for avoiding unpleasant subjects is steadily dwindling.  Thanks for your fine article.


Really excellent. I am particularly heartened by your reference to Aguirre and Ayoob. I’ve read both Aguirre’s book and some of Ayoob’s past articles in Backwoods Home magazine.

Any advice on helping someone who is more of a pacifist, “don’t-want-to-think-about-it” person overcome her reluctance to look into protection?


Well done. 

I appreciate formally acknowledging the need for this information by providing the venue. 

The threat is real, even if it is a low probability - high impact event at this point for many people.  Unfortunately, as the 3E’s decline, the probability will concurrently increase.

Having worked with law enforcement for several years in forensics as a firearms and toolmarks identification expert has biased my views in preparing for these scenarios.


The lethal force institute link points to an old website that is not updated any more.  Massad Ayoob’s new organization can be found at  2011 course offerings are listed there.

Thanks for the correction, Steve. I’ve amended the link in the post above.

What a wake-up call this post was for me.  I am definitely in group two, having been lulled by decades of living in places where locking the door was completely optional.
While I have strong training in guns (I’ve been a shooter for decades, and reload, etc) my house could use a once over.  That is going to move to the top of my personal plan as of today.

I am especially grateful for the logical, structured and powerful yet unemotional writing of this post.  Well done, it’s very effective.

Your article was well organized, well written, and most importantly, motivational. Thanks for taking the time to contribute to CM. I look forward to reading your followup article.

Thank you thc, please considerer your warning heeded by this CM’er.
I don’t know if it’s a blessing or a curse, but I believe I live in one of the more well-armed neighborhoods in Texas. There are also three cops that live in the neighborhood, and ironically, the only two home robberies in the 9 years I have lived here involved the homes of two of these cops: as the thieves were looking for guns. 

It makes you wonder if popular “Guns & Gold” paradigm (that comes with the territory here in Tejas) really serves to protect you or just makes you a more appealing target. 

Thanks again for the excellent contribution…Jeff

One evening a young man I had hired several times for lawn care knocked on my door and asked if I had a gun with which to shoot a badly injured dog. I did not see the dog and did not know if the request was legitimate. I was in a quandary about how to answer. If I said yes, would he later rob me to get the gun? If I said no, would he later rob me because I can’t defend myself? I lied (against my principles, but…) and said no. Advice, anybody?

Thank you for a really great piece on a really important topic.  I look forward to the next insttallment as well.  I have been preparing for over 6 years, but have been in denial about this piece until recently.  Thank you for another wake up call.  I second the recommendation for Cornered Cat, especially for women who are approaching the use of firearms for the first time.

[quote=GiraffeOK]One evening a young man I had hired several times for lawn care knocked on my door and asked if I had a gun with which to shoot a badly injured dog. I did not see the dog and did not know if the request was legitimate. I was in a quandary about how to answer. If I said yes, would he later rob me to get the gun? If I said no, would he later rob me because I can’t defend myself? I lied (against my principles, but…) and said no. Advice, anybody?
First, let’s cover the rules.
Any time your internal alarm bells go off, heed them.
I know it’s hard to think quickly in the situation you were in.  My advice would have been to not answer the question either way by responding that it might be the dog of someone I know and to ask to go see it, assuming it wasn’t too far away or in an unsafe spot.
Next I would begin asking why he’d knocked on my door, how he came to see the dog, etc all in the hopes of securing more information from him than he got from me.  The idea here is that if any of the answers were inconsistent or set off further alarm bells I would have immediately placed this guy into the “caution flag” probationary area of my mind.  If the bells were loud enough, I would have even informed my local police force about the guy saying something was just not quite right there.
And, in fact, something was not right.  The normal response/request to an injured dog is to find out if it has an owner that can take it to the vet.  Anybody whose first instinct is to shoot an injured dog automatically gets placed on mental probation by me unless there’s a really good explanation like it’s theirs and they backed over it or something.

I’ve seen these ‘Laser Dazzlers’ on some TV show (maybe History Channel).  They basically shine several flickering laser beams into someones face.  Seems like they would be effective in giving you a few seconds to flee or to run over to them and crack them on the side of the head with a bat because they can’t see you.  Thoughts on whether they would be a good choice or would just serve to get a burgler more agitated and more apt to severely injure you?

Excellent info.  Thanks for posting. 

Many people on this site are heavily into precious metals. So the following news article is relevant about a man who had $750,000 in silver stolen is relevant:
But the key sentences:
“Obviously, some friend, or friend of a friend, or friend of a family member was told and they leaked it to the wrong people,” he said Wednesday. “When I bought it in January a year ago, some people said, ‘You are crazy,’” he said.
So don’t tell people that you own physical precious metals. They will tell other people who will tell other people–until finally thieves hear about it.

[quote=PastTense]Many people on this site are heavily into precious metals. So the following news article is relevant about a man who had $750,000 in silver stolen is relevant:
But the key sentences:
“Obviously, some friend, or friend of a friend, or friend of a family member was told and they leaked it to the wrong people,” he said Wednesday. “When I bought it in January a year ago, some people said, ‘You are crazy,’” he said.
So don’t tell people that you own physical precious metals. They will tell other people who will tell other people–until finally thieves hear about it.
An acquaintance of mine found a huge, heavy old-style (pre-1930s) safe in a junk yard. She liked the antique look to it, but was too petite to move it herself, so she hired two itinerant day laborers to help her haul it to her house. She used it to store dog food and some other junk - there’s no key to the safe because it was a junkyard find.
A few days later, the two day laborers saw her at the local market and asked her if she was using it to store money.
A few days later, some strangers she didn’t know (also apparently day laborers) asked her about her new safe.
This has got her really afraid, because she’s lives in a high-crime, border town area.

Not a plug for a different thread, but a lot of the videos you reference are here:

If folks are interested in a condensed source for videos of violent encounters happening to all sorts of people; Mil, L.E. and citizens, in a variety of venues.