I grew up and spent a good deal of time with petty criminals, a handful of whom had a dangerous human nature. Maybe that doesn’t say much for me, or maybe it does, because it quickly hit home with me that I preferred being a law-abiding citizen rather than a law-breaker. For any number of reasons, the law enforcement career I had planned on just didn’t happen, but over the years, I’ve spent more time learning about and observing criminals than most civilians.
It’s been eye-opening, to say the least. As a psychology major, I was able to learn even more about how the criminal mind works, as explained in this excellent book by a former FBI profiler.
The other day, my wife mentioned a Facebook article she had read and said it had really hit home what we could be facing as the fabric of our society continues to break down. The author, Greg Ellifritz, is a veteran police officer and tactical trainer for his central Ohio agency. He knows more than a thing or two about the criminal mind. He writes:
Our thief today is homeless. He’s 32 years old and overweight. He’s a regular consumer of crack cocaine. He has no job and no place to live. He sometimes stays at friends’ apartments, but his permanent address is a local homeless shelter. The sum total of his possessions consisted of a change of clothes, a broken phone, and less than $4 cash.
When I asked the man why he stole the bike, his comment was enlightening:
“I took it because I have the chance to stay at my friend’s place tonight instead of the shelter. My friend lives in (the next town over) and it would be about a four hour walk to get there. It rained all day yesterday and it looks like it’s going to rain some more today. I just didn’t want to spend four hours walking in the fucking rain and getting soaking wet again. I figured a bike would be faster.”
He continued by saying: “I knew it was wrong to steal the bike, but I just don’t care. I didn’t want to get wet no more. I saw an opportunity and I took it. I’d do the same thing all over again if I got the chance. Biking is just faster than walking.”
A petty crime, important to no one, really, except the owner of the bicycle. The point that Greg is trying to hit home, though, is how criminals never give a thought to the person whose life is affected by their actions. If they see something they want and you own it, you become just an obstacle in their way. They may violently push you aside, if you’re lucky, or kill you. What they want at that moment is more important than your life will ever be, to them.
Greg goes on to explain:
This is what most folks don’t understand about serious criminals. The fact that the victim of the crime would be affected in a negative manner is not even an afterthought. Your feelings and concerns mean absolutely NOTHING to the criminal. He doesn’t care if you live or die, let alone how “inconvenienced” you will be if he takes all of your stuff or beats you within an inch of your life. If you literally had ZERO concern about the well being of your neighbors and fellow humans, what kind of atrocities would you be capable of committing? That’s something that few people consider.
Unfortunately, the majority of the hard core criminals I encounter feel the same way. You are literally nothing more than an obstacle they must overcome to achieve their goal. Most of the serious criminals out there think you and I are merely pawns on the chessboard of life. They will destroy everything you know and love if it means that they will benefit in the wake of the destruction. You are completely expendable in their eyes.
Recognize that. Recognize also that we aren’t going to be able to “fix” many of these criminals. They are out there among us every day and can’t be avoided.
This worries me when I consider TEOTWAWKI type scenarios, because during those days, months, or perhaps years, there may be no law enforcement at all. Some people like to use the acronym WROL, Without Rule of Law, to describe such a world. Those who have criminal impulses, maybe even instincts, but have been held back because they fear arrest and prison, won’t have those restraints anymore.
Today we mostly have to worry about a relatively small number of criminals, some petty, some hardened. We can add a security system to our homes, be constantly aware of our surroundings, teach our kids situational awareness and self-defense — but what if, someday in the not too distant future, ordinary Americans join these ranks because their families are starving, and they have lost absolutely everything? Might you become expendable in their eyes?
This is a depressing scenario to think about, much less discuss, because most of us want to believe that during hard times, like the Great Depression, most people will rise to the occasion and nobly help their fellow man. One of my favorite books about that era tells real life stories of a people who gave selflessly, were optimistic, and banded together to endure hard times.
Based on current trends, I don’t think we live in that country anymore, except for specific, isolated areas. Even a greater level of danger when you consider who has crossed into America — members of ISIS? Members of the most violent gangs in South America? Hardened drug criminals from Mexico? No one really knows.
Greg did provide a very small ray of hope with a few suggestions for avoiding becoming a victim to criminals of all types:
- Harden anything the criminal might target. Put a fence around it, post a home security system sign, do anything to cause a criminal to think that the risk isn’t worth it.
- Make all targets appear undesirable. Maybe having the fanciest looking house in the neighborhood wasn’t such a good idea. When we bought our current house, what I liked about it was that it’s a one-story, surrounded by very nice looking two-story houses. It’s set back from the road a way and is painted in muted colors. That doesn’t mean we’ll never be targeted, but honestly, from the outside, we sure don’t look all that attractive to thieves.
- At a personal level, make yourself look undesirable as a target. Make eye contact. Walk with a strong, confident stride. NO electronics when you’re out in public. No flashy jewelry or expensive looking clothes. Getting killed for a pair of expensive Nikes just isn’t worth it.
We need to teach our kids these practices as well. I have one kid who has been a “gray man” since she hit 8 or 9 years of age and another one who loves the flashy lifestyle and impressing people with cool clothes and electronics. We use stories in the news and that we hear about from other families to gently explain to our kids how to avoid becoming a victim. I’ve also used the example I read a while back in this article to teach my kids to identify potential predators.
Above all, acknowledge that evil exists. I don’t worry too much about hurting someone’s feeling by recognizing what they do is evil and some people are just evil to the core. It’s normalcy bias, as explained in this article, that tries to convince us a certain person, group, or event is just fine in spite of our gut saying that it’s not.