Wednesday, April 22, 2009

LIGHTS OUT. Minor Glitch or Something Sinister?

You're sitting home, reading or peacefully watching TV, and the power goes off. Oh, well, it happens, huh? I know, occasional interruptions in utility service DO occur. No reason to get excited, right?

Well, here lately, I'm no longer so sure. Since I retired from Peace Officering a few years back, I pay less attention to crime reporting thah I used to. But reports of home invasion robberies have been catching my eye recently. Just the other night, one of the 10 o'clock TV news shows pointed out some common factors in a lengthy series of violent home invasions. Not near all, but a growing number of these offenses entail the robbers cutting power and telephone lines before entering the residences.

I'm not writing about "several" or "a series of" incidents. I did an on-line search, and I find dozens, and perhaps hundreds, of such incidents in this area in the past several months. Part of the trouble keeping track is that the local metropolitan area is comprised of dozens of independent municipalities. News stories are usually reported with a specific reference to the particular town or city in which they took place. Yes, the area-wide chamber of commerce and certain governmental agencies lump population and business surveys together into "Metro Fort Worth," or "Greater Dallas," or better still, the "DFW Metroplex." which comprises all of Tarrant and Dallas counties, and some or all of the ten adjacent, or nearly so, counties. The US Gov't 2007 population estimate of this 'Plex is some 6.7 million.

"Well," you may say, "that's a lot of people, and there's bound to be more crime in such an area." Maybe, but there's also the idea that while such a populace gives rise to more violent criminals, it also provides a very fertile hunting ground for however many there are. It also means that a given gang of thugs, usually three to six, need only drive for fifteen minutes to be in an entirely different jurisdiction. Police communications are much better than they were when I was a rookie cop, but it still takes time for bulletins to be circulated.

Enough of this demographics stuff. Let's return to the action.

This line-cutting strategy stuff makes sense. If a house occupant hears someone breaking in, the first impulse for most is to call 9-1-1 for police assistance. And, if the lights are off, there will be a certain amount of disorientation, moving around in the dark.

A robbery crew making a dynamic entry, sometimes equipped with head lights and/or weapon-mounted lights, and totally prepared for the situation they created, will have the upper hand. They have often gathered intelligence about the targeted residence, knowing the number of occupants and possibly their placement in the household.

You might think that well-informed robbers would limit their incursions to affluent families in well-to-do neighborhoods. It seems, though, that fully as many home invasions take place in middle-class areas, and even in very modest surroundings. Many of the TV news tapes depict mobile home parks and lower income apartment buildings as their settings.

It may be an over-simplification, but I can see at least a partial means of dealing with this epidemic of violence. It may not work for everyone, but Beloved Bride and I have discussed it, and here's my personal plan. The instant the lights go out, TASK ONE is to get hold of a firearm. This will be done before looking out the window to see if the power outage is neighborhood-wide, or much more limited. Second, firearm, flashlight, and cell phone are taken to our "keep" area. Use of lights will be kept to a minimum. We keep a careful listening watch for what the dogs do. THEN, we'll check to see if this is happenstance or evil design.

There. As simple as that. Our plan impinges on no one else. No non-guilty person is endangered in any way. If the power outage turns out to be innocent, no one need even know of the preventive measures we took.

And what will BB and I do if a home invasion DOES ensue? Well, we have a couple of plans for THAT, too. What works for us might not work for you. But I really believe that everything up to this point WILL work for anyone at all. It's strictly up to you, whether or not you choose to plan it out ahead of time.



J.R.Shirley said...

You would think the commonality of cell phones would reduce the effectiveness of this tactic...

JPG said...

I agree, but that's the reports. Perhaps the goblins are relying on the anticipation that "most" individuals drop their cell phone into the charger or just take it out of pocket when they get home.

Christina RN LMT said...

That's a frightening thought, JPG.
Comfortable surroundings often turn sinister in sudden darkness, one can quickly become disoriented.
But being prepared is half the battle won.

Old NFO said...

Excellent post as usual JPG,and on point. I have had the power go out up here a few times, and my automatic response is grab the pistol and light, in the dark move to check the street from the upstairs window, and wait to see what is going to happen next. I did almost literally get the "crap" scared out of me once, as I pulled the blind to the side a clap of thunder and bolt of lightning hit about 100 yards from the house! THAT got my attention!

Lawyer said...

That's a great post and a needed different perspective for me. Learned something new today. Thank you.

Beat And Release said...

99.9 percent of our home invasions are drug rip-offs. Normal folks in my city just don't get home-invaded. Matter of fact, I'd venture an educated guess that 90 to 95 percent of our homicides and violent assaults are also drug related - dealers ripping dealers, etc. Kinda hard to feel any sympathy for these "victims."

Anonymous said...

Hmmm.....I've got one timer-equipped lamp that has a 5 watt fluorescent bulb in it to provide dim but general illumination of the main living area from sunset to after midnight, just bright enough for room navigation. Methinks I might put a small UPS on it and move the off time to much later. I'll have to make sure that I have other lamps/devices turned on so I become aware that the power has failed.

One thing I'd suggest - I've hardened my front door to kick-in; it won't stop a really determined entrant, but it will require more than a couple kicks, and I think I can chamber a round in the 870 faster than they can muster a second kick.

Shrimp said...

People who know that I carry a gun sometimes question why I carry a gun, even while at home. All I have to do is point out any home invasion, and they begin to understand.

Sure, I could take it off when I come home, or leave it sitting on some high, out-of-the-reach-of-little-fingers spot, but if I need it RIGHT NOW, I don't (or probably won't) have time to go retrieve it.

Sure, there are days that I think, "Do I really need to be carrying this?" Then I remember what an old instructor told me once about guns: Complacency kills.

Anonymous said...

"Beat and Release" is dead-on about the overwhelming majority of US home invasion robberies being drug-related. If the victims aren't elderly, I figure it's likely some sort of drug ripoff. The news media never seems to mention that almost all home-invasion victims have a history of official contacts for drug crimes, and since they don't tell their viewers/readers that, most people don't read between the lines.

A lot of these happen in low-rent areas, because that's the best place for drug dealers to blend in, and not have as much chance of neighbors reporting suspicious activity to law enforcement.

Unknown said...

Cool Blog, first timer here, just wanted to add that, you dont always know the power goes off if you're sleeping. On that note I just changed the batteries on my little alarm that goes off when the power goes out, more so i dont oversleep if the power goes out, or the ballon goes up, you get the idea. If someone is unfamiliar with these devices, there a little box, plug into the wall, turn the switch on, and if the power goes out the 9volt sets off a nasty buzzer.


Carteach said...

Yup... good advice, and thanks for putting it out there for people.

I practice something like that myself, and power outages happen often enough here to keep my in good practice.

I'll add that my flashlight is bright enough to seriously upset someone when it's pointed at eyes, and I don't hold it in front of my body.

Anonymous said...

First time here- great blog. Agree completely with your advice. I would like to comment about drug related home invasions... In our rural area, the home invasions have a different twist. The elderly and sick are targeted for prescription drugs. The perps have gone in to homes of cancer patients to commandere the oxy, morphine, dilaudid, you get the idea. Really savage, sick bas* We have only had a few in our very rural community, but it something to be aware of.

Anonymous said...

Excellent posts from JPG and all the respondents. I'm also retired law enforcement. Where I live, it used to be home invasions were dopers going after dopers. Now, kidnappings are a big part of the problem, and you don't have to be a doper, just someone or a family member who can generate money. Often it's one, two, or sometimes three carloads of heavily armed criminals hitting a residence for anything, or anyone, they can use to turn a profit. The FBI states they think only about 30% of kidnappings are reported here. Mexico is just across the river, so firearms and ammo are prime targets. Those here who have made the news by successfully "repelling boarders" relied on high capacity rifles and pump shotguns. A major caliber pistol is first choice for me because it's within reach. But a 12 gauge is not far away. Also, never "advertise", either verbally or visually what you have to anyone. People will talk, and word gets around.

SpeakerTweaker said...

Thanks for the head's up, JPG. It's always a good idea to have a plan. I hadn't thought of that one, and I know better, too.

Jot that one down in the mental notepad.


Nancy said...

There are battery charged emergency lights specifically for power outages - that turn on as the rest of the lights turn of. I have one in my house but will add a couple of extra.

Home on the Range said...

I have some motion sensors that operate off of battery. Due to some clever decorative things they are not noticeable when doing a "drive by". But if you go to the back unprotected part of the house which you have to climb a fence to get to, they will turn on. If I see a bright light go on outside and the (I'm a VERY light sleeper) I'm on a single story now, but when I had a second story, there was a VERY bright light at the top of the stairs. If there was someone in the house, it would allow me to see them, but they would be blinded looking up.

I keep a phone handy. But the hollowpoints are handier. The one time the police were called here, (I was talking on the phone, Barkley ran past, got tangled in the phone cord, knocked me over, I squealed as I went down, and the phone went dead and stayed dead as it was broke, and the person talking to me called the officers).

With all due respect to the fine folks we have here in the department, it took them 17 minutes to get here in this rural location and I live 2 and 1/2 miles from the station.

Had there been a rapist in the house, they'd have been done and gone (and if it was my ex, they'd have been gone 15 and a half minutes).

Anonymous said...

Hello from Russia!
Can I quote a post "No teme" in your blog with the link to you?

JPG said...

On 02NOV, Anonymous wrote: Hello from Russia!
Can I quote a post "No teme" in your blog with the link to you?

Not sure I understand "No teme" but sure, feel free to link to my blogpost.

Late reply to Brigid --
Any goblin who'd try a home invasion at YOUR place must not have done any research a-tall! My big yeller Lab is a bit clumsy, too, but he's a first-class, Kibble-powered alarm system.


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