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When Opportunity Knocks: Analyzing Criminal Motivation and Habits
By Kevin H. Kempf
Published: 10/27/2014

Crime Criminals are opportunists. Very few wake up in the morning and say to themselves, “Ya know, I think I’ll burglarize a home or two today” or, “I’m really in the mood to victimize someone”. The vast majority of criminals are out and about and notice that your garage door is open. Pro social people wouldn’t think twice about seeing that. But people who are criminal minded instantly wonder what might be in your garage. They start thinking about what they could possibly pawn. Their thoughts lead to actions and while your inside fixing dinner they are carrying out your golf clubs. And that’s how it happens. So, knowing that criminals simply take advantage of what’s presented to them, let’s look at a few ways we can reduce our chances of being victimized. I’ll illustrate by using a color code…

Condition WHITE – Are you oblivious to your surroundings? Do you hear a strange noise in your home and just figure it was the cat? Do you believe that most crime happens in other places? Do you keep your doors unlocked? Windows? If you do any of these things, you live in condition WHITE. You are a criminals dream. You are what they call a “Mark”.

Condition YELLOW – Relaxed awareness. When you hear a strange noise in your home, you think it was the cat but you go check it out just in case. You lock your doors and windows, you understand that outside lights are good and you have come to the realization that bad people walk the earth.

Condition ORANGE – Constant state of alert. Always armed. You probably have WAY more guns then you need but deep down think it will be enough to hold off the ensuing ___________________(fill in your enemies).

Condition RED – Fight or flight. Have you ever felt butterflies in your stomach? That “feeling” is actually a physiological process going on in your body. Instinctively your body knows something is up. Your blood begins to rush from the parts of your body that don’t need it to the parts of the body that does, Your muscles. Your body is telling you “Get ready to fight or get out of here”! Understanding this if very important. Trust your instincts.

Condition BLACK – Information over load. When you go into Condition BLACK your mind essentially tells you that what you are facing is to much to handle. Shock kicks in and your body “protects” you from dealing with what is about to happen. It’s a terrible condition to be in. You are at the mercy of your attacker. People who live In Condition WHITE and are faced with something very bad (Getting robbed, Mass shootings, etc) quickly fall into Condition BLACK. It’s to much information, you weren’t expecting something bad to happen, and frankly can’t believe it’s happening “here”.

I hope it’s obvious that Condition Yellow is the healthiest way to live. Understanding that bad people exist and that you could potentially be a victim will significantly help you NOT to become a victim. Criminals are banking on people who live in Condition WHITE. They make great victims. Let’s look at some simple things you can do to reduce/prevent you from becoming a victim.

At Home – Lock your doors and ground level windows, every night. I know you want that sweet summer breeze at night and it sucks that we have to live like this, but, bad people are out there. Criminals see open windows and nearly can’t help themselves. They want to take a look inside. And yes, even in your neighborhood. Have and use outside lights. Criminals thrive in darkness. Get a dog. Criminals don’t like dogs. It’s only in the movies that they throw a T-bone steak to preoccupy your dog while they rob you. It’s easier and less hassle for them to burglarize your neighbors house who left their garage open all night then deal with your dog. Every night, without fail, I do a quick check to ensure my doors/windows are locked and our garage door is closed. (If you have kids who come in and out of your garage you understand why it’s important to check this before going to bed).

Stay at home Mom’s – When someone knocks on your door during the day, don’t “hide” and choose not to acknowledge whoever is out there. Daytime burglars almost ALWAYS knock on the door first. Then, they go around back and knock on that door. They are trying to see if no one is home before they crawl into the window you left open. Rather, when someone knocks on the door, acknowledge them through the window and if they are a stranger tell them you are not interested or not able to answer the door. Have your phone to your ear and tell them it’s not a good time.

Outside – First, be confident. That’s right, your confidence screams that you won’t be a “good victim”. Confident people are aware of their surroundings, and aware of you. Good victims keep their head down, their hands are full of stuff (bags, etc) and their talking on their phones.

Important, if someone attempts to rob you and demands your ________________(Wallet, purse, phone, etc) stay calm and GIVE IT TO THEM. No questions, just give them what they are asking for. Criminals are likely high on drugs and paranoid, don’t do something stupid that forces them to make decisions. HOWEVER…If you are getting robbed and they attempt to take you somewhere else, DO NOT GO. Getting moved by a criminal to another place is never good. You are on your way to crime scene number 2 and it’s going to be bad. If a criminal sticks a gun/knife in your gut and attempts to move you (Get in their car, take you behind a building, etc) your best chance of escape/survival is right then and there. Kick, scream, punch, scratch, fight, bite, stomp, run, whatever it takes. Question: “What if shoots me”? Consider this, Trained Police Officers only hit their intended target 75% of the time. Criminals don’t train. Your chances are best right then and there. Fight.

Don’t exercise when it’s dark outside. If you must do this, don’t wear headphones. Use all of your senses.

Place of business – It’s frightening to see how many mass shootings are happening at places of business, schools, etc. Most Law Enforcement agencies are training the public to do the following in an event like this..

First, if you can get out safely, get out. Evacuate.

Second, if you can’t evacuate, hide. Do whatever you can to hide.

Third, if you can’t get out, and you have no where to hide, when faced with the assailant, take action. Fight. You are out of options. Fight.

In your car – High School / College age kids should know how to change a tire. Parents, teach them. If you live in a rural state/area a simple flat tire can strand someone for a long time. If you are broke down and someone stops to help you, stay in your car. Lock your doors and slightly crack the window to talk to the Good Samaritan. Chances are they are a good person, and good people won’t be offended by your caution. If your cell phone is dead or out of cell coverage, don’t tell them! Rather, tell them that you have already called the police but you would appreciate if they also called for help.

These are just a few things we can do to reduce our chances of becoming a victim. Share this with your friends, spouses, kids, and neighbors. Be Safe and Aware of your surroundings…

Editor's note: Kevin Kempf is the Deputy Director for the Idaho Department of Corrections. Over the past 19 years he has worked as a Correction Officer, Probation/Parole Officer, Correctional Investigator for the statewide Fugitive Unit, District Manager, Prison Warden, and Chief of Prisons. Over the past 10 years he has taught Safe and Aware seminars to Civic groups, High Schools, Healthcare Professionals, Bank Employees, Retail Stores, and the general public. For more information, contact Kevin at becomingsafeandaware@gmail.com.

Other articles by Kempf



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