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you are responsible for your own safety

One of the things you will see us pro-rights activists harping on from time to time is "situational awareness". What does that mean? Well, the snarky answer is, "Exactly what it says," but the more-complete answer can be delivered by way of a story.

Last week, I was coming home early from work to meet up with HVAC technicians to try to get our upstairs heat pump replaced (scheduled for this Wednesday… thank God), and on Wednesday, I happened to notice a female walking around our neighborhood. She was not anyone I recognized as living there, and to compound that observation, she had a very thick clipboard piled high with loose papers, and some kind of nametag pinned to her blaze-orange polo shirt. Despite the "No Solicitation" sign at the entrance to our neighborhood (and it is pretty obvious… right beneath our Neighborhood Watch sign), we do still get more than a few door-to-door types (see my previous story), so I did not really think anything of it.

Until Thursday, when I saw her again. You have to understand that our neighborhood was built a couple of decades ago, so it is neither very large, nor very dense – I could canvass the entire thing in a day as a door-to-door type, and hardly break a sweat (well, any other time than last week, that is – we reached 96 as a "real" temperature). So, at this point, I shot an email to our homeowners’ association president asking what that little sign at the entrance to the neighborhood did for us, and I alerted Better Half to the woman’s presence, and commented that we might want to keep an eye on her.

Which we did, when we saw her again on Friday afternoon. This time, she walked up to one of our neighbor’s doors, knocked on it, immediately turned away, and got on her cell phone right after leaving their front porch, constantly looking behind her as she walked away from the house, as if she was watching to see if someone answered the door.

I do not know about the rest of you, but to my naive arse, that smells suspiciously like someone casing houses and determining when people are and are not home, especially since she saw us come home and did not knock on our door.

So I called the cops. Given that the woman was not beating down doors, I did not use 911, but rather dialed their non-emergency line, but I calmly explained the situation, gave them the full backstory, clarified my suspicions, and so forth, and they indicated they would get in touch with dispatch and see about sending a car over our way. Two hours later, when I saw her again, I called them back, and filed another report. Turns out, my worries may have been valid and my actions correct… this email was from the aforementioned HA president:

Neighbors -

We are an officially registered Neighborhood Association and have gone through the Neighborhood Watch program (this is where our No Soliciting sign on the first signpost came from). You are therefore allowed to inform solicitors that there is a No Soliciting Policy in our neighborhood.

If they do not leave, we are to call the Sheriffs Dept at ###-#### to report it.

There have been some females in UT orange trying to sell security upgrades for the past few days. Please inform them of our policy or just don’t answer the door. If you wanted a security upgrade, you would call the company yourself. Please do not let a stranger into your home – we don’t know what their motives really might be.

If there are any more problems, please keep the HA board informed.

With this follow-up from a neighbor:

Just wanted to let you know that WATE Channel 6 did an investigation on these door to door solicitors we have had in the neighborhood this past week. The company they represent, Vivint, Inc., has an F rating with the Better Business Bureau with over 1,400 complaints. They have also been fined by several state governments for using intimidating sales tactics and not informing customers that they are legally entitled to a 3-day cancellation period. If you know of anyone in the neighborhood that signed up with this company and have changed their mind, you may want to let them know that they have 3 days to cancel the contract. You can find more information about this company at www.wate.com.

And this additional information from another:

[Husband] and I encountered this woman two times the past several days. I did once by myself and we did together yesterday. She never once offered to inform us of her product. I am wondering if it is because we have cameras. Last night, at 10:00 p.m., she was sitting down on the corner waiting for her ride. We were out walking again so we stopped and spoke with her. This was our third encounter with her. Again, she offered no info on her company until we asked her the name of it. She had worked that day with [name] and another couple on [street], but told us after all, that they had not been approved. Her ride came. It was a PT cruiser, with plates from UTAH. She told us the name of her company and when we arrived home, we looked them up on the internet. They are based out of UTAH.

They basically deal with security systems, but they have been fined in numerous states for not complying with licensing requirements, to the tune of $40,000-$50,000 each state. They have also had 1400 complaints filed with the BBB. They have operated in numerous states, mostly from the North to South in the middle of the U.S. Their colors are orange, so that was not a local ploy. It seems, however, that they have moved in here to try to scam us before Tennessee fines them.

These people should not be allowed in here any more and we wanted everyone to know about this. What kind of company would leave a woman sitting out at 10:00 at night, with no food since 1:00 that day and only water from caring residents? They must be offering her good money or she is in on the whole deal herself to put up with that.

I will, of course, refrain from linking directly to Vivint Inc.’s webpage, but I will link you to the aforementioned WATE news report on Vivint, the 15 complaints filed against Vivint at RipoffReport and these 1424 complaints against Vivint on the Better Business Bureau along with the documentation that police, safety, and other government agencies in Louisiana; Kennewick, WA; Arkansas; and Oregon have leveled charges, allegations, and fines against Vivint for engaging in what can only be described as particularly disgusting business practices.

So was the lady casing houses? Hard to say – we did not answer the door the one time she knocked. But according to the commenters at the WATE article, other Vivint representatives were:

They stopped @ our house and wanted to know all about the "technology" in our house. Security system, thermostats, TV’s, DVR’s, computers, etc… He said I would get all of this "FREE"… B.S!!! Nothing is FREE. You just want in my house to figure out if it’s worth coming back and breaking into and robbing. I didn’t tell him a single thing and also told the guy to get off my property before I called the cops.

Regardless of whether or not this woman was attempting to determine if there was anything worth stealing in our house, she still represents a company I would rather have nowhere near my home.

So what does this story have to do with situational awareness? It is situational awareness – I observed my surroundings to establish a baseline, I noticed something out of the ordinary, I alerted those who would be able to assist me, and I continued to monitor the situation as it developed. In this particular case, "confrontation" was actually one of the last arrows in my quiver, which is just as well.

In addition to adequately illustrating the importance of observation, this example also brings up a few important points about home safety:

Never allow someone into your house unless you know them and know why they are there. In fact, if you can avoid it, never open a door to a stranger – employ your peep hole and talk to them through the door, or install an armored screen door.

If someone refuses to leave your home or property after you ask them to, call the police. At that point, they are trespassing, and should be handled accordingly.

Strangers asking about what kind of electronics, equipment, property, or toys you own are not there to help you. Quite the opposite – they are probably taking notes to use later when they come back and start robbing homes.

Invest in a home security system, and use it. Better Half and I are very satisfied with SimpliSafe (use "SAFENOW" as a checkout code for 5% off) primarily because there is no monitoring contract (or even requirement) and it was all self-installable, but there are other options too. I need to do a review on that stuff at some point…

Finally, if you carry a firearm, carry at home. This is something I need to work on myself, and I have been considering a pocket firearm for just that purpose.

9 comments to you are responsible for your own safety

  • My default is NAA .22 or K-T P3AT when I get dressed in the morning. After the shower, NAA .22 in the robe pocket.

    Then, if I choose to carry larger later, OK.

  • I’ve said it several places lately, but the 642 goes in the pockets of my pajamas (some old cotton gym shorts) just fine.

  • My general statement is “If I’m wearing socks, I’m wearing a gun” Socks go on in the morning gun goes on. Socks come off around bed time gun comes off.

    Of course I also have my various HD guns that can be acquired rapidly if needed.

  • guffaw

    As the late, great Col. Cooper intoned,”If there isn’t a firearm within reach while your are reading this, you didn’t get the point of API 250!”

  • I agree, being situationaly aware is important, so many people are condition white its ridiculous. While mowing the lawn this past weekend my wife came outside to point out a vehicle she had noticed “lurking” (her words) in the neighborhood. I noticed a middle aged white male, partially balding, wearing glasses and looking to be overweight on his cell phone behind the wheel. This took one glance, while the guy was seated in his SUV. I also noted the vehicle make and model, color and the state issuing the license plates. I didn’t go so far as to write down the license tag. Again, this is just what I noticed from a 3-4 second glance at the vehicle. I’m proud of my wife, she noticed that she had seen the same vehicle drive by at least twice. Paying attention like this keeps you aware of whats going on and able to react much more quickly.
    As for the guy in the SUV? He was a salesman from Home Depot waiting for an appointment with a neighbor to sell him some windows for his house. Home Depot apparently has a policy that you can’t wait in the homeowner’s driveway, as that seems “pushy”. Guy was polite when I approached him and did indeed meet with my neighbor Pete. He could have just as easily been trouble though; so I keep my eyes open and pay attention, and apparently so does my wife. Here’s hoping we can teach that to our kids.

  • My parents had someone casing their rural ‘neighborhood’ at one point last year – two guys in a white pickup that could easily have belonged to any contractor. They actually approached my parents’ house while Dad was working in the backyard, and took off when they saw him. Mom was at work (Dad got laid off), so he was alone, and the nearest neighbor is 200-300 yards away with no direct approach. Had they been minded to, they could have attacked him and no one would have known for quite a while.

    Of course (and much to my peace of mind), he and the .357 he always has when he’s outside would have raised some rather loud objections – and with 2-on-1 odds with the 1 being a 64 year old man with a bad back and a bad knee, the .357 would have come in to play.

    The real clue that they were definitely up to no good was when they were spotted at the barn behind my deceased great-uncle’s house, which no one was living in at the time. My parents and one of my cousins still use the barn, but it’s not located in a place strangers should be uninvited. They left before anyone got there, but the Sheriff’s office was called. There had also been some thefts in the area those same couple of weeks. Chilling, when you think about it.

    While I don’t always carry at home, there’s always something within easy reach, and I never answer the door without a) looking through the window first, and b) something useful in hand. Even if it’s just the pizza guy delivering my order.

  • @ Liston: If those little NAAs are good for anything, it is sweatpants carry!

    @ bluesun: The lightweight variant, or one of the “normal” ones? I have been bouncing between the new S&W Bodyguard wheelie and the LCR – not like these are going to be range toys, after all.

    @ Weer’d Beard: Wish I could say the same, but the job prevents it, and my taste for massy firearms has somewhat precluded comfortable-clothing-carry. Even the PPS makes me all baggy-pantsy.

    @ guffaw: I take it that was one of his courses?

    @ OHIO SHAWN: Thankfully, our neighbors seem to be about as observant as you are – when we have contractors over for work/estimate appointments, they always ask us about them, and whether or not we knew about the vehicles parked outside our home.

    That is what keeps crime under control – not idiotic legislation that keeps potential victims disarmed.

    @ Jake: I used to think cameras for the exterior of your home, or areas that are not commonly visited by family, were kind of a stretch… but, these days, the more news reports I read, and the more stuff that keeps happening, I am starting to understand their utility. With motion-detecting software, most of the video will just be people in-view, and from those clips, you can start building patterns as to when people are in a certain area and for how often.

    Dunno. It is sad that we live in a society where average citizens need to start worrying about their safety in those terms.

  • The 642 is the aluminum alloy frame. I find that its heavy enough to shoot (relatively) comfortably, but light enough to carry in a pocket… without noticing, and without a belt. I don’t get why you’d want to go any lighter. And it just makes me happy, which is important if you’re going to be living with something all day every day.

  • I sure as hell do not get those scandium-whatnot wheelies when it comes to full-power .357 rounds, but .38 should be more or less controllable out of one.

    More or less.

    Still, not exactly something that is going to be stretching its legs very much, and something that needs to be able to fit into my… at-home attire ;). Have not done any serious searching yet, though, so who knows.



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