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springmom
September 27, 2006, 12:59 PM
A thread was started this morning, and shut down, regarding the bums that inhabit downtown Houston. With Capt. Charlie's blessing, I'm redirecting the question a bit here, and hopefully we can have some intelligent convesation on the topic without whacking anybody personally.

The urban environment presents serious challenges to the security of people who work, play, dine, and travel through that environment. I live in Harris County, but my husband works in downtown Houston, near the ball park, and we go to concerts, gun shows, and occasionally to ball games down there. Our church is in the Spring Branch area of Houston (north of I-10 off the Beltway). We live in the northern suburbs near the Montgomery County line.

All this is not to give away my name and address (LOL) but to say, we're pretty conversant with the different areas of Houston, and IMO, those different areas require a level of urban intelligence for personal security.

The bum who approached Doug after the ball game the other night is most likely one of the group that hang out at the park in that area. I'd be willing to bet that the police who normally patrol that area knows each one of those guys on sight and by name. They "play by the rules" which in Houston means hands off the tourists and the folks coming out of the ball games/concerts/restaurants/plays and they go away during the day to find food or bum elsewhere, then bed down for the night around the park.

Knowing this, knowing the area and the general "rules" of the area, is a form of urban intelligence.

Switch to the southwest part of Houston. I'd been going to church there about 8 months or so, maybe a little more, when someone shot out my driver's side window as I was driving into church. Very likely either an airgun or maybe a .22, but it utterly shattered the window of my '98 windstar all over me. Our priest has said he regularly comes through the parking lot in the morning and finds shell casings on the parking lot. The neighbors do not like having a church nearby and make no bones about it. Being safe in that neighborhood requires urban intelligence.

And then there's the suburbs. :eek:

So: here's the topic for the thread. How do you develop and use that urban intelligence to assess and react, without over-reacting (or under-reacting and ended up dead!) in an urban situation?


Springmom

Hard Ball
September 27, 2006, 01:06 PM
Houston is a "sanctuary city" that explains a lot.

springmom
September 27, 2006, 01:08 PM
Actually, no it is not a sanctuary city. And there is strong pressure on the mayor to make darn sure that the police understand that they ARE allowed to inquire as to a person's legal immigration status.

But that is utterly off topic, isn't it?

Springmom

spacemanspiff
September 27, 2006, 01:47 PM
We have a lot of homeless people that harrass pedestrians, drivers, anyone they can find to give them some money. Usually they have some sob story and they all claim to be war veterans, and the signs they stand on street corners with have on one side "Homeless & Hungry, please help. God Bless.", but the opposite sides has the "Who am I kidding? I need to drink!"

They get a bit aggressive and will target women to give them money. In the parking lot of the office I work at, they will hang around the parked cars and will time their approach perfectly. Some do have ill intentions in mind.

Best way to deal with them while driving is to keep windows up, doors locked, dont make eye contact. if walking, use your 'command' voice to tell them to "BACK OFF!" The more forceful the better. Channeling the attitude of R Lee Ermy helps quite a bit.

On one street corner where the homeless hang out and beg for money, I have seen a wannabe thug try to get someones attention. My view was partially obscured, but I saw the wannabe lift his shirt up. I couldnt see what it was, but the next week in the police blotter, there was a record of police responding to a man brandishing what turned out to be a pellet gun. That was the guy I saw. Was he trying to carjack, or mug? Who knows?

Ian2005
September 27, 2006, 01:48 PM
Just to touch upon one of the things Springmom stated, I was a little dismayed that Doug's posting was shut down so quickly. That's just a little over moderation no matter how silly, or outrageous the post. I mean there was nothing offensive there, if anything, it was all the responses that were kind of rude and out of line. If Doug and his family were slightly scared or freaked out by a homeless person following them, its wrong for us to laff at him from the comfort of our home/office with our arsenal next to us.

--Can't we call get along-- :p

azurefly
September 27, 2006, 02:06 PM
Actually, no it is not a sanctuary city. And there is strong pressure on the mayor to make darn sure that the police understand that they ARE allowed to inquire as to a person's legal immigration status.


Um, is "strong pressure on the mayor" to do something equivalent to "the mayor has actually implemented the order? :rolleyes:


I mean, many times public figures camouflage the fact that they haven't done anything concrete about something in words that say simply "we are beginning to think about how to approach the idea of deciding to address this." :barf:

-azurefly

springmom
September 27, 2006, 03:35 PM
Last night on the news, Mayor White put it about as strongly as he could without profanity that there is no such rule about the police. While he didn't grab the police chief by the ear when he said it (now THERE'S a sight I would pay money for! LOL) the man would have to be dimmer than I think he is not to get the point.

It was having Lou Dobbs lambast that "don't ask, don't tell" immigration practice that piqued the good mayor. Nothing like bad national attention when you're a city that wants to host another Super Bowl soon to actually get some policy change done! ;)

Springmom

Dwight55
September 27, 2006, 10:05 PM
Springmom asked: "How do you develop and use that urban intelligence to assess and react, without over-reacting (or under-reacting and ended up dead!) in an urban situation?"

For me it is easy, . . . Ohio has some old license plates that ID your home county by the county name, . . . later ones just by a 2 digit number ID. Either way, . . . your license plate is a dead give away that you don't belong in the area if you don't. Urban thugs know that, . . . and use that info.

Therefore, . . . when I go to the urban areas of Ohio, . . . I am always the stranger, the newbe, the square peg in a city of round holes. What do I do? I go armed and vigilant.

I also put on my redneck cowboy boots, . . . my redneck leather hat, . . . I'm mostly in Wranglers anyway, . . . so I got on my redneck jeans, . . . and I kinda project the attitude of a grey haired, pot-bellied old snake eatin' redneck, . . . and so far it has served me well. I subscribe to the poster that shows 4 F-14 Tomcats grabbing sky, where the one pilot is quoted as saying: "Attitude is everything". :D

Appearing unsure of yourself, . . . confused, . . . lost, . . . gives you that "wounded rabbit" look to a bunch of urban coyotes (2 legged variety) and they will have you for lunch if they can. Gotta project assertiveness, confidence, strength, . . . that'll take care of most of it, . . . or at least it seems so.

May God bless,
Dwight

ceetee
September 27, 2006, 10:34 PM
How do you develop and use that urban intelligence to assess and react, without over-reacting (or under-reacting and ended up dead!) in an urban situation?


I don't think it's wise to ever downgrade a potential threat by labeling it as something familiar. Those bums that always hang around the park at night may know to "play by the rules", but how do you know that the one approaching Doug and his kin knows the rules? He may be new to the scene, or just released from prison a few days ago and spent all of his release money on booze and crack (and just ran out of money for more...)

Establish firm rules for how you deal with strangers (no matter whether they look like the new Pope or dead Elvis). Any time someone not in your intimate circle of trusted family/friends comes into your own personal space, learn to automatically shift into "wary" mode. There's a difference between being alert, and over-reacting. You can't make yourself able to meet every threat... a bullet that comes from nowhere shattering your window is something you just can't predict, so you can't avoid it. Neither is a terrorist bomb, or a shoot-em-up at the local mall. You can, though, think ahead and try to plan for what to do if/when it does happen.

You already know these things, of course. I think you just have to realize that there are threats you can prepare for (both mentally and physically), and threats you can't. Do get ready for those things you can predict, and when somehting unexpected comes along, deal with it on your best gut instinct, based on the games you've already played out in your mind.

roscoe
September 28, 2006, 12:15 AM
The neighbors do not like having a church nearby and make no bones about it.
What's with that? I mean, I am an atheist, but I like having churches nearby (two within a block). I don't understand why people would be threatened by churches. Are they satanists?

azurefly
September 28, 2006, 01:05 AM
I don't like churches either. I haven't had occasion to protest the presence of them locally, but I don't like them. And I'm no satanist. I'm a rationalist. That's probably why I don't like churches, or the philosophies that go on in them.


-azurefly

Double Naught Spy
September 28, 2006, 06:09 AM
So: here's the topic for the thread. How do you develop and use that urban intelligence to assess and react, without over-reacting (or under-reacting and ended up dead!) in an urban situation?

Logic would have it that first you avoid places you feel to be a threat. If your driver's side window was shot out while driving into your church and the priest says casings are found in the parking lot, then you have to figure that the church is in a pretty tough part of town. There are lots of churches where patrons are not shot at as they pull into the parking lot and that don't find shell casings on the ground. Change churches until things improve. Its a no-brianer...but if you keep attending and someone shoots out your driver's side window with something more powerful next time, you may be the one sporting a no-brainer.

Is that over-reacting? Nope. It is common sense. You have no reason to endanger yourself (and I assume family members) by attending a church where those things occur. That isn't to say you should not attend church, only that there are safer churches available. After all, you don't seem to be describing a religious war.

Of course, being armed it nice, but being armed doesn't do squat to protect you from ambush tactics such as trying to shoot you as you pull into a parking lot.

fm2
September 28, 2006, 07:19 PM
Ceetee, excellent points.

I might add that they might be emotionally disturbed people, like that homeles guy in CO today that held some school kids hostage and sexually assaulted them.

They are an unknown contact, therefore use caution, and pre-fight tactics, like verbal challenge, assertive body language, and positional awareness.

tony pasley
September 28, 2006, 07:20 PM
urban intelligence= over 1,000 people stay out unless needed then get out asap

Samurai
September 29, 2006, 09:11 AM
A news reporter once asked Bruce Lee, "What's the best way to block a punch?" Bruce Lee laughed at him and replied, "Don't be there when it hits."

Your "urban intelligence" about the church situation is useful information. This information tells you that this area is dangerous. Stay away!

Find a different church. (Jeez! Bullet holes in the CHURCH!?!? What kind of MONSTERS inhabit this area?!?! What is this, KABUL?!?!?) Don't go to the ballpark at night. If you go to a play, be on RED ALERT as you move from your car to the building. Load hot; pack heavy.

And, NEVER trust the "rules of the bums" to keep you safe. If the bums followed the "rules," there wouldn't be any problems. It's when the bums "break the rules" that you have problems. Expect that the bums are NOT going to play by the rules.

But, I don't have to tell you this...;)

springmom
September 29, 2006, 02:17 PM
I did not say there were bullet holes in the church. I said the priest found shells in the parking lot.

I have no intention of changing churches, anymore than I have any intention of moving because my son was assaulted. I will not be a victim, and I will not be made to turn and run. That is my church, those are my friends, that is where I worship, and if I leave it will be because we move up north for retirement, not because some nitwit with an airsoft rifle shot out my window.

The thread was intended to discuss the question of what kind of street smarts any person might develop in the urban environment; to what extent familiarity with an area and its inhabitants (including the bums in the park) come into play in assessing threat risk. This was NOT and was never MEANT to be an advice column for me particularly. I apologize if I was unclear in the original post; I was simply giving examples, not asking what I should do for myself.

Can we get back on topic?

Springmom

ceetee
September 29, 2006, 02:56 PM
I have to stand by my original post, Springmom. I've lived in rural areas, and urban cesspools. The most important thing a person HAS to learn is how to not grow complacent through familiarity. You can learn which streets to not drive down. You can learn to assess likely threats through accurate reading of body language. (In fact, something everyone should know is how to read body language. Look for Psych classes at your local community college...)

No matter how safe a particular route was yesterday, or many itmes you've said "Good morning" to an individual bum, circomstances are always changing, and if you're not flexible enough to react to the change, you'll be in trouble. (As a quick example, some years ago I found myself driving through downtown Atlanta on I-75, exiting the highway in dire need of a gas station, with no idea that LA had just erupted into the Rodney King riots...)

MWilson
September 29, 2006, 03:12 PM
I suppose it seems rational that, unless you live in that environment (which implies a certain inherent amount of urban intelligence,) you have the ability to choose what places you do and do not periodically patronize in dangerous areas. There are areas that I just have no reason or desire to go into, and so the problem is averted entirely.

Maybe my situation is different than some because I have alternatives, but I dont see the huge problem in avoiding it entirely.

Samurai
September 29, 2006, 03:18 PM
Mmmkay.

Having that type of "urban intelligence", i.e., familiarity with the bums in the park or the rules of the road in police enforcement in the area, is a hinderance to personal safety, NOT a help.

You never want to get into the mindset where you trust that you can predict the way people are going to act at any given moment. To quote Miyamoto Musashi, "Expect nothing. Be prepared for anything." To learn the "rules of the area" is to believe, to some degree, that those rules will be followed. Never trust that the bums are going to leave you alone simply because you are tourists, show-goers, or high-dollar patrons in the area. Always operate under the mindset of, "This is the one that's going to have a pop at me. This one's not going to play by the rules." Acceptance of the "rules" is an indication of complacency about your personal awareness. (And, don't be offended if I seem like I'm coming down on you here, but I have this conversation with my fiance ALL the TIME, so I'm well-practiced at making this point.)

Now, to translate this over to the fact scenario about your church...
Hmmm.....
I'm not really sure what to say about getting your window shot out. That's just rough. I understand that attending this church is quite important to you. And, I'm sorry if you don't like the idea of relocating - if it seems like "running away". But, it only takes about ONE instance of me getting shot at before I stay AWAY from a place. So, for your courage in staying, I applaud you. (And, I hope you don't martyr yourself to this cause...:( )

Knowledge of the fact that, when in an area, a bullet could come through your window at any time can basically only serve as a warning to be EXTRA careful while in the area, or to simply stay out...

Sorry if I offended, earlier...:o

Dre_sa
September 29, 2006, 04:03 PM
Wehn i was in high-school, i would have to walk through a pretty nasty area to get to a bus stop, whic would then ferry me walking distance from home).
During those years, I learnt a few things about threat analysis and doing something about the ones that need to be sorted out.
i found that if anyone approaches looking as though they are up to no good, it helps to acknowledge their presence. by this i mean while the person is a fair distance away, quickly scan for other similarly behaving people in the immediate area, if youre out numbered, leave cautiosly, if not, turn to face this 'threat' look him/her straight in the eye and dont be the first to look away. in my experience it unsettles the guy, for all i know he could be thinking 'darn he's figured me out'. it happened to me a few times, and a couple more times ive had to leave the area and call for a lift.
another pet peeve i have is guys standing at intersections with bottles of soapy water and a squeegy. this type is common on the area i attend college. the best way to get them to leave you alone, again is to make eye contact ( it helps if you look rather unhappy). i havent done this myself, but i have heard stories of some people having fun with this type. as the guy approaches the car, mak a show of pulling a gun from a holster, then without pointing the weapon at them, use your finger to point to the gun then point (with the finger) directly at the guy approaching, this usually sends them running at a pace that would make olympic sprtinters proud.
i have never had a confrontation with this type, other than yelling profanities from my securly locked car, but i find it rather disgusting the way they prey upon women in traffic.

Samurai
September 29, 2006, 05:03 PM
What you've just described, in Tennessee, is called "aggravated assault." It's frowned-upon by the present administration...

Absolute Rule: Don't pull a gun from the holster until someone is ready to die.

springmom
September 29, 2006, 06:11 PM
The good:


Wehn i was in high-school, i would have to walk through a pretty nasty area to get to a bus stop, whic would then ferry me walking distance from home).
During those years, I learnt a few things about threat analysis and doing something about the ones that need to be sorted out.
i found that if anyone approaches looking as though they are up to no good, it helps to acknowledge their presence. by this i mean while the person is a fair distance away, quickly scan for other similarly behaving people in the immediate area, if youre out numbered, leave cautiosly, if not, turn to face this 'threat' look him/her straight in the eye and dont be the first to look away. in my experience it unsettles the guy, for all i know he could be thinking 'darn he's figured me out'. it happened to me a few times, and a couple more times ive had to leave the area and call for a lift.

THIS is what I had in mind with this thread. Thank you. But then you said this....

The bad:

another pet peeve i have is guys standing at intersections with bottles of soapy water and a squeegy. this type is common on the area i attend college. the best way to get them to leave you alone, again is to make eye contact ( it helps if you look rather unhappy). i havent done this myself, but i have heard stories of some people having fun with this type. as the guy approaches the car, mak a show of pulling a gun from a holster, then without pointing the weapon at them, use your finger to point to the gun then point (with the finger) directly at the guy approaching, this usually sends them running at a pace that would make olympic sprtinters proud.
i have never had a confrontation with this type, other than yelling profanities from my securly locked car, but i find it rather disgusting the way they prey upon women in traffic.

Lord almighty, this is brandishing. It's about as threatening as anything short of just pointing the blinkin' gun at them. It's stuff like this that the anti's just LOVE to make hay out of. Those people are a pain in the neck, but they are not someone you need to threaten. If they become a threat, fine, but otherwise?????? No.

Not looking forward to "the ugly", if it's worse than that.

Springmom

PointOneSeven
September 30, 2006, 09:32 AM
I jog a lot, and have a pretty good layout of the city memorized. I've learned by experience which parts of town to stay out of. Usually it's the part where people are hanging out in the front yard with nothing to do, house after house. The cars all look like 1986, kids actually play outside, and there isn't a dog that's pure-bred in anyone's front yard.

Pointer
September 30, 2006, 09:50 AM
without over-reacting (or under-reacting and ended up dead!) in an urban situation?
I think maybe it's better to over react...

Our society tends to under react to everything from prison sentences to illegal immigration...

The LEOs have had their hands tied for several decades by the bleeding heart under reactors... and the complete lack of understanding in the home videos of the Rodney King beating...

I think I would like to over react...

for a change... :cool:

Dre_sa
September 30, 2006, 04:01 PM
i understand what i described earlier is indeed brandishing, thats why I didnt do it. legal implications mean bad things for law abiding people. this is just a story ive heard from a friend. In south africa, i can see how the guys with the squeegys can quickly become a threat, even beggars need to be watched here, especially if they are little children, they could easily serve as a distraction for car-jackings.
here in south africa, everyone has to be treated as a suspected no-gooder. we constantly have to keep an eye over our shoulder for any suspicious activity. its not even safe to walk around your neighborhood for a leisurely stroll.
i am by no means trying to advocate brandishing, or any other misuse of firearms, merely pointing out what its like living in south africa.

if you were planning on coming here for the 2010 world cup, i strongly advise that you dont. i might start another thread on this later.

CliffH
September 30, 2006, 06:24 PM
There's been some good advice on identifying areas/"gathering intelligence" in your local area - who doesn't know of the "bad" parts of thier own town?

When we moved to another state, we started driving around checking out the area (including back streets), reading more than one local paper, checking with the local LEO's and talking with the new nieghbors & friends.

But, what about if you're traveling cross-country? How do you go about "gathering intelligence" about the town you're only going to be in for at most one day? Sometimes you've gotta stop for gas, food etc.

Some areas might be fairly obvious, but others may not be so obvious.

pickpocket
September 30, 2006, 09:07 PM
Maybe I'm missing the point of the thread, but to me the idea of requiring "urban intelligence" in order to travel safely through different parts of a city (or even different cities) is akin to saying that we have grown complacent within our comfort zones...those areas in which we feel secure because we are famiar with them.

My point is that unless you are trying to gather intelligence on an area in order to map out its infrastructure, social heirarchy, political/religious figures, and power-brokers then you don't need what is more accurately defined as "local knowledge". A firm set of rules by which we deal with ALL areas in which the threat level is a relative unknown is about as efficient as you can get. A homeless person approaching me in West Houston gets the same amount of attention as a homeless person approaching me while downtown. In fact, anyone approaching me gets scrutinized and are on my radar until they leave my personal space. This never changes, regardless of where I am.
I always look for the same things, always look for the same signs, always remain a bit more alert when I am in an unfamiliar area as opposed to when I am in an area where I have developed "local knowledge".

Someone said it earlier - there are only so many things you can do to be prepared; and controlling our tendency to become complacent when comfortable is probably the most effective single thing we can do. Things will happen that are out of our control - a proper mindset will go a long way towards being prepared to react to those things.

When I see Springmom's term of "Urban Intelligence" I envision a kind of toolbox - a list if you will - of key threat indicators and things to look out for when in an unfamiliar area. Things that we should be aware of while travelling in the cities as opposed to things we should remain aware of while travelling through rural areas.

For example:

Ambient Lighting - what is the condition of lighting in the area you are in?
Condition of buildings/houses - Old/New? Dilapidated/Well Kept?
General profile of people walking about - daytime/nighttime crowd? Older/Younger? Young Adult/Teenager?
Your location with respect to major surface streets
Parking lots in the area well lit?
Frequency of patrol vehicles?


This is an extremely short list, but it highlights a few of the many inputs that I use to gather an ongoing feel for the area that I'm in. Based on personal experience - meaning that each of us has our own list of "red-light" items - I evaluate one or more of these clues to adjust my level of mental preparedness. It doesn't matter where I am, my list of things to watch stays consistent.

I try to be very careful drawing parallels between Iraq and home. Things don't always translate efficiently and what works in one place isn't always good for the other. However, this is an instance where I think my lessons learned in combat translate well into our everyday lives.
When patrolling a new city, or a new section within a city, or a new neighborhood within a section, or spoke to a new family within a neighborhood - I always looked for the same clues, always remained aware of the same things - of how different aspects of the environment interacted with each other to paint a picture. It didn't matter where we were... if I left an area that was relatively secure and entered an area where the threat was a relative unknown then my eyes and ears were even more open than usual.

The same goes for here at home - if I leave my house (where the threat level is negligible and easily prepared for) then I am alert. If I leave my local area of Houston and travel to another where I'm not familiar with things like traffic patterns, police patrols, danger areas, etc.. then I begin to pay attention to those different aspects of the environment that I was talking about earlier and analyzing how they interact with each other and with me.

I like the idea of compiling a mental checklist of things to be aware of - I dislike the idea that we are looking for a list of certain things to look for in certain areas in order to finely tune our alertness dependant upon the area that we are in. That's complacency to me.

CliffH
September 30, 2006, 10:00 PM
Heck, I'm constantly scanning even at the local Safeway store.

One example of how local knowledge would be handy is from the town next to our old home town; You really wanted to park in front of or alongside of the courthouse - you didn't want to park right behind it. Your car may not be there when you came out.

JIH
September 30, 2006, 10:35 PM
The bum who approached Doug after the ball game the other night is most likely one of the group that hang out at the park in that area. I'd be willing to bet that the police who normally patrol that area knows each one of those guys on sight and by name.
Generally, the panhandlers downtown and even in midtown leave folks be. They'll panhandle, but not aggressively. Either not acknowledging them or saying "sorry, can't help" tends to ward them off. After awhile, they move on to somewhere else, or, better yet, figure out that the United Way and other organizations exist to help them out and give them something better to do.

i understand what i described earlier is indeed brandishing, thats why I didnt do it. legal implications mean bad things for law abiding people.
Dude, the reason it's a bad idea goes beyond legal implications and to "having your whole life changed" kind of implications.

I realize you're in SA and see things from a different perspective... heck I've been from Nigeria to Namibia and everywhere in between. so I have an idea of the environment... but the story/advice provided could get people hurt.

ojibweindian
October 20, 2006, 09:37 AM
So: here's the topic for the thread. How do you develop and use that urban intelligence to assess and react, without over-reacting (or under-reacting and ended up dead!) in an urban situation?

That's pretty easy. I've got a pretty large area of "personal space"; no one is allowed to penetrate it, other than my family and a few close friends.

Second, I avoid crowded areas like it was quarantined because of Ebola.