Neighborhood Watch on Steroids

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In previous posts I have discussed home security concepts and how you could take steps to make your home more secure. Ideally, these steps would be ones we could all take to strengthen our home’s defenses but the sad truth is that most of us our modern home fabrication caters to aesthetics and not strength. We like light and windows too much and our homes while relatively strong are mostly built on frames that can easily be bashed in without too much effort and a sledge-hammer. Yes, I know they have plywood on the outside, but if I can drive my car through the wall, it isn’t too stout is it?

My wife and I like to play this game where we have won the lottery and we are discussing the first thing we will buy. Usually, at the top of the list is a new home far away in a remote stretch of wilderness. Since this is pure fantasy – mostly because we might buy one lottery ticket a year- the sky is the limit with construction. It is during these conversations that the stark difference between my idea of a dream home and my wife’s come into focus. For example, she wants a lot of big windows to check out our fantastic view of the hundreds of acres we will own. I tell her that we can’t have big windows because we have to think of security. Instead I suggest that if we have the large picture windows, we also install roll down hurricane proof metal shutters that would come down and secure all the windows from any damage. Yes, I know this is like something out of Batman, but Hey! I won the lottery in my mind.

Needless to say these conversations never go anywhere and no we haven’t won the lottery so I have to take all my defensive problems back to my current reality house instead of hiring some miracle contractors with an unlimited budget to solve it for me. But why do I need super Batman strength security in the first place?

What am I worried about?

I do not live in a “bad neighborhood” but you always want a home that you feel safe in regardless of the situation outside. Usually this is from the prospect of someone breaking in and stealing what you have or just plain busting down the door to do you harm. Our homes like I mentioned above are all easily breached with some basic tools, brute force or a little time. Heck, it only takes a rock to bust in a window and people can walk on in. A stiff boot will work on most doors the first try and that is if they are locked in the first place.

I think of regular home security problems when there are police and electricity and food on the grocery store shelves. I also think about home security when none of those things are present. If you have a grid-down collapse scenario your home most likely won’t stand up to a couple of determined people for long if they go unchallenged. It is times like this that unless you have a walled fortress you need to consider adding some resources to your defense plan. You could hire those contractors I mentioned to start retrofitting your castle with those handy hurricane shutters but that is impractical. It is much wiser to revert to the Neighborhood watch on steroids.

What is the neighborhood watch on steroids you ask? You have heard of the neighborhood watch before and some of you may even have this in your neighborhood. I remember that we had a home in our neighborhood that was broken into several years back and all of our neighbors got together at a meeting to discuss forming a neighborhood watch. We had a police officer come in and talk briefly about what we should and should not do and we all received small flimsy signs to put in our yard that said words to the effect of “This neighborhood is protected by neighborhood watch”. I think there was one lady who volunteered to roam the streets but that is about the last I heard of it and once the flimsy sign rusted and faded it found its way into my trash can.

If you have a true collapse and you and your neighbor’s feel that they need to defend their homes it is better to join together and combine forces so that you can protect more homes at once. It is also more likely that several people watching over things will be more of a deterrent than a single older retiree walking her dog at night. This is another situation where it all depends on the disaster that has happened. If you are talking about a late summer storm that drops some trees on power lines and you have the resulting loss of power for a few days, the neighborhood watch on steroids probably doesn’t need to get activated.

If you have something more long-term and serious like a hurricane that robs power for several weeks and damages homes or displaces people that neighborhood watch might be necessary to prevent looting. Thinking more long-term and dire than even a hurricane; if the police are unable to come to your aid, there is widespread looting, theft, panic and chaos – you should already have a plan for keeping your neighborhood safe from intruders. All of your able-bodied neighbors should be on board with joining the neighborhood watch if that happens. The more people you have watching, the safer you will be but the disaster will dictate what is necessary or prudent to expect in the way of escalation of force.

Defending the Neighborhood

Who are the people you could expect to pose threats to your neighbors in a grid down or Without Rule of Law scenario? I think it depends on the length of the crisis almost completely. If the crisis or disaster is relatively short-lived and some semblance of order is returned this problem will go away. The more prolonged or serious the crisis is and the more desperate or bold the people will become.

Looters – This will be the first wave and it is completely normal to see people looting over just about any event these days. There was looting in Ferguson that materialized out of protests, but the looting I am referring to would be more like what we saw after Hurricane Sandy. After the storm had passed, people were found rummaging through homes that had been evacuated due to the alerts. With nobody there to stop them, these opportunists simply had their run of many homes. I even heard some reports that looters would dress up as utility workers so they would look legitimate, but that may have only been rumors. Even if it was, I can see people trying it.

Desperate People/Nomads – After the looters have gone or when the subject of what people are looking for turns to necessities instead of flat screen TV’s I think people displaced from their homes would be the next group. We talk about the Golden horde moving out of the major cities and into surrounding communities and I think this is something we could easily see with the right disaster. Hundreds of thousands of people from New York alone could disgorge from the city if they had some form of terrorist attack or outbreak. When people are forced to flee so fast they can’t take any supplies, they will be left with what is on their backs. Even if you had a great Bug Out Bag, how much food are you taking with you? What will you do when the food is gone but the emergency isn’t over yet? These people will be looking for food and supplies and they may be walking through your neighborhood.

Bands of criminals – I think this is only likely in the most severe form of disaster after we have a long absence of law and order. Groups of thugs will join together for survival and once they do, they will start roaming outward to gain the same thing that others will be looking for;  items they need or want in order to live. If you are still in your home and you haven’t bugged out to your secret walled complex with rolling metal shutters in the middle of the forest, they could find your neighborhood. These people pose the greatest threat in my opinion because they will most likely be armed and will have experience with assaulting homes and people. This will be a larger organized group that has survived long enough to know a thing or two and the will require the most force and tactics to deal with effectively.

I plan to expand this topic to cover tactical ideas, strategies and supply considerations in upcoming posts that will all be linked and I’ll talk about how you to transition from no plan at all to a neighborhood watch on steroids. Have you given any thoughts to your neighborhood security? Do you plan to join your own Neighborhood Watch on Steroids?


  1. Justin

    September 7, 2014 at 9:32 am

    Just don’t see patrols as viable. Even sentries/watchstanders wouldn’t be reliable unless in pairs, which then doubles the manpower needed. Not to sound flippant, but try it yourself. Shutoff any/all utilities coming into your home for a 2 or 3 day test, and take a 2 hour foot patrol of the neighborhood each night after midnight. Maybe take a second 2 hour watch to simulate your relief not showing up for duty. Schedule it for February. Just think it’d fall apart by day 3.

    My plan (but we’re very rural) is to have a “spaghetti social” type event so we can all agree on some rules and conduct shortly after the SHTF. I have 6 GMRS radios I can donate to the cause and can recharge the batts for them if needed too. Agree on the simple stuff, public versus private property, no stepping foot on anybody else’s property without permission each and every time, keep an eye on the neighbors properties you can see, reporting anything suspicious via radio, car alarms as fire/threat sirens, basic rules of engagement, etc.

    • usmarinestanker

      September 7, 2014 at 4:48 pm

      I like the idea of getting everyone together to discuss things (especially the simple things), but I wonder if it wouldn’t be just as useless as an HOA meeting?

      I think if someone tried to hold a meeting before SHTF then they’d most likely be seen as crazy. Neighbors would most likely be willing to listen after a problem started, but its been my experience when trying to rationalize with people in my neighborhood about what I see as problems (or not problems) that most will follow their own plan and refuse to see reason because they aren’t willing to look outside their own bubble of life experiences. Granted, I live in Mormonville and am not a Mormon, so I am already seen as an outsider not really to be trusted, but suburbanites in general are most likely unwilling to listen because if they were listening they’d be prepping already.

      This is a very hard topic to broach – much like convincing your own family that prepping isn’t crazy. In my personal experience, I think my neighbors would fall victim before marshaling their resources, and then they’d elect to become more introverted within their church. I suspect I and other non-Mormons would be left to our own devices or even run out of town because we’re “different” and outside the bubble. We represent danger to them because we’re not compliant to their societal views.

      Fortunately, my two-story house and all its windows sits commandingly on a street corner over many single-story houses. With good black out and hardening preps with NVG’s I could see them coming a good couple blocks away, though it would probably end like the Alamo.

    • Pat Henry

      September 8, 2014 at 8:46 am

      I agree that this wouldn’t fly if everything was fine. I was only talking about “If you have a true collapse and you and your neighbor’s feel that they need to defend their homes”. I think in this scenario it wouldn’t be like Matt describes below. I think if everyone was seriously concerned for their health and safety that getting volunteers would be easier and you would have more assistance.

      If the grid goes down and nobody feels the need to defend your neighborhood I don’t know what to say. If you think that regardless of the threat people just wouldn’t show up to help then you a living with a bunch of people doomed anyway and you should get out of there.

      • usmarinestanker

        September 8, 2014 at 1:27 pm

        Your last sentence hits the nail on the head. My neighborhood is like that because we’re outsiders. Southern Utah has a very strange dynamic – most of Utah actually. I often joke that you should need a passport to have to come here and I frequently remark that I go “back” to the United States when we travel out of state.

        It is such a foreign concept if you’ve never lived in Utah and I used to mock my wife when she’d tell me stories about the discrimination and ostracization she experienced when she lived here while we were dating. I used to argue with her that she had to have some kind of paranoid complex because America just wasn’t like that. Boy was I wrong.

        The Mormons are mandated or highly encouraged by their church leadership to store food and water for emergencies. Sometimes its passed off as general preparedness, other times its “end of the world” reasoning. They were persecuted by many groups in their history – kicked out of Illinois, the Governor of Missouri signed the “Mormon Extermination Order” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Missouri_Executive_Order_44authorizing) the killing of Mormons on sight, and even invaded by the US Army to prevent a theocracy (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Utah_War).

        Because of this, and the fact that their ancestors moved out into this horrible desert to be left alone, many distrust and look down upon anyone who plans to stay and not become Mormon. (You’re ok though if you’re a tourist because you’re spending money and going away.) There is active ostracizing to make life uncomfortable – not letting kids play with yours, kids bullying yours at school because they’re “hell-bound”, open religious discussion at work and blatant discrimination because of it, etc – the list goes on and on.

        When we first moved to our house we had the typical welcome wagon of people from the neighborhood coming over. Their horde of kids would play with ours on our front lawn while the parents and we talked. Within about 2 minutes the question of our religion always came up. Some would flat out ask if we were LDS (refreshing), others would do the dance and say “Oh you have a cross on your wall………..you’re Catholic?” (Cross isn’t used in Mormonism), or they’d just start spitting out how we’re going to love the numerous church functions they have but they haven’t seen us at services. We’d politely say that we were not LDS and their faces and demeanor would visibly change, their bodies would stiffen, and literally within a minute they’d make up some excuse about having to leave and gather up their children and never return. It was like clockwork. These same people who were so happy and willing to be our church friends don’t wave, don’t say hello, don’t let their kids play with ours because we’re different. We pay taxes, keep up our property, send our kids to private schools, volunteer, and work in public safety/healthcare, but we’re no good because we aren’t the same religion.

        I absolutely believe they’d turn on us in a heartbeat if a scapegoat was needed. Without being melodramatic, I can see non-Mormons being like Jews in 1930’s Germany.

        But back to your point, the food storage is intended to be donated to the local church building (multiple per neighborhood) and doled out from there based on need if a serious danger situation arises. You either have what you have gathered on your own, or you will need to go begging from the Mormon church leadership to get a share of what they have gathered. Would they help you out? They very well could, but my experiences have shown that nothing is for free. There would be an expectation of joining their church (cult tactic of love bombing where positive attention is removed when the group senses failure to join http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Love_bombing).

        From their perspective, this is taking care of their community. The key word is “their” community. They are the overwhelming majority and long for it to remain that way and to even make inroads back to reacquiring their land and stopping the dilution of their culture by we, the great unwashed, who have infiltrated.

        This is a very sore topic for me 😛 and I absolutely plan to pack up the family and move when I graduate from nursing school.

        • Pat Henry

          September 8, 2014 at 8:19 pm

          Wow! I didn’t realize they would ostracize you so badly. You do have to agree that your experience is probably atypical, right? Most of us don’t have to worry about being shunned that bad.
          You do have to get out of there.


          • usmarinestanker

            September 9, 2014 at 12:51 am

            My experience is absolutely atypical for “the rest of America”, but not for Utah. Growing up in Detroit we knew our neighbors, had block parties and block garage sales, we played with dozens of kids, and life was good.

            I’m looking forward to your article on coordinating neighborhood defense. I’d like to see how others actually get to talk to neighbors 🙂

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