How Can You Protect Yourself?
CITIZENS commonly look to the police for protection, but in some areas police are now saying that they cannot provide it. Writing in The Wall Street Journal, Lewis M. Phelps told about the burglarizing of his and his neighbors’ premises in Chicago. He described the police reaction:
“While he was filling out the forms, one officer remarked, almost casually, ‘You know, you don’t really have any police protection in this neighborhood. You don’t have any protection anywhere in this city, because we aren’t real police officers. We’re just going through the motions.’”
The officer explained: “Some night we probably will catch these guys. Then they probably will run. . . . I’m not even going to make much of an effort to chase them. Because if I do, and I catch them, they probably will resist. I’ll have to hit them with my gun or my club to subdue them, or else get hurt myself. Then I’ll have a brutality charge on my hands, even if he hits me first. So I’ll just go through the motions of chasing him, just enough to make it look right. And that’s just exactly the way most cops in this city feel.”
This is what the officer meant about people not having any real police protection. But he quickly defended his “just going through the motions,” saying: “I have a wife and family to think about. Why should I risk my life to nail these guys when the courts just put them back out on the street? I’ve arrested guys for armed robbery. Some have 200 arrests, and dozens of convictions for violent crimes. And they get probation. Why should I risk getting shot to take a guy into the courts for that?”
Where does this leave you, the average citizen? The fact is, whether you are a crime victim or not depends a great deal on your own efforts to protect yourself.
Type of Protection Recommended
Frank Angelo, a columnist for the Detroit Free Press, reported one recommendation. He explained that a friend had told him how several homes, in her immediate midtown vicinity had been burglarized. She said that the ‘police who responded were quick to suggest that the best answer to the problem was for her and others to arm themselves.’
But is this good advice, to arm yourself? Despite such suggestions of some police officers, nearly every law-enforcement agency agrees that it is not. There are sound reasons for not arming yourself.
In the first place, in many localities carrying a concealed weapon is a violation of the law. Then there is the danger that if you draw a weapon, the criminal may retaliate, using his own weapon or seizing yours. Many persons have been killed in such encounters. Further, simply having guns around results in many tragic accidents. According to the National Safety Council, about 1,300 Americans a year are accidentally killed in their homes by firearms.
If carrying arms is not the answer, what can you do to protect yourself?
Pointing to the need of self-control, one crime investigator concluded: “What people have to fear most from crime is in themselves.” But how can controlling yourself be a protection?
It can, since victims themselves often provoke crimes. Especially do thousands of those killed each year by their friends and relatives contribute to their own deaths. True, others may start the argument that ends in a fatal attack. But what if victims had heeded the Bible counsel: “An answer, when mild, turns away rage,” or followed the Bible advice to “be gentle toward all”? (Prov. 15:1; 2 Tim. 2:24) Likely they would never have been murdered.
It is wise, too, to remember this Bible counsel when strangers may harshly rebuke you for something you do. The inclination is to be vindictive. But how much better humbly to express regret for whatever you did to cause the other person’s displeasure! The mild answer will turn away rage, but, as the Bible proverb goes on to say, “a word causing pain makes anger to come up.”—Prov. 15:1.
How often the truthfulness of this proverb is proved! Thus when a young woman allegedly bumped an older woman on a New York sidewalk, an apology was demanded of her. When she refused to give it, an argument resulted, and the older woman pulled a pistol and killed her. If only the young woman had answered mildly and excused herself, the tragedy would not have occurred.
The self-control that can protect you from such violence is a product of God’s spirit, available to those who apply Bible counsel. (Gal. 5.22, 23) Even if you do not practice it at present, you can cultivate this godly quality along with mildness. They are both essential to avoiding trouble.
Keep Alert, Anticipate Trouble
In many other ways the Bible can provide protection. For example, consider the value of acting in accord with this Bible principle: “A sensible man foresees danger, and hides from it; but the simple pass on, and are punished.”—Prov. 22:3, An American Translation.
It is sensible not to minimize the danger of crime. If circumstances compel you to be in an unsafe area, stay alert. Walk and act with purpose; do not loiter. Keep your eyes moving over the street ahead, and occasionally look behind. Walk near the curb, well away from the buildings where a criminal may be lurking in a dark entrance or alley.
It is also sensible to avoid dimly lit and infrequently traveled streets. Look ahead before entering a block—anticipate danger. If you see a group of suspicious-looking persons, do not risk passing through their midst. Cross the street or change directions. If you are followed, step into the street. If danger seems imminent, run or call for help.
Try to avoid traveling alone after dark. If you are at a meeting place, wait to walk home with a friend. When entering a lobby or an elevator in a dangerous neighborhood—be sensible, foresee danger. Do not get on an elevator with strangers if you have the least suspicion about them, nor should you hesitate to get off immediately should they get on. Whether they may be offended is not the issue; it is better to be safe than sorry.
Since purse-snatchings are especially common, anticipate an attempted theft. Carry your purse between your upper arm and your body, with your hand over the clasp. And don’t carry excess amounts of money in your purse. Also, do not invite a mugging by wearing costly clothing or jewelry if you are in a high-crime area, neither open your wallet in such a way that others can see your money when you are shopping.
When driving your automobile, also be alert to danger. Make sure that all doors are locked. If they are not, a criminal can easily enter when you stop at a signal. Keep the windows closed or rolled up far enough to prevent anyone from reaching through an opening. If someone approaches your car menacingly, put the car in motion as soon as possible. When parking, do not leave valuables visible, but put them in the glove compartment or the trunk.
What if, despite your alertness, a criminal holds you up? Calmly agree to his demands to hand over your valuables. Your life and health are more important than material possessions. According to New York police, in over 99 percent of the muggings the victim is not harmed when there is no resistance.
Circumstances differ when a woman is accosted by a man who intends to commit a sex crime. “Resist with everything that’s in you,” urges Paul Boesch, author of the book Lady Protect Yourself. Don’t hesitate. Resist at his first suggestion of wrong intent. If he persists, SCREAM. Try to break away and run. The Bible shows that this is the proper course for a woman attacked by a rapist.—Deut. 22:23-27.
Anticipate possible sex crimes against your children, too, and provide them protection. Strongly impress upon them never to accept an automobile ride from strangers. Let them know that to allow others to fondle them is wrong and can lead to their hurt.
Protect Your Home
First, protect your home with reliable locks on all doors and windows—don’t overlook any. These should not be simple locks that can be opened with a playing card or a screwdriver. Rather, a dead-bolt lock is recommended. This requires the use of your key to turn the bolt when you are leaving, and a turn of the bolt when you are inside. In addition, a pick-resistant cylinder will provide protection against a burglar’s use of a master key or a picklock.
Once they are installed, be sure to use these locks. Reports by U.S police officials show that nearly 50 percent of the entries by burglars into residences are through unlocked doors or windows!
When you go away, don’t advertise it. Don’t give your home an unoccupied appearance by closing blinds and shades. Use lights effectively. There is a wide variety of time clocks and timers that are very useful. These can be set to turn lights on and off at certain times, as well as turning radios and televisions on and off. A light burning day and night is usually a sure giveaway that no one is at home. If you plan to be away for some days, have a trusted friend inspect your premises, mow your lawn, pick up your newspaper and mail, and perhaps even stay in your home.
True, persons may take all these precautions, and even others, yet still be a victim of crime. The protection you can provide yourself is admittedly only limited. But the time is near at hand when true protection will be realized by all.
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If you are followed, step into the street. If danger seems imminent, run or call for help
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Will you struggle to keep your money and perhaps lose your life?