Neighborhood Security: Real vs. Perceived

Security expert, author, and blogger Bruce Schneier has a recent post might be of interest to many preppers: Neighborhood Security: Feeling vs. Reality. Some neighborhoods feel more safe and others feel less safe — but the reality of that safety can be quite different from the perception. He expounds on this point in another post: The Difference Between Feeling and Reality in Security. On the other hand, some researchers have found that a feeling of safety does have some correlation to actual security.

But what I’d like to do here, in this blog post, is put more of a prepping and survival spin on that concept. You probably have a good idea of the degree of real security of your present home, especially if you have lived there for many years. What I’d like you to consider is whether that security will change when some disaster strikes, and whether your area will fare better or worse. But since the answer will depend in part on which disaster is disrupting normal life, let’s take it one problem at a time.

Civil Unrest

This SHTF scenario is not at all far-fetched. It is one of the more likely problems that might affect any area. The question here is not what caused the unrest, but how your neighborhood might fare. My take is that rural areas have an advantage, up to a point.

In a city, civil unrest and a sudden increase in violent crime does not have to go far to reach your home. It’s common for someone living in the city to claim that their neighborhood is safe, but the neighborhood a few blocks away is not. While that may be true in ordinary circumstances, civil unrest can change that metric very quickly. If the police are overwhelmed by a sudden increase in crime, malefactors will soon realize this fact and take advantage. They might just travel the few blocks into your supposedly safe neighborhood.

A suburban area might be substantially better off. It’s lower population density might reduce the odds of a violent crime affecting your home or family. And residents of a neighborhood might be better able to cooperate together for a local ad hoc neighborhood watch. It also helps your personal security, if you have a house and some land around it. You have a perimeter that can function as a buffer zone when there is an increase in crime.

On the other hand, if you are in too rural an area, my opinion is that the security trade-off start to work against you. If neighbors are more than shouting distance away, a threat to your home leaves you to face the danger alone. I realize some survivalists picture the ideal situation as a very rural retreat, entirely self-sufficient, with four years’ worth of canned goods and a whole bunch of guns (as P.J. O’Rourke put it). But I would say that cooperation with neighbors is one of your best assets when the SHTF.

Natural Disasters

How will your area cope if a natural disaster strikes? One of the most common results of various natural disasters is an extended power outage. How long the power will be out depends on what neighborhood you live in. The power company prioritizes its repair work. They repair main power lines before smaller branches. They prioritize areas that have an important resource, like a hospital or a town water facility. If you live in an area that has that priority, your power will be up and running sooner.

If you live in a more rural area, or even on the outskirts of a suburban town, your power will be out for a longer period. And that means you will need to prioritize the type of prepping resources that cope with a power loss: batteries, wind or solar power, a UPS (uninterruptable power supply) with cold start capability), and some way to keep warm in the winter without power.

You might be able to make your current home less susceptible to certain natural disasters. Prune the trees around your house, so that no large branches threaten to fall in a high winds. Sometimes even a whole tree would need to be removed.Don’t be like this guy. Have the work professionally done.

When I lived in Florida, we had all the windows in our house coated with a Mylar film that protects the windows from hurricane damage. Supposedly a hurricane could toss a 2×4 or large branch at the window, and it would not penetrate. It also makes it more difficult for criminals to break in through a window.

Food Shortages

Whenever there is a shortage of some highly-valued goods or simply much higher prices, criminals will start stealing that item. If you have a garden and some disaster has raised the prices and lowered the availability of food, you are at risk from thieves. There are some highly-publicized community gardens in city areas. You can forget about getting any food from that source when the SHTF. There are too many hungry persons living near that source of food.

For a suburban backyard garden, you still will have a problem. Backyard gardens are not secure and anyone might run in, take some produce and run off. Calling the police will not be a viable option. And you can’t shoot to kill when someone is just stealing some tomatoes. So your garden might be a lost cause.

A greenhouse might fare better, since the wall provide an obstacle that takes time to breach. But you would have difficulty guarding that source of food 24/7.

The better situation might be a rural area, if you have a large garden or a mini-farm. The losses from one person or a few persons making a hit and run attack on your food source would be minimal. If the food provided is substantial, you could cooperate with neighbors to protect the land and share the food. But you don’t want to be so rural that you have no neighbors.

Other Scenarios

In any SHTF scenario that you consider likely given your location or current events, you should consider not only your resources for dealing with that situation, but also the effect that your neighborhood will have to hinder or help you in coping. Most people can’t move to a new location to improve the security metric of their neighborhood. But prepping can help you strengthen various possible weaknesses.

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