In This Hub:
Five Stages of Crime
Lethal Force in Self-Defense
Pyramid of Personal Safety*
Psychological Survival Hub
NNSD Home Page
You don' see de eyes o' da demon
Home Invasion Robberies
I'd like to start with some good news/bad news about home invasion robberies.
The --sort of -- good news is about being targeted. The risk
factors for home invasion robbery are
If these circumstances don't apply, well then your chances of a home invasion happening are pretty slim. Like slim to none and Slim left town. So there's the good news.
The bad news... well, let me explain why it's bad news. In the professional threat assessment field there's a slight disagreement. Universally they agree that allowing yourself to be taken/moved to a secondary location is bad -- real bad. How bad? Hospitalized is one of the lesser forms of the various 'results.' The disagreement? Well that's whether the actual numbers are in the lower ninety percentile or the upper nineties. You heard that right. Professionals disagree over if the numbers should be reported as 90%, 95% or 98%.( 1) For everyone else it's simple: Secondary locations = BAD.
Now the bad news. Your home is a ready-made secondary location.
That's the reason Castle Doctrine, home defense and 'Make My Day' laws'
are popular. It's also why home invasion robberies are more common in states
that don't have clear laws about defending
yourself against home intruders. When people talk about having a gun for
defense' this is the level of danger they're concerned about. Now mix in those
five risk factors and having a gun (or some other
effective self-defense item) in the house starts making sense.
Risk Factors for being targeted
Great. What about your teenager?
I'm not talking about your teen 'selling' drugs. But I am talking about him/her being involved in the distribution and local traffic. It's a state of affairs that can come about just by using. And by the way, this isn't just in the big cities and metroplexes.
Let me give you a quick rundown on the drug trade (including running, distribution networks, mules, and couriers). Most of the big 'organizations' have pulled out of the cities and direct, end user sales. Many have started using small, rural towns as staging area. Yes major highways are still the primary corridors that product is moved along. But before they hit the metropolitan areas they take a turn and head towards, centrally located 'wide spots in the road.' These Podunk locations serve as distribution centers for cities, suburbs and college towns across two or three states. There the large drug shipment is broken up and scattered to smaller distribution centers closer to (or in) the target area. This process is repeated in smaller and smaller quantities until you finally get down to your local neighborhood (or office) drug dealer. You have a distribution chain -- and process -- that takes a 1,000 pounds of drugs and it all ends as grams in plastic bags spread across 10,000s of dealers.
But not everyone involved is a 'dealer.' All along the way there is an ever changing series of drivers, mules, couriers, and errand boys/girls. These people carry the drugs to the dealers. The names and faces keep on changing to throw the cops off. Four shipments in a year typically have four different drivers. Also realize that the smaller the load, the less it hurts if it's intercepted or stolen. Let's pick one stage of the process. A pound leaving a distributor can be broken into quarters and sent to the another, smaller distributor using four different drivers. The same shipment can also be warehoused in different people's homes. Now that same pound could involve eight to twelve people other than just the distributor. And we haven't even reached the corner dealer yet. Who usually can't afford a pound. (2)
Distributors also have a problem with police surveillance. They've developed lots of ways to throw the cops off their trail. You ever notice all those 'temporary plates' on the road? That's because drug dealers change cars faster than most people change underwear. (The same car can change hands 10, 20 times a year.) But you know what? There's an easier way. Use someone else's car or have them do the delivery for you.
Here's another point. At a large distribution level it's pay for play. But drug dealers know a lot of people who will barter 'services' for drugs. Yes, sex for drugs is one form of barter. But so too is 'muling,' stashing drugs, driving the dealer to pick ups, and loaning 'your vehicle' to dealers. Warehousing is also very common. Knowing the chances of police raids and home invaders, instead of making his home a fortress, the dealer stores the bulk of his merchandise at other people's houses. Often for these services, the person gets 'free drugs.'
Do you remember being young and dumb? And broke?
Now when you're talking gangs and crews there is deliberate recruiting of children (and yes, I'm talking 8 -11 year olds) Because they face less serious charges children are used by gang members to act as couriers, runners and look outs. In the suburbs it's far more voluntary. Your teen can be deeply involved in the 'drug trade' without ever selling. The need for mules, drivers, couriers and storage space is large and the risk of getting caught is extremely low. So for free drugs, why not?
I mentioned young and dumb. But this can easily translate into young and stupid -- especially when it comes to ripping off dealers.
One of the many problems with the illegal drug trade is it's filled with violent criminals. You may not know this, but most violent crime is between criminals. And by most I mean a supermajority of both reported and unreported crime. Take homicides. It's not tracked on a national level, but it is locally. That's where you'll find between 75 to 100% of 'murder victims' have criminal records. (As one cop in a medium sized city told me, "In the last 20 years we haven't had a murder that the victim wasn't known to the police.") Your teen deciding to rip off a drug dealer is the most reliable way for you to be targeted for a home invasion robbery. They'll come looking for their stuff. Another way it can happen is if another crew hears that your teen is warehousing a shipment for another crew. (Kids talk and brag.)
Then of course there's always your teen IS selling and someone heard he/she just got a shipment in. Drug dealers are the number one target for home invasions because it's so often a home based business.
I tell you all of this because if you're hit with a home invasion robbery, the cops may not say it, but I guarantee you they're thinking, "drugs." If not your teen, then you. I hate to say it, but odds are good they're right.
2) Ethnic communities
This leads to people from these countries often keeping large amounts of money in their home. Criminals from the same ethnic background know this. If they get wind of a large stash, they're likely to hit the home.
3) Small business owners
One of the things about apartment buildings is once someone is in the complex there's always many targets. Along the same lines, once in the building/complex it can be as simple as just knocking on a random door and plowing in when the door is opened.
5) Follow home
Follow homes are both the rarest and the most basic form. How does it work? After being seen with money or goods, you pick up a tail somewhere, they wait until you're going into your home, then they bull-rush, pushing you in before you can close and lock your door. In the suburbs a common form of this type is coming through your garage after you've parked. (Do you lock your inside door to the garage? Does it even lock?) Other times they'll wait for you to unload and then ring your doorbell.
In the city there's a weird hybrid of waiting until you're going into your apartment building. If they hit while you're in the entry, hallway or elevator that's one thing. Still, unless you're Kitty Genovese, there's the time and discovery crunch in the hallway. If they try to move you to your apartment that's a secondary location.
Outliers: Since I wrote this page I've been contacted by people who've said "You didn't mention..." or asked "What about..." Things like druggies invading homes of older people for prescription drugs, poker games in homes being raided and non-cohabitating relationships/love triangles. Yeah... about all that. First they happen. Second, in comparison to the five factors listed, they're so rare as to be statistically meaningless. You can go down some really obscure mouseholes trying to track down every possible scenario a home invasion could happen. Still, if you look back over the five, you'll see some common themes. Themes that remain consistent even in the outliers. So do yourself a favor and take care around certain issues. They are: Drugs, crime, money and pissing off the wrong people.
It's pretty simple actually.
Get in the habit of locking your back door when you're not using it and not leaving your garage door open. These are actually how most home invaders gain access. No need to bull-rush if you left a door open for them. Having said this (especially if there's a stalker or revenge seeker involved), I HIGHLY recommend you get a camera/intercom/doorbell combo installed. Because of technology, they're cheap and easy to install. They are way better than peep holes.
As you are about to find out, the best time to stop home invasions is
before they get in.
Your home as a secondary location
Although I've been talking in terms of robbery, know home invasion is a common tactic with serial killers and serial rapists. Comparatively speaking these events are rare, but when they happen they have a disproportionate percentage. Dennis Rader (The BTK Killer) preferred to kill people in their own homes thereby saving him the challenges of cleaning up the crime scene. While most serial rapists talk their way in, break-in rapists are home invaders.
One of the legal standards for self-defense is immediate threat. But another one is 'reasonably believes.' Now that last one is where it really gets tricky, because it often boils down to how well you can explain how you knew you were in danger. Not just that you were in danger but how well you can explain it and defend that explanation. Defend it against someone who is going to years of experience using words to make it look like you over-reacted or that no threat existed.
So let's look at why it's reasonable to believe that you're in greater danger from a home invasion. And how you can explain it.
Simply stated a home invasion is inherently a higher level of danger than being robbed out on the street.
Why? In the Property Crime hub I mentioned the two 'enemies' of burglars are time and attention. They have to get in before they're noticed. In the Robbery hub I talk about criminals need a location where they can operate without the probability of being interrupted and with escape options. They too are up against time and attention limits. In the Rape hub I talk about the need for isolation.
Your home offers solutions to all of these in one neat little package.
Once the invader is in and has taken over there's nothing stopping him from doing whatever he wants. Why? Because the normal limitations for crime are off the table. He's got isolation, unlimited time and there's no cavalry coming to save you. More than that, if he were caught he'd face kidnapping, armed robbery and aggravated assault charges. The only person who can identify him is you. So tell me again why he should leave you alive?
Oh and by the way, sure a single person can be a home invader. But numbers are far more common.
That invader or invaders issue is kind of important. Let's add in a few more points that the increase the danger. Three fundamentals of effective force are unexpected, fast and overwhelming. Basically success depends on you coming in fast and hard relying on surprise and shock to quickly resolve the situation in your favor. That's a staple, now how it manifests ... well that depends.
Home invasions are most commonly a group effort. The lone invader is actually pretty rare. Numbers are not only safer for them, but individually they have to use 'less force.' The reason for the apostrophes is even though they are offering more force, it's the threat that does most of the work. In my Multiple Attacker pdf I talk about not just disparity of force but force multipliers and dividers. And then there's the whole issue of weapons and lethal force. While there may be a physical component to it, most of the time their initial move is the threat of violence.
Three guys with guns can put a lot of lead in the air. They're relying on you knowing that and making a smart decision about not resisting when you see they have guns. Yes they come charging in screaming and waving guns, but if you look closely you'll see they're banking on the threat of violence to do the work. They didn't come in shooting. The problem with this level of threat is it's just a finger twitch away from a threat to murder. (Deaths during the commission of a felony are automatically charged as murder -- for everyone involved in the crime.)
Another safety feature for the invaders is more of them allows them more control over the situation. While one keeps you covered the others charge through the house looking for anyone else who's home. All this charging and shouting is over in matters of seconds so your neighbors don't hear a thing. Or if they do, they look out and see nothing amiss.
So that's the pluses for the armed criminals. The downside for you against a group is all it takes for things to go horribly wrong, is one idiot. That unfortunately isn't just one of them deciding to pull the trigger, but also someone on your side doing the stupid. Like your teen (who ripped them off) denying he or she did and that the drugs aren't stashed in house. Or, if you decide to change your mind about complying.
For you on the plus side there's the whole, 'robbery being the goal' means once they get what they want they're gone without really hurting anyone. I know that's not reassuring. But it's definitely better than when they have other agendas. That's things get ugly. For example not just getting their drugs back, but punishing whoever ripped them off. Another example is when killing is on the agenda of one of them.
That brings us to the more violent individual. An individual invader is less likely to use the threat of violence as his opening move and more likely to physically attack. His version of gaining immediate control of the situation is to surprise his victim with attacks that stuns and/or renders the victim incapacitated. This is you open your door and are decked or you turn around in your living room and are knocked to the floor.
If you're lucky the attack stops and the threats for more (if you don't cooperate) start.
On occasion, it's not all that lucky. Teja Van Wicklen of Mommy and Me Self-Defense talks about the false hope trap of unsolicited promises. Despite all the furor over abuse and violence against women, very few women have ever been hit -- by a man -- as hard as a man hits another man. When a woman is hit this hard for the first time in her life, it's horrible. It's a level of shock, pain, and confusion that isn't just a freeze, it's physical helplessness -- especially if there were multiple hits. That isn't the trap though.
The trap is after being hit harder than she's ever experienced her attacker offers her the false hope of "cooperate and it won't happen again." When you are in intense pain, this 'deal' looks like your own chance to regain any control in the situation. It looks like the only option you have. This is not hope paralyzing you, it's your natural tendency 'to look for alternatives' being used against you. (This incidentally is the same dynamic that results in people allowing themselves to be moved to secondary locations without resistance.) This is a ploy by the attacker. Often what this 'false hope' of cooperating does is let the attacker set up doing something much worse to you.
Now for the real ugly news. For the average person, there is no way to tell if the attacks will stop if you cooperate of if it's a set up for worse (part of a sick game). In case you haven't put two and two together break-in rapists and serial killers are almost always an individual.
There's something else to consider. This idea works in concert with the Five Stages of Violent Crime. I make a distinction between normal, abnormal and dangerous circumstances. The truth is you actually have a much bigger understanding of what is normal for your regular environment. You are a walking encyclopedia of this kind of information. Unfortunately, it isn't normally conscious. You just know it when you see it. You also know what is abnormal for a situation. Yet most people can't distinguish the difference between abnormal and dangerous Criminals rely on this to take you by surprise. (Believe it or not, must muggings start out with something like "Excuse me.") When we are confronted by something that is not 'normal' that environment we seek to find a 'normal script' that tells us how to proceed.
If you're in a store turning around and seeing someone standing there is 'normal.' We expect to see other people in such an environment. There are other times we don't expect to see someone and when we do we're surprised. This is abnormal. Using an example turning around and seeing someone walking across your lawn. Is this dangerous? Well no, not usually (i.e., it's a family member, neighbor or mail man). These are what I refer to as 'normal abnormal.' They are outside 'normal,' but common enough that you know they're okay. However there are situations that are just flat out dangerous. Turning around and seeing a stranger in your house or a group of non-police rushing whoever answers the door is immediate threat.
Your mindset must go immediately to "danger" and not "what's happening?" If there's any question, it's "Do I need to be shooting now?" (We'll address this in a bit.)
I tell you this for another reason. To remove doubt. 'Normal' people know you don't walk into other people's house uninvited. Even truly neurotic and obnoxious people know not to do this kind of thing. While there may be the once-in-a -blue-moon exceptions an unannounced, uninvited stranger in your home is up to no good.
The question is are we talking a burglar or someone there to do you harm?
Burglar vs. Home Invader.
Burglary is often destructive to property, but is not threatening to people. You should know, MOST burglaries happen during the day when typically nobody is at home. There is a deliberate attempt by the burglar to avoid contact with residents. Often when discovered burglars flee. (Put a push pin in that point, we'll come back to it.)
That's what makes night prowlers more dangerous. By breaking in at night they knowingly are increasing their chances of running into someone who lives there. This is a behavior among those who do not fear using violence or are looking for an excuse to use it. Is this always the case? No, but it is a common attitude among those willing to break in at night. Others are so whacked out of their minds on drugs it's unpredictable which way they'll jump. Which is a much bigger problem if you're standing there going "Uhhh...errrr... What do I do?" instead of having shifted to a "This is a dangerous situation" mindset.
At the same time, there is an increased chance of drunks at night. Drunks are different than addicts and criminals. Yes, they too can be violent. However, drunks are known to break into houses for ...well, stupid and drunk reasons. Drunks can affect the time line for what I'm about to tell you.
I give you this break down on possible intruders to point out the differences in reactions. The reaction is important.
Like I said, a burglar will typically escape if at all possible. You come in through the garage and they go out another door. They just want gone. Knowing this is important because of different state laws about intruders in your home. States without castle laws will arrest and convict you if you shoot a fleeing burglar -- even if he has some of your property. So don't shoot. This doesn't mean you have carte blanche to shoot someone in the back even in states with castle doctrine laws. But if he's running, it's best to let him go and call the police.
There's something you should know. You don't have to 'confront' a burglar. Often he'll beat feet the second he realizes someone is home. Noise alone can send them scampering. Flipping the lights on and off can send them packing as well. You don't have to ninja up on them and hold them for the police. A loud "GET OUT OF HERE" from the top of the stairs is often enough to send them legging it across the yard.
Know however a burglar can turn into a cornered rat if escape routes are cut off. When I came home for lunch, I had one try and plant my roommate's camping hatchet in my head. I'd unwittingly trapped him upstairs. He swung the ax. I moved. He missed. I had a knife. Realizing the new circumstances weren't good for either of us, we had to find a Plan B. It required some negotiation but we worked it out. (I gave him a five minute head start before I called the cops.) He left without anything in his pockets and both of us had a story Which actually worked out because word got around about the crazed maniac at my address. Nobody ever tried to break in again.
Whereas a drunk or mentally handicapped person will often stand there in confusion if you confront him. Which is part of the reason you don't want to be close. Remember, drunks aren't running on all cylinders so they may be a little slow to respond. This is a gray area. If he's not advancing, you're probably better off giving him time to figure out that leaving is the best idea.
The reaction that warrants an immediate response is if he advances. This regardless of speed, smiles, excuses or blind rage, advancing is bad.
It's already a dangerous behavior, now it's moving into immediate threat because he's moving into attack range. That's what's going to dictate your response. Of course, that really applies when they're charging through the door yelling and waving weapons.
Well you don't have to have a gun. Unfortunately the level of force likely to cause lethal damage is what it takes to stop home invasions -- especially from multiples. The issue of them being armed or not isn't much of a issue when you understand that when they are attacking, their numbers are the weapon. Their behavior puts you in immediate danger of death or grievous bodily injury
That means whatever option you choose has to match that danger. As such, it falls under the same restrictions and standards of a gun. It's use of lethal force whether the attacker lives or dies, you must defend the reasonableness of your use of that item.
Their strategy is to hit with overwhelming force to render you helpless. Once you are helpless you literally are at their mercy and there's nothing you can do to stop them from taking it as far as they want. Understanding this key point is the key to acting from a position of reasonable belief about the danger of the circumstances. Like I said, you have to be able to explain it. And explain it under assault from a word-wrangler hell bent of convincing the jury that you over-reacted.
Now this may sound like I'm doing an end run around the 'You don't have to have a gun.' It's not. What I will tell you is owning a gun is a lot more than just buying a gun and bullets. If you do go the gun route -- especially if you have children or teens in the house -- is look into fast access safes to keep a gun in. They're small, can be mounted on the wall and have many safety features. So many of the arguments about having a gun in the house with children are addressed.
Still that's not the end of the costs over and above a gun. GET TRAINING! There's a saying in the shooting world. "Every bullet comes with a little lawyer attached." Set aside money to take training. I highly recommend you spend a chunk of money on training on legal issues surrounding use of lethal force.
There is US Law Shield. Their training is a good starting place. Take a class with them to acquaint yourself with the issues of lethal force use. The group that I hands down recommend is Armed Citizens Legal Defense Network. Go out and look into what both organizations offer and make a decision as an informed consumer about which direction you want to go.
I recommend you take this training on use of lethal force for any home defense item you choose regardless of what it is. And that includes if you choose a sword or machete instead of a gun. Remember, they're all lethal force. As such using them is easy. Knowing when to use them is the hard part.
Oh and now that you know we're talking about having to use lethal force if a home invasion occurs, doesn't beefing up your home security (so you don't have to use it) begin to sound a little better?
1)The reason for this disagreement is categorization -- especially over robbery. First off being forced to move against your will is kidnapping in most states. So arguably the 'bad' is already 100%. Being moved to a secondary location can give the robber more time to search you for extra loot. But if you're being robbed any way does that really matter in a statistical sense? Return to Text
2) The book "Freakonomics" by Levitt and Dubner has a chapter titled "Why do drug dealers still live with their moms." It has a very good break down on how drug dealing is a giant pyramid scheme... with the dealers being the low man on the totem pole. I was amazed to find a non-law enforcement source that understood -- and could explain -- the process. Return to Text