Feb 27, 2013

You (and yours) are on your own

Peter over at BRM linked to a several-year-old post of his regarding a neighborhood watch group pulled together after Hurricane Gustav.

We've distributed our telephone numbers to all nearby, and asked them to call us if there's any indication of trouble. We also patrol our area at night, taking it in shifts, keeping an eye on houses whose occupants have evacuated, or who are on duty with law enforcement, medical services, fire brigades and other essential services. Of course, we've informed our local cops about our activities, and they're very happy about it. It means they can deploy their limited resources to areas where they're most needed, and leave us to handle things here.
Read the whole thing, and ponder it a bit.

According to Wikipedia, as of 2010 there were just shy of 800,000 police officers in the United States, or about one for every four hundred people. Without getting into operational or sensitive stuff, the ratio isn't that high in most locales, and that's counting in the admin staff who have a badge and gun, investigators that haven't worked a beat in years, etc.

Now, keep in mind that cops aren't supermen. They'll work some long hours (and make some serious OT) as needed, but in major-crisis times the standard procedure is 12-on-12-off and no weekends. So at any given time only half the officers in your area might be working - or maybe the admin will nudge around scheduling a bit to deal with peak crime hours, and two thirds will be on duty.

Where are they going to patrol? Where the crimes are happening. Initially it will be based on historical patterns, and then adjusting as new trends emerge. Even when they're patrolling the hot spots, crime will happen in other places.

It takes time to get from A to B, especially in a disaster. Roads may be blocked, narrowed, or washed out. Calls for service are stacked up. Just because crimes of opportunity have skyrocketed doesn't mean the "regular" workload goes away. People will still be having domestic incidents, drinking and driving, making noise complaints, and all the other daily stuff that happens.

I work in a county of *mumble* square miles. At any given time there are *mutter* officers on-duty. I have been on the phone with knock-down drag-out physical domestics for ten, fifteen, or even twenty minutes waiting for an officer to get there.

Change the call nature... your neighbor has evacuated for a storm, and a carload of opportunists has decided to redistribute his wealth.

"Hey, we called the cops, and they're on the way!"
"Excuse me. I've never seen you around here before. How about you set that TV down so we can chat about it while we wait for an officer to get here?" (Said with a smile and an 870.)

That particular image is from a Guardian article after Katrina.

I live on a small road. Five houses. I'm on a first-name basis with ALL of my neighbors. We're not real close, but we know what everyone drives. I know what lights are normally on when.

And ... every single house on the road owns guns. Right after we bought the house, MrsZ heard shooting from across the street. Instead of calling the police, she grabbed her ears and wandered over to see what they were using - and ended up staying for dinner.

Community isn't just a notion.

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