Marketplace & Public Meeting Locations

In this blog post, I’ll share how you might help a family member or friend who has concerns about whether a Marketplace exchange location is in a relatively safe area.  A client, let’s call her Rebecca, reached out for help as she and her husband were scheduled to pick up a puppy. The time and location had already been set near Michigan City, and her concern was whether the area was safe.  I inquired what time the exchange was supposed to occur and learned it was in the afternoon.  I explained that when I know I have to go into a dangerous area with higher crime, I try to do so in the daylight morning hours and do my best to leave such an area by noon or shortly after noon.  The last thing I want to do is be in a higher-crime, dangerous area from sunset to sunrise.  

One of my favorite internet tools for identifying dangerous high-crime areas is crimegrade.org.  CrimeGrade has tabs for overall crime, property crimes, and violent crimes. Clicking on the “more” tab provides numerous categories of crimes, such as murder, robbery, and drug crimes.  Rebecca had agreed to meet the sellers and purchase the puppy at a gas station just south of Michigan City, as seen below.

The seller, Rebecca, and her husband were traveling to make this exchange happen, so it needed to happen in this area.  As you can see in the illustration above, there is a dangerous area just north of the gas station.  Dangerous areas are dangerous because of dangerous people who live in and move around those dangerous areas.  So, it’s not unreasonable to believe some dangerous men will drive to the gas station for gasoline.  Also, some dangerous men will have to walk to gas stations to purchase things like cigarettes, food items, blunts (cigars) to pack their cannabis into, drinks (including alcohol), and any other items commonly sold at a gas station.  Gas stations in or near higher crime dangerous areas are often magnets for crimes like robberies and carjackings.  The dark green area indicates a low crime rate in this case.  I used Google Earth with the street view to do a drive-by to check the terrain and see if there were better options for Rebecca, her husband, and the family selling the puppy. 

The image on the top left (Google Earth) shows the original meeting location. We see a motorcycle dealership in the top right image, just north of the gas station. In the bottom left image, north of the stop light on the opposite side of US 421, we see a large car dealership. In the bottom right image, which is north of the large car dealership, we find a tractor and lawn-type business.  

If you were to do an internet search for robberies at car dealerships, you’d find a long list of after-hours burglaries and car thefts.  

I reminded Rebecca that people are the problem. Today, many young men are making it easier to identify potential threats, as they have capitalized on the COVID mask-wearing phenomenon long after the initial fears of COVID have subsided.  Wearing a COVID mask with a hood up conceals one’s identity.  I told Rebecca I’d probably change the meeting place to the car lot.  Salesmen looking to sell inventory to prospective buyers will watch car lots better, which means at some point, you might have to deal with a car salesman briefly. Still, men concealing their identities are less likely to walk onto or loiter on the car lot.  The probability of me having a problem even at the gas station is relatively low because it’s not a high-crime area. However, it is close to a high-crime area.  Moving the meeting place to a car dealership further lowers the probability.

I made it clear to Rebecca that if she needed anything else, she should give me a call.  I followed up with her later to see how it went.  Rebecca advised that she and her husband parked far out in the car lot, and the exchange went perfectly, with no sketchy people coming anywhere near them.  

While writing this, I revisited the area via Google Earth. I did a larger street view driveby going into the higher-crime, more dangerous area to the north to see if there were any clues as to why the original gas station was labeled dark green, which indicates it’s a relatively safe location.  The first stop light north of the Interstate 80 exit had a gas station on three of the four corners.  

Typically, people are lazy.  Bad guys, ambush predators, and unjust criminal aggressors are no exception to this general laziness rule.   This goes a long way to explaining how this gas station south of Interstate 80 could have such a safe rating.  

Several months ago, my wife and I attempted to help a good friend with a Marketplace purchase. Still, the experience was so bad we decided not to purchase anything using Marketplace. That’s a story for another blog post.  

Throttle Control

What is the principle of Throttle Control as Humilitas First teaches it? Throttle control involves knowing when to advance aggressively, hold, or withdraw to a better defensive position. That’s the first part. The second part involves doing the least expected things and learning to go against social norms.  

I’ll share my introduction to the concept of Throttle Control with you.  As a rookie police officer, I was blessed to get a short temporary rotation with a field training officer (we’ll call him Vic), also a member of our department’s Neighborhood Team Police unit (NTP).  NTP was a small six-man unit dedicated to working in public housing.  Later, NTP took on a more proactive role in dealing with hot spot locations targeting gang and drug-related violence surrounding the early 1990s onset of crack cocaine.  This unit was a precursor to our department’s Gang Mobile Unit (GMU) and later Street Crimes Unit (SCU).   Vic was experienced working in high crime, dangerous areas around dangerous men and was also a member of our department’s SWAT team, called the Emergency Response Team (ERT).  

Vic tells me, “John Jones has a warrant for his arrest.  He’s standing on the corner of 14th and Mason, talking to a female.  See him?  The guy with the white sweatshirt.”   

“Yes, I see him,” I responded.

“Here’s the deal: We’re going to walk near Mr. Jones, and at the last possible moment, you’re going to turn and grab hold of his arm so he can’t run. Do you understand?”  Vic asks.  

“Yes, I understand.”  

Vic goes on, “Whatever you do, don’t say one word before grabbing hold of Mr. Jones. If you say one word, he’ll turn and run. Do you understand?” 

“Yes, I got it – no talking.”  

Vic made me repeat it all back to him.  These were straightforward instructions.  I knew exactly what I needed to do, but when the moment came to my shock, I found myself saying to John Jones, “Turn around and place your hands on the car.”  John Jones immediately turned and ran westbound through the public housing complex.  Fortunately, for my sake, I had just graduated from the police academy and, at twenty-four years old, was in the best cardiovascular shape of my life.  I was able to run John Jones down, tackle him, and, after a brief struggle, secure him in handcuffs.  Later, Vic asks me why I didn’t just do what he told me.

I didn’t understand it then, but I’ve realized it primarily concerned an inability to go against the social norms.  It’s not normal to pretend to be disinterested in a person and then suddenly turn and grab hold of them using surprise, speed, and domination.  That is not how I was raised.  You might imagine this is all about being polite, but it wasn’t that.  I was raised in a blue-collar hilljack town that valued fair fights highly.  To do what he told me to do felt odd, awkward, and just wrong.  I didn’t yet understand how important it was to be cunning in violent encounters with bad guys.  

Looking back, the best answer I could have given Vic is that I was still a civilian.  Sure, I had the uniform, the gear, and all that went with the responsibility of being a police officer, but my nature hadn’t yet changed.  I had not transitioned to any degree of comfort in doing odd and awkward things against my social norms, ie, my upbringing.  

This second part involves learning to throttle back when social norms insist you should throttle forward.  Likewise, it consists of learning to throttle forward when social norms say you should throttle back.  Sometimes, stopping short and holding, say when everyone else pulls up to the crosswalk at an intersection.  Doing the least expected things creates uncertainty, doubt, and often hesitation in your adversary’s mind.  This confuses a bad guy as he wonders what he is seeing here.  Is he looking at a wolf just like himself, or is he looking at a police officer who’s figured him out?    

Despite this embarrassing failure several months later, this same field training officer was instrumental in helping me join the Neighborhood Team Policing unit.  I spent the next two years working this forerunner unit to our modern-day Street Crimes Unit.  The experiences gained were part of my formation as a police officer, for which I am grateful.  I learned a lot about small-unit tactics as they relate to dealing with homegrown criminals.  Bad guys who already understand how to use surprise, speed, domination, or violence of action to stack odds in their favor.  Police officers have to learn to throw off the social norms of their upbringing to effectively and efficiently deal with or stop unjust, threats to innocent citizens, their brothers and sisters in arms, and themselves.

Four Public Safety Rules

Humilitas First recommends four rules to reduce your chances of facing a deadly force confrontation.  Here are a few reasons we find ourselves breaking one or more of these rules:

  • Family Commitments 
  • Unique Shopping Opportunities
  • Work or Business Related

Strive to avoid breaking all four rules at the same time.

Rule #1 Avoid High Crime Dangerous Areas

The gold standard for identifying a high crime dangerous geographical area is illegal shots fired.  Good luck finding a city willing to plot these locations on a map.  If your city uses a service like ShotSpotter, you could submit a FOIA request to identify where city fathers have deployed the acoustic sensors.  For every gun-related homicide, there are multiple times more shootings involving a gunshot wound where the person survives.  For every shooting involving a gunshot wound, there are numerous times more illegal shots fired.  Look at the shooting map above from Peoria, Illinois, from 2017 to see how the shooting victims plotted on a map provides us with a fairly well-defined geographical area to avoid.  This well-defined area would fill in and grow if the illegal shots fired were added to this map. 

These violent crimes do not occur in a vacuum.  The geographical areas where you have unjustified shootings and murders include all other violent crimes—robbery, vehicular hijacking, vehicular invasion, aggravated battery, aggravated assault, and kidnapping.  When my children were old enough to drive, they used one of our two vehicles.  My police career was in Springfield, Illinois, population 113,394 (2021).  The first thing I did was print off a map of Springfield and geographically define for my children where my vehicle is not permitted to go.  Thereby limiting where my children were allowed to go.  

To understand what geographical areas should be avoided, befriend a police officer and ask him or seek out the data showing where most violent crime occurs.  If you cannot find a shooting map that plots out where the shootings and murders are happening, then I’ll give you a couple of other useful tools that I trust.  

Crimegrade.org offers mapping with tabs for violent crime overall, and then, under more, you’ll find additional tabs for individual crimes like murder, robbery, assault, and drug crimes, to name a few.

City-data.com provides a more intensive research capability as you can look at how many murders, robberies, rapes, assaults, etc, have occurred in a particular city over a several-year period.   

Rule #2 Avoid Dangerous Men

I’ve heard firearms instructors ask the question: Can you look at a person and tell whether they’re a potentially dangerous man?  Then, they’ll let you know that you cannot tell whether a person is potentially hazardous by their appearance.  They are wrong.  This is about probabilities. Some would then use the Ted Bundy argument.  Ted Bundy could dress and comport himself to appear helpless, injured, and in need of assistance or polite and helpful.  Ted Bundy was an outlier.  Even with an outlier like Ted Bundy, some principles can assist you and your family in avoiding such extreme murderous traps.  

With an outlier like Ted Bundy, you have to understand proxemics.  Proximity is king when it comes to identifying a potential threat. Here are three leadership rules I frequently ask myself during my law enforcement career.  

  1. Where am I leading my people (or where am I being led by others)?
  2. Can I, should I?
  3. Why now?

Where was Ted Bundy leading his victims?  What emotions did he tap into to move his victims towards his murderous traps?  Ask yourself where your feelings are leading you.  If you’re being led to an isolated, lonely place of vulnerability, then yes, you can, but no, you should not!   Proximity is king.  

If a man dresses like an outlaw-type motorcycle gang member or an inner-city gang member, they are making a statement to the world, and that statement is: I’m a dangerous man!  Why wouldn’t you believe him?  Some would argue that a particular person is just playing dress up as a want-to-be.  My response is in the form of a question: What do they want to be?  In other words, what vices does a particular person value highly?  What do they want to be? The difference between a want-to-be and someone who is what they purport to be through things like dress, adornment (prison & gang tattoos), and comportment is time and opportunity.  If they want to become something long enough, an opportunity will eventually present itself, and they’ll become what they want to be.  Do you want to be their opportunity?  I don’t.  So I’ll box around or avoid those kinds of men.  If you believe that a Christmas toy drive for children means outlaw biker groups are a bastion of virtue, then you are exceedingly naive.  If you buy into the political correctness of not saying anything negative about inner-city street gangs, then you are not dealing with personal safety from the perspective of reality.  You are entertaining fantasy, myth, and grave errors.  

A man’s disposition or mood is another aspect of identifying a potentially dangerous man.  If I hear a man screaming profanities into his phone as he walks down the street, I will simply move offline so I don’t have a ‘meet and greet’ with that man.  If I hear a loud argument in a high-crime, dangerous area, I wouldn’t be surprised if the next thing I hear is shots fired.  Of course, not every argument in a high-crime area leads to such an event, but the point is that it wouldn’t surprise me.  Say I was visiting my sister-in-law, who lives in a high-crime, geographically dangerous area, and outside, I heard angry, profane screaming begin.  While most folks would want to look out the window to see what’s happening, I’d rather move our conversation downstairs to her basement.  Why?  The same reason as an officer, when we had a standoff with an armed barricaded subject, we’d tell the neighbors if they didn’t want to evacuate for the afternoon, our recommendation was they shelter in place in their basement.  Fox holes stop bullets.  Here are some other dispositions to avoid:

  • Lawless Spirits
  • Party Spirits
  • Spirit of Madness

Rule #3 Avoid Dangerous Periods

Avoid going to high-crime, dangerous areas and around dangerous men from sunset to sunrise. Summertime or warm weather is another period to avoid entering high-crime, dangerous places.  If I had to go to such an area, I’d prefer to do so during the early daylight morning hours up until about noon.  Pay attention to times when shootings are being reported in your geographical area or those areas nearby that you frequent.  

Rule #4 Don’t Loiter or Hang Out in Areas of High Vulnerability

With good planning, you can reduce the number of tasks needed in a dangerous geographical area with high crime rates.  Learn to be more efficient when arriving and departing in a high-crime, dangerous area.  Humilitas First has a YouTube channel dedicated to educating innocent people of goodwill on this subject matter. It is at https://www.youtube.com/@humilitasfirst/videos.  

Unjust criminal aggressors hunt for and exploit opportunities to make you their next crime victim.  They exploit vulnerabilities.  If I need to go to Peoria to shop at Sam’s Club, I will box around the heart of a city like Peoria using an interstate bypass like Interstate 474.  I’m not stopping in Peoria for gasoline, fast food, banking, or other tasks on my list.  I’ll save those tasks for the more conservative county where I live, with a far lower crime rate.  These choices don’t provide a guarantee as there are no guarantees.  They provide common sense probabilities to help keep your family and yourself relatively safer than the bad choices.  

De-escalation as a Standalone is a LIE!

Deescalation is often used as a buzzword without clear definition, especially by politicians and incompetent individuals. The analogy of cutting off the negative battery cable from a car illustrates the folly of focusing solely on de-escalation without considering escalation. Humilitas First teaches the principle of Throttle Control, emphasizing the importance of understanding both de-escalation and escalation.

De-escalation is appropriate when a potentially violent confrontation has not escalated to an imminent deadly force threat by the unjust criminal aggressor. Once such a threat exists, stopping the threat through incapacitation is necessary. Proper training for law enforcement and civilians requires accepting reality and recognizing that bad actors often use surprise, speed, and violence of action.

Prioritizing life by valuing the unjust aggressor’s life over innocent civilians or law enforcement officers is misguided. Society’s abandonment of truth for fantasies and myths complicates these discussions, highlighting the importance of a clear understanding of self-defense.