BALTIMORE, MD – APRIL 27: Demonstrators climb on a destroyed Baltimore Police car in the street near the corner of Pennsylvania and North avenues during violent protests following the funeral of Freddie Gray April 27, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland. Gray, 25, who was arrested for possessing a switch blade knife April 12 outside the Gilmor Homes housing project on Baltimore’s west side. According to his attorney, Gray died a week later in the hospital from a severe spinal cord injury he received while in police custody. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Everywhere you look, social media platforms, news outlets, and papers (for those who still buy them), you will see images of violence, protests, and in some cities, the aftermath of what looks like a war zone from overseas. These images are disturbing because when we see such visuals, our brains are accustomed to thinking, this is a scene from a movie or from some war-torn, third-world country. Unfortunately, this is not happening in some far-off land or on a movie set, it is happening right here on American soil. In our own neighborhoods, in big cities, and now in smaller communities that were once thought of as being bastions of safety.

With abnormal violence on our streets in this current political climate, every community is affected by what is going on across our nation. With police departments stretched to the max, underfunded (and now possibly facing defunding in many cities), overworked, and stressed out, protecting our homes and communities, is starting to fall on average everyday citizens of this country. In many of these cities, the police response time to a crime of any manner is on average 5 to 10 minutes. Anyone who has been in a gunfight, been attacked, or been a victim of a violent crime knows that the first 30 seconds to 2 minutes is a crucial time for survival rates. I would elect to say it is more like between 2 seconds and 1 minute. The chart below shows average police response times in some of the major cities.

Many of the cities in the graph above are plagued with violence and riots. So, these response times are going to double if not triple the national average. With that said, how does one rely on the police to protect their communities, homes, and families? If you live in one of these major cities, in my opinion, you will not be able to rely upon the police during a violent situation given what is going on currently in those cities. This is where self-reliance and self-defense come into play. Those topics are vague and can vary depending on your level of training and economic standing.

How does one protect themselves? First off, educating yourself, your family and your community is simple, free, and easy. Most of us have access to the internet, whether that is by cellular device, laptop or desktop computer, or tablet. The amount of information out there is astronomical. We can educate ourselves with knowledge of current situations on the ground in our communities, possible threats, and even places to avoid crime data websites. Many of these sites such as the FBI crime statistics and even real estate listing websites have an accumulation of crime data for neighborhoods and cities. Below you will see links to these sites.

One way to avoid becoming a victim of violent crimes and protests is self-defense. I am not just talking about hand-to-hand combat techniques; I am also talking about personal-security awareness. Knowing how to defend yourself with weapons and just your hands is paramount in today’s world but knowing your surroundings is a form of self-defense as well. There are myriad classes and styles of martial arts and self-defense courses one can take. I personally recommend Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, specifically combat jiu-jitsu. Another is Krav Maga and Tony Blauer’s SPEARS System. Many of these styles and disciplines teach self-awareness and self-reliance. I urge all those who live in major cities and even in rural areas to seek out these systems.

Secondly, personal security awareness is one of the most important ways to protect yourself and your family. Being hyper-aware of your surroundings does not mean you need to be walking around with your hands up or concealed carry drawn and ready to fight. But more so, being aware of what is going on around you. Knowing what streets to travel on, what stores to avoid, what routes to take daily, and which ones to avoid are all key to survival in the current situation we are faced with right now. Varying your routes to and from work, from home to the store, and or any other daily duties you must get out for. By doing this you know what routes safe and which ones are not.

Lastly, we come to the infamous firearms piece of self-defense. Unfortunately, in many cities that are stricken with violence right now, carrying firearms is illegal. If you live in a state where you can own a firearm and carry it either concealed or open carry, seek out your local laws on firearms. Seek out training from either local law enforcement, gun ranges, and or tactical training companies if you can afford them. Remember, taking one of these courses is not enough, one must continually train with your gear and train like you are going to fight while being safe. Knowing how to use your gear and firearms under moments of high stress is paramount. Seek out stress inoculation-based training, this will prepare you for that moment when you are in the face of danger and your brain will remember how to function in those moments. As the old saying goes, “Practice makes perfect.”

In closing, these are just a few tips on how to stay safe in this current time with violent protests and rioting, and looting in our cities. Constantly seek out information on how to stay safe if you do not know already. Avoid bad situations at all costs, train as you fight, and most of all stay safe and healthy.

-Justen Keating


By Justen Keating

Justen Keating is a Marine with multiple combat deployments. A former contractor for the CIA, a podcast co-host on the Area of Operations podcast. He is the founder of Keating Global Risks, a firm that consults on protection of high-net worth individuals, trains law enforcement, and consults on travel security issues. He is the author of The Protector Series books, a contributing author for EP Wired Magazine, writes product reviews for Spotterup, and is fellow for National Security issues with the Joseph Rainey Center for Public Policy in DC.

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