The short answer is yes, but as with my most short answers, there should be a closer look to truly understand the answer.

The question above is purposely vague and so my short answer is a yes, but of course it all depends.  It depends on what the expected impact is for the shrubbery.  If a business were to have the expectation that a row of shrubbery around the front of the property would stop an angry customer from attacking the building…well you know the answer is no longer yes.

If the expectation is that nobody would dare walk through or hop over the shrubbery to commit a property or violent crime, then again the answer would no longer be yes. 

So what good could a row of shrubbery be?

We turn to a concept first made popular in the 1970’s, although it didn’t take off until much later.  The concept is called Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED).  This concept covers everything from designing buildings to eliminate blind spots where crimes can occur outside the view of the building tenants, all the way to…yes the placement of shrubbery.

Essentially, placing shrubbery around the perimeter of your property makes it clear to everyone where the public belongs and where they don’t. 

It reminds me of waste high turnstiles.  Somebody once challenged our security team how a criminal could simply hop over the recently installed turnstiles.  Our response was that somebody hopping over a turnstile would draw the attention of the dozens of employees sitting in view of the turnstiles.  The person hopping the turnstile would have no explanation if confronted, as it would be obvious to everyone the turnstile hopping person was up to no good. 

More importantly, the turnstiles were used to track badge scans, which is important information for emergencies and even investigations.  So, just like the turnstiles, a row of shrubbery can be a great security investment if your intention is to set your space apart from the public’s.  Anybody on the wrong side of the shrubbery would clearly be trespassing and should be confronted appropriately. 

The extra bonus:  a row of beautifully manicured shrubbery is more pleasing for employees than a metal fence.

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If you grew up in the 80’s and 90’s, I am sure you had your share of Stranger Danger talks from parents and schools. “Don’t talk to strangers.”  “Don’t take candy from strangers.” Kids were taught to scream “Stranger Danger” when any adult male they didn’t know spoke to them out in public.

Why did we have these campaigns?  The answer really goes back to the 1960’s when news agencies began reporting on child kidnappings. By the 1980’s these stories were everywhere. I am not trying to blame the media, but let’s face the fact that people develop worry and anxiety over things they see in the news because it feels like these bad things happen everywhere all the time.

Communities had to do something, and so out of love for our children, we taught them not to talk to strangers.  It does seem to make sense based upon the notion that strangers are kidnapping our children all the time.

In today’s world, we don’t hear this message coming from our schools and community agencies any more (although I still hear parents having focused conversations with their kids about not talking to strangers). Why don’t we teach this in our schools anymore, you might ask? 

Because not only doesn’t it work, it can be unhealthy. 

First, let’s think about why it doesn’t work.  How many times have you seen Stranger Danger tested to a parent’s dismay?  A parent tells his 6 year old over and over not to talk to strangers.  Then the parent tests the 6 year old by having a fake “stranger” talk to them and the 6 year old walks off with the “stranger.”  The parent is frustrated and embarrassed at failing as a parent.  Sorry parents, your kids just aren’t going to be great at ignoring and avoiding strangers 100% of the time.  To confuse kids more, we encourage them to talk to some strangers and not others.  They see us talking to strangers.  We tell them to be nice to people.  Oh, but if a scary looking “dangerous” man approaches your kid, they need to scream and run away.  Wait, what makes a man scary looking or dangerous?  What if the man is nice?  You get the point – teaching your kids not to talk to strangers is too complicated for us, let alone them.

The reality is Stranger Danger doesn’t work because it does not put people and situations into context.  I often talk about how context is everything.  Strangers are not dangerous.  People who commit violent crime are dangerous.  How do we know the difference?  You need context.   

Speaking of context, here is some for you parents.  The US Department of Justice tells us 99% of kidnappings are from known persons – not strangers.  The vast majority of missing children are runaways, not victims of kidnapping.  The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children does not teach Stranger Danger anymore by the way.

My second point is how Stranger Danger is actually unhealthy. There are almost just as many stories of kids avoiding rescue workers out of fear as there are stories of kids being kidnapped.  That’s right, the flip side of Stranger Danger is your child is so scared to talk to strangers, they don’t talk to the ones who are sent to save them.  Talk about adding trauma to a lost child at the amusement park. Not only would they be scared they are lost, they are scared of all those strangers just swarming around them.  Further, they have nobody to turn to for help.  

Do we really want our children to think strangers are bad?  Do you think strangers are bad?  I sure don’t. Strangers not only aren’t bad, they can be the people who come to our rescue in times of need.  Strangers become our new friends. Strangers change our lives for the better all the time.  I say strangers are good.  

If you want to give your kids tools to stay safe, please first put some thought into what their actual risks are.  If your only focus is on a stranger abducting your child, you are statistically focused on the least likely risk for your child.  With that said, you can have rules about having to get your permission before they go anywhere with someone. Or that they have to tell you if someone asks them to keep a secret.  Educate them on who to talk to when they need help – police officers, teachers, people working at a store, nurses, doctors, etc. 

I know it feels like we just can’t win as parents:  Save our kids from kidnapping – teach them Stranger Danger. Oh no, Stranger Danger is actually bad? You just can’t win.

I am not trying to make parents feel like failures.  To the contrary, I want you to be more effective.  Avoiding danger and violence simply needs to start with first understanding what your risks are.  And I’m sorry, your view on risk will be skewed if you get your understanding from the scariest news stories of the day.  To get started, try searching some trusted sites to get the facts. Put some thought into what are the actual risks, not your anxiety about risk.

I am confident once you know the risks, you will do an amazing job at giving your children the right tools to stay safe. 

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I believe it is essential to understand how your instincts work for 3 reasons:

  1. First, understanding your instincts helps you to TRUST your instincts
  2. Secondly, you can train yourself to AVOID INTERFERRING with your instinct process
  3. Finally, you can apply practices to AMPLIFY your instincts

There is a common expression in the Information Technology business of “garbage in, garbage out.”  Perhaps you have heard this expression, or even used it many times yourself.  Essentially it means if the data coming into a system or process is of low quality, then it is a guarantee the output of that system or process is also going to also be of low quality.  

This is also true of your instinct process.  The lower the quality of information coming into our instinct process, the lower the quality of the output, which is designed to protect us.  And as the author of “The Gift of Fear,” Gavin de Becker writes, the instinct process always has our best interests at heart.

Obviously I am oversimplifying how our brains work, but I found this explanation serves the purpose for this topic.  Just as a computer requires data input, so do our brains.  We obtain real-time data input through our 5 senses.  What we see, hear, smell, taste, and touch gives our brains data.  

The amazing part is what our brains are able to do with that inputted data.  We know our brains are phenomenal at making associations.  Additionally, our brains keep tons of old data files.  All of our life experiences are stored in our brain.  When we intake new information, our brains begin to make associations using our past experiences.  When our brains make an association that it doesn’t like, such as that we are in danger of some kind, it then generates an output.  It is our brain trying to influence our behavior in order to keep us safe.

Here is an example.  We see a man with a gun (data input from our eyes), our brain looks at old files and determines men with guns can hurt us, so our brains immediately try to get us to survive by giving us an output.  In this scenario the output would be fear.  Fear is a feeling we get designed to keep us safe.  You now get why Gavin titled his book, “The Gift of Fear.

Sometimes the output is much more subtle, and we get feelings we typically call “gut feelings,” or “women’s intuition.” Whatever we call these feelings, we can trust that our brains are giving these feelings to us for our good.  We can, and should, trust these feelings.  Ignoring them increases our risk of getting hurt.

Understanding this instinct process sets the foundation for how to control the garbage in part of the process.  We not only want to avoid interfering with the process by blocking good information from reaching our brains, but we also want to AMPLIFY the process by obtaining more information.  Not just more information, but better information.  How do we do this is another great topic.

 

Post author: Pete Kemme

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This is a follow-up to our last post on threat assessment. We finished our last post <here> with an alternate ending of a threat assessment on an employee named Derek.

Our threat assessment professional in the story learned that Derek had a significant amount in common with people who have committed violence.  In short – Derek not only made a threat, but he actually poses a threat.  

Now what?

This is where the process of threat management becomes essential to reducing the risk and managing the situation.  Because I will tell you – the thought process of “we can just call the police or get a protection order,” is not going to manage the threat.  In fact, both of those actions are highly intrusive and have a high likelihood of actually putting fuel on the fire.  

There are times when the police need to be called, but Just think about what it would be like to call the police on Derek in the story.  If you didn’t read the last post <here>, essentially all Derek did was get mad as he left work and mumbled loudly how he was going to burn the place down and kill everyone in it.  He committed no crime and can easily deny he meant anything he said.

What are the police going to do?  And since we now know Derek has a lot in common with people who have committed violence, don’t you think it is possible the police interaction would increase Derek’s justification for violence? 

Not to mention, Derek still works at the company.  Are you going to suspend him?  If so, are you confident you can justify that move?  

My point it, when you have a credible threat, things are very complicated and you have to think your decisions through thoroughly.  Do you call the police?  Do you interview Derek?  If so, who interviews him?  What do you talk to him about?  Do you suspend him or fire him?  What do you do when he comes back to work?  What do you do if he is doesn’t?  Who in the company do you tell?

Ideally, you need a team to answer these questions.  The team clearly needs to have the threat assessment professional in the room, but who else?  Some leadership perhaps, but not necessarily.  Human Resources?  Legal?  Risk Management?  Perhaps you can think of one or two more.  

No matter who is at the “threat management table,” the team will want to be sure think through each step with the lens of being least intrusive and least escalating.  At the same time, having Legal and Risk Management in the room will be sure the company doesn’t open itself up to liability.  

The threat assessment professional should always be the voice of deescalation, even if it is difficult for others on the team to grasp.  I have heard these questions before:

  • “What do you mean you don’t recommend we send a letter to Derek?”
  • “What do you mean we don’t address this head on?
  • “You are just going to monitor Derek for certain kinds of activity?”

It is natural for people to want to take action when they face a problem, or at least have somebody take action.  But what if the threat assessment professional says things like, “we need to make Derek feel like he won?”  That is just hard for some to grasp.

Threat management might appear counter-intuitive at times.  Threat management may need some “out of the box” thinking and creativity.  But think about the goal – you have to somehow reduce the risk Derek will commit violence at your company.  He either needs to no longer feel justified for violence, or he needs to get a stronger fear of consequences in his life, or he needs to have alternatives to violence at his disposal.  Any of those goals are most likely not achieved by direct confrontation, a protection order, or a conversation with a police officer.

I hope I have planted a seed of how complicated the threat management process is.  Stay tuned for some more examples, insights, and understanding!

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Threat assessment and threat management are clearly buzz words these days.  Although I fortunately haven’t heard these used interchangeably, I still come across people who aren’t quite sure what either of the terms truly are referring to.

I decided to take my first post on this site to do a brief introduction to this ever-increasingly important service.  First off, lets do a quick definition:

Threat Assessment:  An investigation into concerning behavior and/or comments to determine if there is a risk of violence.

Threat Management:  The active management of a situation where there is identified risk of violence.

Now what does threat assessment actually look like (we’ll tackle threat management on another post)?  In this scenario a frustrated and exhausted employee (we’ll use the name Derek) says that he is “going to burn this place down and kill everybody inside.”  He slams his computer shut and leaves for the day.

A co-worker  (we’ll use the name Lamar) doesn’t quite know what to make of what he just heard.  He doesn’t know Derek that well, but hadn’t heard anything concerning before.  Lamar then tells his boss, who contacts Human Resources (HR).

STOP!

This is when the company, particularly HR, needs to bring in the professional.  This threat assessment professional can be on staff, or could be contracted.  In any case, the voice of this professional should be taken into account now!

Why you ask?

Because a wrong move could unintentionally escalate the risk of violence.  No pressure HR folks, but your normal course of action could put fuel on the fire.  Take heart, most likely you won’t, but you have to realize it could.  Unless you know Derek intimately, you might not know where he falls on the spectrum – this spectrum meaning on one end, Derek is a solid person who simply had an awful day, and the other end where Derek is escalating towards violence in the workplace.

We’ll call this threat assessment professional Pete.  See what I did there? Pete is going to get the details of Derek’s behavior from HR. Pete could get the details straight from Lamar, however, speaking to Lamar could have negative consequences depending on factors Pete has to consider.

There isn’t initially a great amount of information in this case, but definitely something of concern with what Derek said. A typical next step would be for Pete to speak with Derek’s supervisor.  This depends on a few factors, but essentially Pete is trying to get information on two fronts without letting Derek know because it could upset him further: 

  1. How does Derek interact with people and in situations at work
  2. Data on specific factors in Derek’s overall life

Based upon what Pete learns, he hopefully will have sufficient data to determine if Derek poses a threat.  People make threats all the time, but don’t actually POSE a threat. Conversely, people who commit workplace violence have a great deal of indicators which could have predicted the violence.

Oh thank goodness, Pete was able to learn a significant about Derek and has no additional concerns. This means Derek doesn’t have a lot in common with people who are known to commit violence.  HR then has this lens to look through when he/she meets with Derek to see how Derek is doing. 

Scenario ending:  Derek has a few things going on and literally just had a bad day.  HR was able to provide Derek some additional support.

Alternate scenario ending:  Pete found out Derek has a significant amount in common with people who have committed violence. This will take us to what Threat Management looks like.  However, that is for a different post.

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