Last week I asked you to try making your own local threat assessment grid (LTAG), like the sample shown above. Assuming you did so, I’ll now try my hand at explaining just what a powerful tool this grid can be.
Remember, the purpose of doing this exercise is to limit the number of actionable and credible threats to your community that you’ll try to investigate at one time. With limited resources, you need to focus first on those threats with the highest potential impact and the highest potential likelihood.
But before we get into it, I need to do a bit of housekeeping.
In last week’s commentary, reader “AN8340” asked a very reasonable question concerning why I placed the potential for a Mongol invasion on the grid at all. Specifically, he was referring to the “Golden Horde” spot in the upper-right quadrant.
My apologies. Just like any “community,” preppers have developed their own terminology (one of those “symbols” I mentioned in an earlier column that are unique to the community). In the prepper community, the term “Golden Horde” is shorthand for a flood of city dwellers streaming into the surrounding areas following a major disaster. It’s a very popular device in a lot of dystopian novels, but not a concept I find nearly as credible as a lot of my fellow survivalists. So there you go.
This whole section on the intelligence and threat assessment cycle will, of necessity, be far too short and incomplete. I urge you, the prepper community leader, to get hold of Sam Culper’s book “SHTF Intelligence: An Intelligence Analyst’s Guide to Community Security,” join his website, and if possible attend one of his classes.
Disclaimer: I am not Sam. I am not paid by Sam. I do not get any “kickbacks” on anything he sells. But what he teaches is vital for a prepper community to learn. Heck, I’ll even go so far as to say, join his website for a month, rip it clean and then quit – although if you do, you’ll lose a lot of great and frequent updates.
Is prepping the right thing for to do for Christians? Or should we just be trusting in the Lord? Learn about that balance in “Be Thou Prepared” by Carl Gallups – “Equipping the Church for Persecution and Times of Trouble.”
All right, housekeeping done. Now let’s take a look at the LTAG I prepared for our mythical Yakima Narrows community (pictured at top). Let’s say the Narrows are located roughly seven miles from the city of Yakima, Washington (pop. 90,000+) on River Road, a paved two-lane that is the only way to reach the Narrows community. River Road ultimately dead-ends a few miles beyond the Narrows. Our Area of Operation (AO) (defined as that area in which community leaders can exercise levels of relatively unfettered security control) is currently defined by the boundaries we established in creating our community. Because of its size, proximity and ease of access to River Road, the city of Yakima makes up much of the Narrows community’s “Area of Interest” (AI) (defined as that area adjacent to the AO that can materially affect community operations and potentially containing threats that are not under control by community leaders).
So why do I show gangs as the most dire and likely threat? Well, because (hypothetically) living near Yakima makes me well aware that Yakima is one of the most ganged-up towns per capita in Washington state. Any quasi-organized and armed criminal group in close proximity to your AO is going to score high on your LTAG.
Having filled out my LTAG, it’s time to begin the process of:
- Gathering information on the highest level threats
- Turning that information into vetted and specific intelligence
- Using that intelligence to determine potential actions
Let me repeat again: This article is a very bare-bones and woefully incomplete survey of the best practices for intelligence analysis, threat assessment and mitigation. You should get hold of some of the more in-depth publications out there on the subject.
Also, if at all possible, you should – at a minimum – apportion the information gathering, intelligence development and assessment portions to different people. If you try doing the whole thing by yourself, you’ll probably still be better off than if you do nothing, but you’ll be advancing your own preconceived biases into each step. The process isn’t linear, it’s circular. At each step, additional information may be requested from the collectors and analysts. If you are wearing all the hats, you’ll likely miss a vital question that needs answering because you think you know how everything should go.
So let’s take a quick look at information gathering on the street gangs of Yakima. First, remember that information is not intelligence. Simply because you heard it, or read it, or even saw it, doesn’t make it so. The word you get from someone on the street will be flavored by that person’s intelligence, frame of mind, and point of view; and given the spate of “fake news” we’re deluged with daily, even the “fair and balanced” media can’t be trusted to get it right.
However, when it comes to something like gang activity, a lot of data can be collected right off the Internet. For example, the names and territories of a number of the Yakima gangs can be seen on the map below:
Additionally, CrimeReports, a nation-wide crime database, and locally the Yakima Herald, both make available customizable incident maps like the one above. Also, a great deal of useful information can be derived from CityData, including general demographics by race, income and country of origin, as well detailed FBI crime statistics.
In Yakima, according to multiple sources, the two largest and most active gangs are the Nortenos 14 and the Surenos 13, both originally founded in California and allied respectively with the Bloods and the Crips. Most of the smaller gangs in Yakima are allied with either the Nortenos or the Surenos.
Some very specific information, such as gang membership, weapons types favored by specific gangs, street signs and tags, and more can be also be harvested from the Internet because gangs have discovered social media.
Google Earth Street View is also a valuable tool for checking the veracity of supposed gang territory, because it makes it easy (and safe) to cruise the neighborhoods and look for gang boundary tags.
Other sources can be more hands-on. Set up a meeting with the local sheriff to discuss a neighborhood watch, and have prepared questions on gang locations, activities, weapons, gang reach outside of the city boundaries, etc. Join the local anti-gang community task force, and talk to local business owners about gang problems they’ve observed.
Collecting information is important, but you and your gatherers must also resist the collection of extraneous data. Finding out that the Surenos are partial to vanilla ice cream doesn’t add anything to the security needs of the Narrows. And from the standpoint of intelligence analysis (although it may seem heartless), the only real advantage of knowing the names of gang violence victims is their potential use as information sources.
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So you’ve collected a boat-load of data on the Yakima street gangs. Now that information needs to be handed over to the analysts. Next week we’ll cover what they will do with it. Until then, get prepared.