Amman had been imprisoned for terror-related offenses

Friday, February 7th, 2020

On Streatham High Road in London, a terrorist stabbed two pedestrians — and then was shot by police. There were armed police right there, on the scene? Why, yes, there were:

Press reports quickly identified the stabber as Sudesh Amman, a 20-year-old whose radical beliefs were well-known to authorities. Amman had been imprisoned for terror-related offenses and was slated to serve three years. But he was released early in late January after doing only about half that time behind bars.

According to the Deputy Assistant Commissioner (DAC) of the Metropolitan Police Service Lucy D’Orsi, Amman was being followed on foot by armed officers as “part of a proactive counter-terrorism surveillance operation.”

The counter-terrorism detail quickly shot him dead after he started stabbing at civilians at around 2pm in the afternoon London time.

DAC D’Orsi explained that Amman had been imprisoned for “Islamist-related terrorism offenses.” He was wearing a “hoax device” that was evidently intended to confuse authorities and others.

But the security detail called in “specialist explosives officers and additional armed officers to deal with the potential threat that” the device posed. They quickly determined it was a fake explosive device.

Three people were hospitalized as a result of the attack, two of whom Amman assaulted and a third was wounded “by glass following the discharge of the police firearm,” according to DAC D’Orsi.

Earlier today, the Islamic State claimed responsibility for the stabbings, describing Amman as one of its fighters.

88% of phones “lost” by the researchers were handed into the police by Tokyo residents, compared to 6% of the ones “lost” in New York

Wednesday, January 29th, 2020

If you lose your wallet or phone in a big city, it’s probably gone forever, unless that big city is Tokyo:

In 2018, over 545,000 ID cards were returned to their owners by Tokyo Metropolitan Police – 73% of the total number of lost IDs. Likewise, 130,000 mobile phones (83%) and 240,000 wallets (65%) found their way back. Often these items were returned the same day.

“When I was living in San Francisco, I remember a news story about someone in Chinatown who lost their wallet and someone else turned it in to the police,” says Kazuko Behrens, a psychologist from SUNY Polytechnic Institute, New York, US. It was such a rare case that the finder was interviewed on the local news channel and given the title “Honest man”. Such acts of ostensible integrity aren’t such a rarity in Behrens’s native Japan. “For [Japanese people] it is like, ‘Yeah! Of course they would hand it in.’“. In some ways it has become more rare if you don’t turn in a wallet. That would be a real surprise.

[...]

The officers based at Japan’s small neighbourhood police stations, called k?ban, have a very different image from police elsewhere. These stations are abundant in cities (in Tokyo there are 97 per 100 square kilometres, compared to 11 police stations per 100 square kilometres in London) meaning you are never too far from help.

The officers stationed at the k?ban are friendly – they are known to scold misbehaving teens or help the elderly cross the road. “If a child sees a police officer on the road, they usually greet them,” says Masahiro Tamura, a lawyer and law professor at Kyoto Sangyo University, Japan. “For the elderly living in the neighbourhood, police officers will call upon their residence to make sure they are alright.”

[...]

In a study comparing dropped phones and wallets in New York and Tokyo, 88% of phones “lost” by the researchers were handed into the police by Tokyo residents, compared to 6% of the ones “lost” in New York. Likewise, 80% of Tokyo wallets were handed in compared to 10% in New York. The abundance of police stations must make it easier, but is there something else going on?

Oddly, there is an exception:

Lost umbrellas, on the other hand, are rarely retrieved by their owners. Of the 338,000 handed in to Lost Property in Tokyo in 2018, only 1% found their way back to their owner.

Where do you want to be if the bad guy suddenly regains consciousness with a gun in his hand?

Thursday, January 23rd, 2020

Greg Ellifritz looks at the Texas church attack and discusses post-shooting procedures:

Given the fact that you have at least five people on the volunteer security team, how would you optimally deploy those individuals after the threat is neutralized?  Seriously.  Stop right now and think about it.  Before reading further, think about what the security team’s priorities should be after the immediate threat is no longer active.

The security staff member who took the shot approached the bad guy, kicked his gun away from him and covered the lifeless body. This is a very common reaction, especially in police shootings. I would argue that approaching the down bad guy and kicking his gun away isn’t the best course of action.

The bad guy may be playing dead. He may also be momentarily unconscious, but not out of the fight When people fall to the ground, it’s easier to get blood circulating to the brain. The person you assumed was dead may suddenly regain consciousness on the ground. Low blood pressure from hypovolemic shock reduces blood flow to the brain. When the body falls, the circulatory system doesn’t have to fight gravity any more and many times people will spontaneously “wake up.”

Where do you want to be if the bad guy suddenly regains consciousness with a gun in his hand?

I would argue that standing over the now animate armed bad guy is a poor place to be.

There’s no need to separate him from the weapon if you have enough people to cover him with a lethal force threat option. Approaching the down bad guy is dangerous. Don’t do it.

Instead, move forward only far enough that there are no innocent parties between you and the downed criminal. Get behind whatever cover you can find (the church pews would work pretty well in this case). From that position of cover, keep your gun trained on the bad guy until police arrive.

Who should do this job if you have more than one security staff member available?

I would argue that the shooter may not be the best person to perform this role. After the shooting, adrenaline will start affecting the guy who took the shot faster than the other people on the team. His hands will likely start shaking. Sometimes those folks will also get nauseous or light-headed. Do you really want the shaky-handed guy who is about to throw up covering down on the bad guy until the police arrive?

If I had five armed security staff members in a shooting like this, I would assign a different person to cover the bad guy and move the shooter to a someplace quiet and non-threatening until the cops arrive.

This kingpin strategy increased homicides by 80 percent

Wednesday, January 8th, 2020

The record shows that removing leaders often leads to more chaotic violence, Max Abrahms points out:

In January 2016, Mexican marines captured Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, the longtime head of the Sinaloa Cartel. Taking him off the streets made the gang bloodier than ever before. Not only did the amount of violence increase, but the target selection expanded to include innocent bystanders. A gang member who worked for a contemporary of El Chapo compared the type of cartel violence before and after the arrest: “If we wanted to kill you and you turned up with your wife and children, we couldn’t do anything. We couldn’t touch you. Now, they don’t give a damn … If they see you in a taco stand, they’ll come and shoot it up.”

More systematically, the economists Jason Lindo and María Padilla-Romo examined the effects of targeting high-ranking gang members on Mexican homicide rates from 2001 to 2010. This “kingpin strategy,” they found, increased homicides by 80 percent in the municipalities where the leaders had operated for at least one year.

Many militant groups have also become less restrained toward civilians after the death or imprisonment of senior figures. In 1954, the British launched Operation Anvil to stamp out the Mau Mau Uprising in Kenya. Capturing leaders around Nairobi initiated a period of uncoordinated, rudderless violence. South Africa’s African National Congress also became less tactically disciplined when its leadership was marginalized. In 1961, the ANC established an armed wing called Umkhonto we Sizwe, which came to be known as the MK. Leadership stressed the value of “properly controlled violence” to spare civilians. For three years, MK members complied by studiously avoiding terrorist attacks. After Nelson Mandela was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1964, however, young men in the ANC engaged in stone throwing, arson, looting, and brutal killings of civilians. The political scientist Gregory Houston observed that “the removal of experienced and respected leaders … created a leadership vacuum” that empowered undisciplined hotheads. When Filipino police assassinated the Abu Sayyaf founder, Abdurajak Abubakar Janjalani, in 1998, the group devolved into a movement of bandits that preyed on private citizens. When Nigerian police summarily executed the Boko Haram founder, Mohammed Yusuf, in 2009, the terrorist organization also turned ruthless against civilians. And the al-Qaeda–linked rebel group Ahrar al-Sham became even more radical after a 2014 attack on its headquarters, in the northwestern province of Idlib, Syria, took out its leadership.

The theory that removing leaders results in worse violence is supported by more than mere anecdote. In a couple of peer-reviewed studies, I’ve tested whether killing the leader of a militant group makes that group more tactically extreme. Across conflict zones from the Afghanistan-Pakistan to the Israel-Palestine theaters, my co-authors and I found that militant groups significantly increase their attacks against civilians after an operationally successful strike against their leadership. Vengeance is not the main driver, as the overall quantity of violence changes less than the quality does. So-called leadership decapitation does not elicit a paroxysm of violence, but makes it more indiscriminate against innocent civilians.

Leadership decapitation promotes terrorism by empowering subordinates with less restraint toward civilians. In empirical research, I’ve demonstrated that militant groups fare better politically when they direct their violence at military and other government targets rather than civilians. Unlike guerrilla attacks against government targets, terrorist attacks against civilian targets tend to reduce popular support, empower hard-liners, and, most important, lower the odds of government concessions. But lower-level members, compared with their superiors, are less likely to grasp that attacking civilians does not pay.

[...]

Of course, not all militant leaders appreciate the folly of terrorism or possess the organizational clout to prevent operatives from perpetrating it. To a large extent, the effects of targeted killing thus depend on the type of leader killed. As I predicted in October, the death of the Islamic State leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, did not increase the group’s terrorist attacks, because he had favored maximum carnage against civilians and exercised limited control over his subordinates, particularly “lone wolves” who simply declared their rhetorical allegiance to him. Leadership decapitation is most likely to increase terrorism when the leader understood the strategic value of tactical restraint toward civilians and imposed his targeting restraint on the rank and file. A salient example is the al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, which ramped up their terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians when their leadership was crushed during the Second Intifada.

California’s mandated background checks had no impact on gun deaths

Wednesday, January 8th, 2020

A joint study conducted by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the University of California at Davis Violence Prevention Research Program found that California’s mandated background checks had no impact on gun deaths:

In 1991, California simultaneously imposed comprehensive background checks for firearm sales and prohibited gun sales (and gun possession) to people convicted of misdemeanor violent crimes. The legislation mandated that all gun sales, including private transactions, would have to go through a California-licensed Federal Firearms License (FFL) dealer. Shotguns and rifles, like handguns, became subject to a 15-day waiting period to make certain all gun purchasers had undergone a thorough background check.

It was the most expansive state gun control legislation in America, affecting an estimated one million gun buyers in the first year alone. Though costly and cumbersome, politicians and law enforcement agreed the law was worth it.

The legislation would “keep more guns out of the hands of the people who shouldn’t have them,” said then-Republican Gov. George Deukmejian.

“I think the new laws are going to help counter the violence,” said LAPD spokesman William D. Booth.

More than a quarter of a century later, researchers at Johns Hopkins and UC Davis dug into the results of the sweeping legislation. Researchers compared yearly gun suicide and homicide rates over the 10 years following implementation of California’s law with 32 control states that did not have such laws.

They found “no change in the rates of either cause of death from firearms through 2000.”

White officers are not more likely to shoot minority civilians than non-White officers

Monday, January 6th, 2020

A recent study published in PNAS looked at officer characteristics and racial disparities in fatal officer-involved shootings:

There is widespread concern about racial disparities in fatal officer-involved shootings and that these disparities reflect discrimination by White officers. Existing databases of fatal shootings lack information about officers, and past analytic approaches have made it difficult to assess the contributions of factors like crime. We create a comprehensive database of officers involved in fatal shootings during 2015 and predict victim race from civilian, officer, and county characteristics. We find no evidence of anti-Black or anti-Hispanic disparities across shootings, and White officers are not more likely to shoot minority civilians than non-White officers.

Odds of Civilian Being White vs. Black or Hispanic

Instead, race-specific crime strongly predicts civilian race. This suggests that increasing diversity among officers by itself is unlikely to reduce racial disparity in police shootings.

Does this mean that Hollywood movies actually reduce crime?

Saturday, January 4th, 2020

Bryan Caplan discusses the social conservatism of Hollywood:

The message of all this cinema: Follow the path of bourgeois virtue.  Work hard, keep the peace, abstain from alcohol, have very few sexual partners, and keep your whole family far away from anyone who lives otherwise.  Think about how many fictional characters would have lived longer if they never set foot in a bar.

Is this the message the writers intend to send?  Unlikely.  Instead, they try to create engrossing stories — and end up weaving morality tales.

[...]

Does this mean that Hollywood movies actually reduce crime? I doubt it. The viewers most in need of lessons in bourgeois virtue are probably too impulsive to reflect on the moral of the story. They’re captivated instead by the gunplay and machismo. Yet if you’re paying attention, the moral of these stories remains: Unless your parents are criminals, listen to your parents.

Serving Him in the Real World

Thursday, January 2nd, 2020

I was not expecting to stumble across an Atlantic video-profile on John Correia and Active Self Protection:

“If you can’t be safe, be dangerous.”

Initial analysis of the White Settlement church shooting

Wednesday, January 1st, 2020

John Correia of Active Self Protection broke his usual 72-hour rule to provide an initial analysis of the White Settlement church shooting, because there was surveillance footage available:

The hot spots on the suicide map and the hot spots on the homicide map would coincide

Tuesday, December 31st, 2019

BJ Campbell points to geographic evidence that gun deaths are cultural:

I was recently pointed to a pretty amazing Geographic Information Systems (GIS) project hosted by The Oregonian, which uses CDC data and population rate data to determine the gun death rate, gun homicide rate, and gun suicide rate within the country on a county by county basis. [...] Deaths are expressed as rates per 100,000 population, and above average rates are red, while below average rates are blue.

Gun deaths per 100k people

We hear a lot of banter from the “anti-gun” media that these problems are gun problems, and they’ve concocted this “gun deaths” number in order to lump these into the same problem and gloss over the differences. But if the problem were “guns,” then the hot spots on the suicide map and the hot spots on the homicide map would coincide, and would be related to gun ownership rates. There are only a few places where they overlap. Most of the hot zones for suicide have low homicide rates, and most of the hot zones for homicide have low suicide rates.

Gun homicides per 100k people

Gun suicides per 100k people

Poor black folks have a gun homicide problem, while poor white folks have a gun suicide problem.

American Nations Today

The break between systemic firearm suicide and sporadic firearm suicide within the south is almost directly foretold by the boundaries between Greater Appalachia and the Deep South.

It’d be hard to imagine a more powerful asset for criminals

Thursday, December 26th, 2019

Wes Siler’s friend Joe had his MacBook and iPad stolen from the back of a locked car over Thanksgiving:

So far, so normal, right? Well, the thieves only broke the small window immediately adjacent to where his devices were hidden and only took the backpack containing them. Police told him it was likely they’d used a Bluetooth scanner to target his car and even located exactly where his devices were before breaking into it.

When he texted me about what happened, I turned to Google to see what a Bluetooth scanner was and immediately found dozens of smartphone apps. The first one I downloaded didn’t just show me the signal strengths it detected, it also listed the specific types of devices and even displayed pictures of them—you know, for easy identification. Using signal strength as a distance meter, I found the phone my fiancée misplaced before she went to work. Another app displayed a live list of the devices commuters had in their cars while driving past my house. These apps are free and take no technical know-how or experience whatsoever to use. While they aren’t designed specifically to aid thieves (developers need tools like these when designing Bluetooth accessories), it’d be hard to imagine a more powerful asset for criminals.

Swedish conditions reach Norway

Thursday, December 5th, 2019

This year, for the first time, Norway’s statistical agency reported on the relationship between crime and country of origin:

Immigrants from certain backgrounds—particularly Palestinians, Iraqis and Afghanis—were many times more likely to commit violent crimes than other Norwegians (including other immigrant groups). In 65 out of 80 crime categories, non-Norwegians were over-represented. The largest discrepancy was in regard to domestic violence: Immigrants from non-Western countries were found to be eight times more likely to be charged for such crimes. Rape and murder were also heavily skewed toward these immigrant groups. Worryingly, the figures showed that second-generation immigrants were more likely to be criminals than their parents.

These are svenske tilstander — Swedish conditions.

Violence is rare and commonly occurs due to confusion and helplessness

Sunday, November 17th, 2019

Anne Nassauer — Assistant Professor of Sociology at the John F. Kennedy Institute for North American Studies at Freie Universität Berlin — notes that video surveillance footage shows how rare violence really is:

Today, videos from closed-circuit television, body cameras, police dash cameras, or mobile phones are increasingly used in the social sciences. For lack of other data, researchers previously relied on people’s often vague, partial, and biased recollections to understand how violence happened. Now, video footage shows researchers second-to-second how an event unfolded, who did what, was standing where, communicating with whom, and displaying which emotions, before violence broke out or a criminal event occurred. And while we would assume such footage highlights the cruel, brutal, savage nature of humanity, looking at violence up-close actually shows the opposite. Examining footage of violent situations – from the very cameras set up because we believe that violence lurks around every corner – suggests violence is rare and commonly occurs due to confusion and helplessness, rather than anger and hate.

Armed robberies are an example in point. We would assume robbers to resort to violence if clerks fail to hand over what is in the register; after all, that is the fundamental proposition of the situation. Instead, video surveillance shows that robbers become afraid of the unexpected situation they are in and run away. It shows that criminals, like most people, rely on situational routines that offer familiarity and reassurance. In my research of surveillance footage of robberies clerks laughed at a robber’s assault rifle, and robbers, rather than shooting or hitting the victim, were startled and gave up. When a robber showed slight gloominess, a clerk cheered him up and the robber became even sadder, discussed his financial problems with the clerk and left. If clerks treat robbers like a child, surveillance footage shows how robbers may react according to this role and become hesitant and plead to be taken seriously. This means even in an armed robbery, where perpetrators are prepared and committed to the crime and clerks usually fear for their lives, robbers as well as clerks tend to make sense out of the situation together, avoid violence and get into shared rhythms and routines.

We can see similar patterns when looking at video recordings of protest violence and violent uprisings. In some protest marches, certain groups attend with the clear goal to use violence; they mask up and come prepared with stones to throw at police. In other protests, police decided on a zero-tolerance strategy and plan to use force at the slightest misstep by activists. Despite such preparations for and willingness to use violent means, violence rarely actually breaks out, and people usually engage in peaceful interactions. If violence does erupt, we see that it does so not because people are violent or cruel, but because routine interactions break down, which leads to confusion, distress, uncertainty, anxiety, and fear, and ultimately violent altercations.

Similarly, research on street fights, or mass shootings shows that most people that have the will to fight and kill are actually bad at “doing” violence –as are the great majority of humans. Only very few people in very specific situations manage to be violent effectively, and it is those outliers that make it to the news. Contrary to common belief, rates of violence and crime have never been as low in most Western countries, as they are today.

Such findings have implications; fear of people’s cruel nature and violence lurking around every corner perpetuate everyday actions, drive voting behavior, and impact policymaking through worst-case-scenario thinking. Fearing fellow humans as inherently violent and cruel not only lacks empirical grounding, but research also shows it leads people to make bad decisions. Surveillance videos and recent research on violence challenge this notion that we need to fear each other. They counter the idea that we need elaborate protection from each other and constant state surveillance, which not only tends to cost public funds but also often curtails civil and human rights (e.g., privacy, free speech, free movement, right of asylum). The optimistic outlook offered by scientific analyses of videos might mean we can spend our time more wisely; instead of fearing each other and investing time and resources to protect ourselves from exaggerated dangers, we could enjoy society and our remaining civil rights and freedoms a little more.

Randall Collins (The Sociological Eye), whom she cites, makes similar points in Violence: A Micro-sociological Theory.

A vortex of smart-cam clips, Nextdoor rants, and cellphone surveillance

Thursday, November 7th, 2019

I don’t think this Atlantic piece on “porch pirates” in San Francisco is meant as an ad for Ring video doorbells (and Nest cams, too), but it achieves that goal nonetheless:

It was only about nine months later, in May 2017, when one of Fairley’s neighbors plastered photos of her, “Wanted”-style, on Nextdoor, that Fairley realized things were about to get worse. Nextdoor is an online ticker tape of homeowner and tenant concerns, and the grievances can be particularly telling in a city of Dickensian extremes like San Francisco, whose influx of tech wealth is pitting suburban expectations against urban realities. The city’s property-crime rate is among the highest in the United States. Nextdoor posts about dogs slurping from a public drinking fountain and Whole Foods overcharging again (“Be on guard”) show up alongside reports of smash-and-grab car break-ins, slashed tires, and an entire crime subgenre of “porch pirates,” the Artful Dodgers of the Amazon age.

Fairley and her neighbor do not agree — will likely never agree — on what happened in the minutes prior to the photos of Fairley going up on Nextdoor. Fairley has sworn that the boxes she picked up were from down the street, where they had been laid out for the taking, and that her 6-year-old daughter was helping to haul them to their home in the public housing down the block.

Julie Margett, a nurse who lives on the street, in a purple cottage with a rainbow gay-pride flag and a black lives matter sign in the window, said she was leaving her garage and spotted Fairley coming down her neighbor’s stairs carrying boxes with various addresses on them. Surmising that they were stolen, she asked Fairley warily, in her British accent, “What are you doing?”

Fairley called her a racist (in fact, she still does) and told her she was in the middle of moving. “That was what was so disarming about her,” Margett told me. “Before you know it, she’s torn you to shreds and she’s off down the block.” Margett snapped photos of the mother-daughter haul act — in one, the young girl sticks her tongue out at the camera — and, after calling the police, uploaded them into a Nextdoor post: “Package thieves.”

So, Fairley told me two years later, sitting in an orange sweatsuit in a county-jail interview room, that was the real acceleration of the epic feud of Fairley v. Neighbors of Potrero Hill, a vortex of smart-cam clips, Nextdoor rants, and cellphone surveillance that would tug at the complexities of race and class relations in a liberal, gentrifying city. The clash would also expose a fraught debate about who is responsible, and who is to blame, for the city’s increasingly unlivable conditions. As Fairley says, “It just got bigger and bigger and bigger.”

Parts of potrero hill feel like the sort of charmed place where Amazon deliveries could sit undisturbed on your stoop. The hill’s western ridge, overlooking the city, is filled with cozy bungalows and Victorian houses that once were affordable for San Francisco’s working and artistic classes but have appreciated during the tech rush; now most of them sell for well over $1 million. The public hospital where Fairley was born is now named after Mark Zuckerberg.

Meanwhile, the hill’s eastern and southern flanks are still lined with decrepit 1940s-era bunkers of public housing between patches of scruffy grass and concrete patios. The unhoused have set up camp around the neighborhood too, the city’s homeless population having spiked 30 percent in the past two years. This sometimes has led to hostile and politically divisive clashes, like when a luxury auction house at the foot of Potrero turned its sprinklers on the tents clustered outdoors in 2016. (The auction house claimed that the sprinklers were meant to clean the building and sidewalks, and were “not intended to disrespect the homeless.”)

Find another man who is kinder and stronger to stand in the way

Wednesday, October 23rd, 2019

In 2015, two years after graduating from university, :

In one session, we asked the women to make an A3 map of their lives from torn-up magazines. The collage would show a road that meandered from their past experiences to future goals. Almost every road began with bottles of vodka, syringes and shadowy characters, and almost every one ended with symmetrical houses and white wedding dresses and Laura Ashley sofas. I had spiked the magazine pile with my partner’s railway-modelling magazines and glossy Sunday supplements in the hope of inspiring something different — a new job, an interesting hobby, some travel, perhaps? — but to little avail.

[...]

“It will be finding ‘the one’ that will get me out of my mess,” she said. “He will look after me and keep people away who come round trying to sell me gear [heroin] again.”

Cathy’s was an oft-told story. She had been prevented from seeing her children by social services because she couldn’t stop seeing an abusive partner. He kept coming round and, against her best judgment, she opened the door.

What I wanted to say was that she didn’t need a man to straighten her life out for her, that she had “everything she needed inside of her” (life advice that works best when Instagrammed over a picture of a thin white girl walking into a sunset).

In time I came to realise that she was probably right. Ambition and independence are a good deal further up the hierarchy of need than security. It’s pretty realistic to assume that the quickest way to ward off a coercive and abusive man is to find another man who is kinder and stronger to stand in the way.