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No one but you is responsible for your safety


Who is responsible to protect you from crime and, specifically, from violent crime?

Many believe police and sheriff’s deputies are responsible for protecting citizens from crime and violent crime. They are not.

The United States Supreme Court has repeatedly and consistently held police have no constitutional obligation or any other legal obligation to prevent citizens from being victims of violent crime, with the most recent case being Town of Castle Rock, Colo., v. Gonzales.

Although the police have no duty to prevent violent crime, essentially every police officer will do everything possible in response to a “priority 1” call to stop an assault, rape, burglary, murder or attempted murder. The problem is, in spite of the finest police efforts, they usually arrive too late to prevent violent crime.

Reliable data on police response times for priority 1 calls are modest, but a reasonable average is about eight minutes. In some cities and towns, the time may be shorter.

In large counties with few sheriff’s deputies on duty, the response time can be much longer. It is highly unusual for priority 1 response times to be less than three minutes, which does not include the time from the beginning of an attack to when a call is made to the police.

When seconds can make the difference between life and death or serious bodily injury, the police are minutes away.

So, who is responsible to protect you from violent crime? You are.

By far, the best way to prevail in a violent encounter is to avoid it. Be alert at all times to your surroundings. Situational awareness is not “somebody’s gonna getcha” paranoia. It is, simply, doing visual scans during day-to-day activities and travels.

Look around for anything or anyone that could be threatening, and it will be unlikely you can be taken by surprise. Crooks, thugs and violent criminals, although dangerous, are all cowards. They are looking for easy prey.

If you are alert and confident, you are less likely to be one chosen as a victim by a criminal, and you are more likely to identify and avoid a potentially threatening situation before you can be victimized.

If you notice a potentially threatening situation developing, remember, distance is your friend. At home, do not open your door to any strangers.

If a stranger asks to use your phone, offer to call the number for him or her, and be prepared to call the police if the person objects. Move inside if you notice a stranger approaching. Outside the home, tell approaching strangers to stop. Don’t let them get close. Move across the street. Have a cell phone in your hand, ready to call 911. Go inside an occupied building.

Run away if you must. Never, ever, allow yourself to be abducted, as survival rates are very low.

Personal-defense firearms should be the absolute last resort. However, many, many violent criminals have been thwarted when they discovered their intended victims were armed and prepared to defend themselves. I know of a large law enforcement agency that did not have an officer involved in a shooting for 13 years, but its officers were often required to draw their sidearms in the face of both real and potential threats.

You, alone, are responsible for your defense – not the police, not family members and not other people. Be alert to your surroundings.

Stay away from any potentially threatening situations, but also be prepared to defend yourself by all legitimate means.

Bob Aldridge, a Fort Wayne resident, is a National Rifle Association-certified firearms instructor. His website is He wrote this for The Journal Gazette.