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Raw intel: Your best friend in prepping

Data collection

In the last few columns, we’ve been covering the importance of community in preparedness. For this purpose, we created a mythical community called the Yakima Narrows, which is now engaged in gathering information to help its members prepare for possible threats from the surrounding area.

Last week, we began collecting information on the street gangs of Yakima because, during our initial phase of threat assessment for the mythical Yakima Narrows community we’re creating, we initially determined those gangs posed one of the greatest potential threats to our community.

Yakima Narrows threat grid

We’ve collected a boat-load of information on those gangs, much of it coming from OsInt (open source intelligence) like the Internet and from HumInt (human-derived intelligence) like local businesses, the local gang task force and the Sheriff’s office.

Great. But having lots of raw data is only the first step. That information needs as much confirmation as possible to become actionable intelligence, and it needs to be “winnowed” of extraneous data that doesn’t advance the intelligence needs of the community.

Think of it this way. You look up the road as you’re driving and you see a car wreck ahead. That’s information and it’s pretty well verified: You can see it plainly. There’s also a Dairy Queen ahead that’s advertising a special on milkshakes. Yummy! But right at the moment, avoiding an accident is your priority. So you quickly analyze your information, discard the DQ special from your consideration, and determine that the best course of action would be to apply the brakes. Your first-hand observation of the wreck was actionable intelligence. The milkshake was an interesting – but unnecessary – datum for determining your immediate course of action.

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Now suppose you were told about that wreck ahead of time by your buddy, who heard about it on the radio. While it’s potentially useful information, it’s not necessarily either correct or timely. The radio guy might have got it wrong, or your buddy may have heard it wrong, or the accident may be already cleared. Verification of collected information may not always be possible, so it’s important to bear in mind the validity and timeliness of potential intelligence when you make your plans to mitigate possible threats.

Let’s say you’ve got a large enough community that you can actually separate the collectors of information from those who will analyze the information provided by the collectors. That’s good, but it gets even better if both the groups are separate from a third group: the end-users (let’s call them “the client”), who will determine what actions will be needed to mitigate the threat (should it occur) based on the provided intelligence. (Most communities likely won’t have enough competent people to perform all these separate functions; but even if you have to wear all the hats and risk expectation bias, it’s much better than doing nothing at all.)

The beauty of having separation of tasks is the analysts will no doubt want additional data collected. They’re the ones who can see the much bigger picture created by the original information supplied, and they’re the ones that can spot the holes that need filling. Not only that, but the end users (“client”) will also likely want more information; information that both the collectors and the analysts missed or didn’t consider as useful because they weren’t thinking in terms of the practical uses of the intelligence product. And so the circle is complete.

Now I don’t have time or space in this column to go too far with this process. But let’s project a couple of actions that might be sanctioned by the Yakima Narrows security chief as a result of the intelligence analysis he received.

Because the gangs of Yakima are, for all intents, 100 percent Hispanic, profiling people on that basis who enter the AO (Area of Operation) of the Yakima Narrows will be made much simpler. (Yes, I know that’s a racist and horribly non-PC statement, but the data support this and it’s accurate. For validation, I always go back to this quote by Jesse Jackson: “There is nothing more painful to me at this stage in my life than to walk down the street and hear footsteps … then turn around and see somebody white and feel relieved.”)

Based on this intelligence, the following actions can be taken: Special surveillance will be made of groups of young Hispanics traveling River Road, especially if it appears that group members are wearing clothing accents of a predominant color, say red or blue. Where they go will be noted; and photos of the vehicle, license plates and individuals will be taken. Of course, they could be just visiting their uncle, who happens to live within the community boundary, but if they’re all wearing blue bandanas, then the Narrows security crew will no doubt be tasked to take a closer look at the “uncle” as well.

Gang members. Note blue theme in clothing or accessories. Photo credit Hispanically Speaking News

Gang members. Note distinctive blue clothing or accessories. Photo credit Hispanically Speaking News

Because River Road dead ends in the woods a few miles past the Narrows community, and given that gang members like to try out new weaponry far from any listening LEOs, gun fire related to these visits should be logged, and ad-hock shooting ranges should be investigated, recorded and reported to the appropriate law enforcement agency. If that agency declines to investigate, then any evidence such as shell casings or ammo boxes should be collected and tagged – because that information adds to the community gang intelligence, specifically related to gang-available firearms. If the Narrows community has a good relationship with the sheriff (and it should), those casings and photographs of the vehicles and personnel should make their way to him. You just might help him solve a future crime. And LEO gratitude can pay big dividends.

If all of this sounds draconian, if it offends your sense of tolerance or seems to fly in the face of diversity … tough patooties. Studies on street gang behavior suggest that gangs are not easily converted to paramilitary purposes. But, this finding is mainly based on the loose and ill-defined hierarchical structure of the average street gang. By this same reasoning, drug cartels are easy to convert to a paramilitary profile because they are first and foremost a businesses with a fairly rigid and well-defined leadership structure.

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However, if a major system failure were to occur, such as an EMP or economic crash, it probably won’t take long for hungry street gangs to discover the benefits of command and control. And that means if you live in the Yakima Narrows seven miles to the north of the city, you need to face – and prepare for – reality.

That’s all for this week. Just to be fair, next week we’ll take a look at another potential threat vector for the Narrows to consider. This group is also well armed, organized and can be converted to a paramilitary force far more easily than a street gang in the event of a “lights out” situation.

So until next week, keep building community, consider what you need to do to keep your community safe, and get prepared.

Addendum: It has come to my attention that Forward Observer is offering an online Area Intelligence course. If you can’t make one of Sam Culper’s seminars, taking this online course would be a great idea. If possible, get a bunch of your community to go in with you on the course. I guarantee it will be well worth the cost!

Area Intelligence Course

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