Developing Intelligence Information on Your Subdivision, by F.J.

During my years in the military, I spent most of my time in the military intelligence field.  Though I was specifically trained in signals intelligence, I learned to utilize a number of sources in producing intelligence products for my command.  The tactics that I learned both in individual training as well as on-the-job are applicable to a number of applications, including preparing yourself and your family for emergency situations. 
In my years of reading “alternative” message boards and blog posts, I noticed that most people in the prepper community either live in a rural community or have a desire to relocate to one.  As someone who grew up in a rural area, I would highly recommend taking such an action, especially in the light of the threats we face from economic collapse, food shortages, rioting, and other calamities, both natural and man-made.  For some of us, however, we are unable to relocate from the area that we currently reside.

My family and I reside in a suburban area of a very large city in the United States.  Most likely, we will not be able to relocate from this area in the near term, so we attempt to make the best of our situation.  Part of our preparation includes the production of intelligence reports of our subdivision and local community.  Creating information such as threat reports is useful for any prepper, regardless of residence location, but is vital when the number of persons that are nearby increases.  Using my past experiences, these are some of the tactics that I adapted for use in creating such reports for my subdivision. 

Creating the Map
In my opinion, the first and most important step that a prepper can take in developing intelligence for his or her suburban area is mapping the local area.  Fortunately, maps are easy to find.  Because my subdivision is over 30 years old, there are fully developed key maps available for purchase.  I can also utilize online mapping and driving directions sites to not only create maps of the streets, but also overlay such things as satellite imagery, points of interest, and anything else that would be necessary for my preparations.  I would create a large, laminated copy of the local area and/or subdivision map and place it on a wall, desk, or other convenient area where it can be easily referenced and manipulated.  If there is space, I would create a variety of maps; for example,  one that featured only streets, one that included satellite imagery, and one that includes locations of stores and gas stations.  I would also create smaller laminated versions and keep them in my vehicles, bug-out bags, and purse or wallet.  Many of the tactics listed in this article will refer back to studying and manipulating the larger map.

Mapping Information
Once the maps are created, take time to study the aerial view of the area in depth.  Look for places of entry and exit of the subdivision and local area (by car, motorbike, foot, etc.)  Imagine where roadblocks can be placed should the authorities implement them.  Find different ways in which you could travel from and to your home.  Study potential choke-points where gangs can trap residents.  Note the locations of homes where you could stop by and/or drop your kids off if you were prevented from being at or going to your home.  For those that like to mark up documents, you can take a marker, either erasable or permanent, and make these notations right on the map.

Make an ingress and egress plan for your neighborhood.  Determine ways that you can get in and out of the subdivision without taking streets.  Take note of places where you could hide or find cover from attack.  Make note of these locations on the map. 

Take is checking the local police blotters and statistics for crime in the area.  When I managed a crime board during my employment at a university police department, I placed different colored pins in areas where crimes were suspected or committed.  Each pin represented a different classification of crime.  This allowed the staff to quickly ascertain the prevalence of certain crimes, locations where crime was highly probable, as well as trends that may have developed.  You can place pins, colored stickers, or even dots from colored markers on areas of the map to determine areas most likely to be hit by criminals when society begins to break down.   
It would also be important to note the locations of known sex offenders, felons, and former criminals on the map.  Sex offender information is often located on a state database at no charge; information for the others may not necessarily be available, or could come at a cost.  While a person who has served their time may never commit another offense during his or her lifetime again, it is best to at least know where potential danger could lurk during times of peril.

Some subdivisions contract with local police or security firms to provide patrols during certain periods of the day.  Look for patterns among the patrols as well as the patrollers and note them on the map if possible.  For example, in my subdivision, one officer spends most of his shift sitting in the same location every time he is on duty there.  Another officer takes the same route driving through the subdivision while he is on duty.  Make note of any significant changes that the officers take during patrol; this could indicate patrolling for specific reasons or persons.  Try to engage the officers from time to time; they can be a valuable source of information about the happenings around the area.

Learn the Location

Now, let’s step away from the map and now engage the subdivision and local environment in a different perspective.  Take time out to schedule regular walks, bike rides, etc. in and around the neighborhood.  If this is something you already do, take alternative paths or go during varying times during the day.  Here, you can practice taking the alternative ingress and egress routes you found on the map, as well as searching for places to hide or take cover.  Make note of the vehicles that are usually parked in driveways or along the street.  Learn to recognize familiar faces.  Note activities that seem to be out of the ordinary for your location.  For example, I learned, in my former neighborhood, that one home was used as a drug manufacturing lab.  Many of the teenagers in the neighborhood sold drugs for the dealer that ran the lab.  I learned to be careful when confronting the teens that would vandalize areas around my home (including the For Sale signs in our yard) knowing that they possessed more weapons and firepower than I did. 

Get detailed information on your subdivision.  Learn the number of homes that are in the subdivision.  For large subdivisions, learn how the different villages are configured.  Find out the demographics that are pertinent information to know (average ages of household adults, average number of children per household, etc.)  Make regular searches for your neighborhood on the internet .Take note of information on the neighborhood web site and/or bulletin board.  Keep local emergency numbers of note, including fire, police, utility companies, homeowner’s association, etc.

You can also learn valuable intelligence information from the windows of your residence.  Find the best vantage points in your home that allow you to look around the neighborhood.  This works best in multi-story homes.  Take time to note the “normal” condition of the homes, yards, and streets around you.  Binoculars or telescopes can help you view particular locations that could normally be inaccessible.  It would be best to have a privacy screen on your window that limits others from seeing your own activities while you watch theirs.

Know Your Neighbors

Get to know your neighbors   Start or join a neighborhood patrol.  Try to engage them as you make your way around the neighborhood during your walks or bike rides.  Begin discussions about local activities, being careful to avoid the impression that you are gathering information for intelligence products.  Gossipers are a wonderful resource for intelligence analysts; they always have a need to talk to others and feel special telling every minute detail about everyone else’s lives.  In my case, I had a neighbor whom I did not know come up to me in the yard and ask me some details about my child that my wife and I would rarely share with others.  After asking her further, I found that her source of information was from another neighbor who sometimes dropped by inside our home in order to use our telephone (and I think may have overheard a conversation I or my wife had on our cell phones.)  Needless to say, the phone has not been available to her since.
Take time to learn about your neighbors in the digital realm.  Checking local voter registration information and/or property tax rolls can often provide names and addresses of the people around you.  You can cross-check their information (names, addresses, telephone numbers, etc.) through search engines, criminal and sex-offender databases, and information collection sources (such a Pipl, LinkedIn, Zabasearch, etc.) Perhaps your state may catalog concealed weapon license holders.  Look for social networking sites where they may reveal more information about their lives (and the lives of those around them.)  Do not forget to check the social networks for their (and your) children, as well as their linked friends as well.  Some people with bad intentions have a tendency to broadcast this information through these methods.

Create the Intelligence Report

With several pieces of data collected on the subdivision, the prepper can now develop intelligence reports that can aid him or her in readying for emergency situations.  The thing about intelligence products is that it is tailored to the needs of the person requesting the information.  When I developed a number of reports during my military time, I usually made them to answer specific questions that were posed to me.  Some questions you may need answered could include:

  1. What are the most dangerous locations in my subdivision?
  2. What person(s) can I depend on during an emergency?  How can I get to him or her?
  3. Are there any persons to keep a lookout for during emergency situations?
  4. What are the various ways to get in and out of the neighborhood under stealth conditions?
  5. What can be seen inside of my home during the day?  At night? 
  6. How many direct lines of sight lead to my property?  How can I mitigate that situation?
  7. Is there something on my property that can attract “special” attention from others
  8. Do I have a property feature that is outside of the norm for my neighborhood?
  9. Do the police and/or security patrol near my home?  If not, how can I address that?
  10. What areas of the neighborhood give me the best vantage point for spotting outsiders?
  11. Who in the neighborhood may be armed? 
  12. Who in my neighborhood is trained in specific skills that can be useful for my needs?
  13. Are there other preppers that I can network with in my neighborhood?
  14. How is the power grid routed in my neighborhood?  Can certain portions lose power while others retain theirs? 
  15. What is the biggest potential threat to my subdivision?  What is the most likely threat?

Hopefully these suggestions can help preppers who, for one reason or another, enhance their readiness for surviving an emergency in suburban areas.  In a later post, I hope to include factors that can be used for those who may face emergencies while living in an urban area.