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Sun Tzu philosophy applies to public safety

Updated July 28, 2015

Nearly 2,500 years ago, a historically significant Chinese military general, strategist and philosopher known as Sun Tzu instilled the value of planning and preparation by offering the following words of wisdom – "The opportunity to secure ourselves against defeat lies in our own hands."

Sun Tzu's philosophy on self-reliance has many applications, including public safety. Former Cerritos Community and Safety Services Director Dr. Greg Berg championed Sun Tzu's philosophy of self-reliance for more than 15 years in the monthly articles published in the Cerritos "Neighborhood Watch Report" under the heading of "Hardening the Target."

Dr. Berg, a retired deputy chief with the Los Angeles Police Department, knew firsthand that many criminals involved in property crimes are never arrested and stolen property is rarely recovered. According to the latest crime statistics posted on the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department (LASD) webpage, 1,213 reported incidents of larceny theft occurred within the City of Cerritos during 2013. Those incidents resulted in the arrest of 140 suspects (11.5 percent). The LASD area known as South Patrol Division, which is comprised of Carson Station, Norwalk Station, Lakewood Station, Lomita Station, Pico Rivera Station and Cerritos Station, collectively had an even lower case solve rate. In 2013 there were 10,509 reported incidents of larceny theft within the LASD's South Patrol Division. Those incidents resulted in the arrest of 962 suspects (9.1 percent). Those statistics are testimony to the fact that the best and most effective strategy to maintain possession of your property is to dissuade would-be lawbreakers by "Hardening the Target."

The concept of "Hardening the Target" simply refers to strengthening the security of a building or object of attack in order to prevent or minimize damage or loss. In terms of home security, target hardening may be referred to as crime prevention through environmental design. This can include ensuring all doors and windows are closed and securely locked; utilizing alarm systems, motion-activated exterior lights or bells; removing any trees or bushes that could offer suitable hiding places or could be used to climb to a higher level of the property; installing double key dead-bolt locks on exterior doors that are within 24 inches of a glass window; replacing standard door hinge screws with three-inch patio screws; installing a brass surface bolt at the base of the front door to prevent a "kick in;" installing a sliding bar lock on the garage access door; attaching a "beware of dog" sign to your backyard gate; keeping expensive items out of plain view from the street or walkway; and purchasing a quality metal safe for your valuables. Remember, all small safes must be anchored or the suspects will simply carry them off and force them open somewhere else.

The concept of "Hardening the Target" also applies to automobiles. Last year 211 vehicles were broken into while parked within the City of Cerritos. Many of those thefts could have been avoided by keeping the vehicle's doors locked or by keeping expensive items such as portable electronics, purses, briefcases, sporting-goods equipment or power tools out of view. Securing items from view before arriving at a location where you intend to park your car is the best practice. Many times would-be car burglars survey the parking lots of popular shopping centers or gyms and watch to see if someone is placing valuable items in the vehicle's trunk before walking away. Additionally, owners of General Motors brand SUVs equipped with a third-row seat can "harden the target" by using a cable lock to secure the seat frame to the floor mounting bracket in order to prevent theft of this popular item.

Remember Sun Tzu's words of wisdom: "The opportunity to secure ourselves against defeat lies in our own hands."


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