Deviant Flash Mobs: Manifestation of Social Ills to Come

By Francisco Mateo, CPP

Police Investigate Germantown Flash Mob

Flash mobs, a phenomenon that has evolved from the ubiquitous communication networks and the advent of social media, has lately been adopted by deviant mobs. It’s small wonder that the randomness and anonymity of flash mobs would be repurposed for criminal means. In fact, deviant youths have been late adopters, as flash mobs are the means by which many social related events are married to guerilla tactics for maximum impact. Criminal innovations in the social sphere are nothing new. Most criminal trends have their genesis in observed social behavior applied from a deviant perspective.

To understand the root causes at play here we ought to remember that with each new technological innovation (Coupled with the challenges of a growing global population and dwindling resources to sustain social order) we tend to relieve an episode of the Luddite rebellion. The main distinguishing factors is that in its original version the revolt had a marked character tied to a leader; in its latest reincarnation we see a hydra-like leaderless meta-groups leveraging the social communication networks to achieve their aims. These aims often times could not be separated from the deeply rooted issues of social inequality and deprivation which plague many communities in the developed world. The results are similar (As an expert on the subject would say “The internet’s output is data, but its product is freedom, lots and lots of freedom.”), a break from the social norms with roots based on perceived or real social inequality made manifest by a prolonged global recession.

The same technology that empowers an individual also creates malice, anti-social behavior spawned in part by social-economic stagnation. On the flip side of that is the application of technology to crime prevention and detection. On-line base detection options are available to business owners like the case of the retail store depicted above. Such technology has been in existence for a while. Recognizing the need to thwart such criminal trends, practitioners like ICG, Inc. through their iThreat Solutions platform have developed tools at the cutting edge of crime fighting on the wild-wild west of the cyber world.

I expect strains of the deviant flash mob phenomenon to propagate and become a trend globally; mainly because such tactics have already been in use all over the world. There is strength in numbers and these deviant youths have figured out there are ways to circumvent established social and crime controls. But technology gives to all and off-line crime control techniques have already evolved into the cyber sphere. Victims of deviant flash mobs should bare this fact in mind when they implement prevention and reaction plans.


When Economies Decline, Social Volatility Rises

For more than two years the question of sovereign debt has been festering as major economies struggle to nurse economies back to healthy growth levels. As first there was Greece, Dubai and others. Now, the list has grown r

Now the leading economies, with their backs against the wall, have launched ever deeper austerity measures, which now threaten to open the floodgates of pent-up social anxiety of sorts. The most recent manifestations, social unrest, (In Europe and the Middle East) appear to be spreading. Although many factors are contributing to these events, the underlying factors appear to be constant. High unemployment, as well as high inflation act as accelerant, fueling highly volatile conditions.

Some obvious questions that I asked myself more and more: what happens if the current sovereign debt problems continue to spread? What impacts would these events have on the protection of people, assets and reputation for public and private industry? For the untrained in global economics it’s difficult to make sense of the wild gyrations we’re experiencing and that are only getting more complex. To the extent that only a handful of people can understand the magnitude of the global economic crisis. We’re left with a partial picture of potential scenarios over the horizon; which we must draw upon to design strategic response.  Therein lies an important takeaway, we should question all of our assumptions and create contingencies for the most likely scenarios.

More about security strategy during social unrest:


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  1. Of course I look familiar. I was here just last week cleaning your carpets, painting your shutters, or delivering your new refrigerator.
  1. Hey, thanks for letting me use the bathroom when I was working in your yard  last week. While I was in there, I unlatched the back window to make my return a little easier.
  1. Love those flowers. That tells me you have taste… and taste means there are nice things inside. Those yard toys your kids leave out always make me wonder what type of gaming system they have.
  1. Yes, I really do look for newspapers piled up on the driveway. And I might  leave a pizza flyer in your front door to see how long it takes you to remove it..
  1. If it snows while you’re out of town, get a neighbor to create car and foot  tracks into the house.. Virgin drifts in the driveway are a dead giveaway.
  1. If decorative glass is part of your front entrance, don’t let your alarm company install the control pad where I can see if it’s set. That makes it too  easy.
  1. A good security company alarms the window over the sink. And the windows on  the second floor, which often access the master bedroom – and your jewelry. It’s not a bad idea to put motion detectors up there too.
  1. It’s raining, you’re fumbling with your umbrella, and you forget to lock your  door – understandable. But understand this: I don’t take a day off because of  bad weather.
  1. I always knock first. If you answer, I’ll ask for directions somewhere or offer to clean your gutters. (Don’t take me up on it.)
  1. Do you really think I won’t look in your sock drawer? I always check dresser drawers, the bedside table, and the medicine cabinet.
  1. Here’s a helpful hint: I almost never go into kids’ rooms.
  1. You’re right: I won’t have enough time to break into that safe where you keep your valuables. But if it’s not bolted down, I’ll take it with me.
  1. A loud TV or radio can be a better deterrent than the best alarm system.


Summer @ SBB

You may have notice a drop in activity on this blog. I’ve been busy seeking alternative means of income through professional and entrepreneurial endeavors. As the sole contributor to this site, that meant sacrificing the time I normally dedicated to bringing you timely and actionable information—the staple of the site. Be it as it may, I’m refocusing attention to important areas of security by working on a posting series to be published over the next few months.

I promised you the content would not disappoint. Being active in corporate security circles has given me unique insights into ideas we’ve been espousing since the site’s inception. Once such area I plan to drill down on is the role of security risk assessment in setting the pace for the strategic security plan.


Community Preparedness, Compare and Prepare

Ironically, I started to write this post a day before the catastrophic earthquake and Tsunami in northern Japan, but it seems the gripping headlines from this terrible tragedy continue to rewrite this post for me.  My original intent was to compare community emergency preparedness programs in New York and California called Ready New York and The Greatest Shakeout respectively. But omission of what the Japanese have achieved in the area of preparedness would be ludicrous. In light of the magnitude of this natural event and their effectiveness at containing life loss a more effective aim would be to discuss how preparedness elsewhere in the world compares to Japanese resilience to such incredibly destructive events in the hopes of applying clear takeaways to our own resilient communities.

As I write this post major natural disasters have been taking place around the globe. Japan just witnessed a major earthquake measured at 8.8 on the Richter scale, causing a tsunami with over 23-feet waves. Christchurch, New Zealand also experienced a horrific earthquake last month. North America has been under snow storm and most recently flooding disaster. The Midwest region of the US is also expecting its own bout with extreme weather with both tornados and flooding likely to cause major damage. I mentioned these examples to put things into context. Preparedness can’t exist in a void, there has to be significant cooperation from every member of the community. It is the most effective way to minimize life lost. Authorities in many countries realize this, which is why they have invested resources in systems, processes, and training to protect their communities’ most precious resources in the face on changing patterns fueling the spate of recent natural disasters.

Arguably large scale natural disasters are the context of many discussions lately. But discussions would be out of context without making reference to preparedness and awareness campaigns where we live and work. In that regard “The Great California Shakeout” is a community preparedness resource dedicated to promoting awareness about one of the State’s most prevalent natural hazards, earthquakes, more specifically a potential devastating earthquake. Started in 2008 as the largest earthquake drill in the US, it owes its beginnings to a group of concerned scientist who took it as their responsibility not only to study root causes for potential deadly quake activities, but also to educate the communities on how to protect themselves from their effects. Today the preparedness drills span all 58 counties with more than 6.9 million participating Californians.  At the center of the program is the simple to remember “Drop, Cover and Hold-on” which is essential to saving lives in a traumatic event.


The site encourages everyone from individuals, to public/private organizations and authorities at all levels to participate in preparedness exercises; besides providing advice and training materials.  The resources they provide have been approved by a team of multidisciplinary experts. The drill manuals cover a variety of learning styles and information intake based on age groups. Multimedia tools allow easy sharing and access which is important for widespread adoption of such information. Flyers and other mass communication tools also help put the word out. The site also links to news and events to aid in the awareness efforts and provides a forum for participants to share their inputs. It also has a presence through social media networks to keep people engaged and help push up-to-the-minute information. Regarding the latter, I stated in a recent post that “social media” has become an indispensable tool in rapid emergency communication and awareness”. That is as much as I can tell you about The Great California Shakeout. If you want to learn more follow the link to the official site:

New York’s community preparedness program by contrast takes a broader, all-hazards approach. Ready New York is a program managed through the Office of Emergency Management (OEM). Through it they offer informational guides to help New Yorkers prepare for all types of emergencies. New Yorkers are encouraged to take three critical steps: make a plan, get a kit and be informed. Since 2003 when its public readiness campaigns began, they have been aimed at getting New Yorkers to a state of readiness.   The program’s common sense approach to potential hazards has also aided its broad adoption by New York’s diverse community.


Japan today is reeling from two catastrophic natural disasters a major earthquake and tsunami leaving a path of death and destruction in their wake. A third disaster, nuclear power plants, damaged by earthquakes destructive force looks likely to be averted for now, according to experts in the field. The death toll is likely to be high, but in contrast to recent earthquake disasters in Haiti, China or the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake which unleashed a series of devastating tsunamis, the number of victims will likely pale in comparison. It speaks bounds of Japanese resilience. It’s important to understand how this became so, if we intend to improve upon their approach in our own preparedness efforts. After the 1923 massive earthquake that struck the Kanto Plain nearly destroying Tokyo and Yokohama, Japan carefully rebuilt these cities ensuring resilience against another catastrophic event. Japan is one of the most seismically active countries in the world, owing to its location on the “Ring of Fire, an arc of seismic activity that encircles the Pacific Basin” for that reason their built environment (from highways, transportation tunnels and airport facilities, to residential/office building) were constructed with advanced earthquake science in common. Japan has invested significant resources for earthquake safety and disaster management research. In 2000, the country’s building codes were revised again, this time with specific requirements and mandatory checks. At the local level billions of dollars are allocated for “improving the safety of hospitals, schools and social welfare facilities.”

They also take preparedness serious, Japan “marks Disaster Prevention Day on Sept. 1, the anniversary of the 1923 Tokyo quake with a series of awareness activities. At many Japanese schools, first-day-of-class celebrations include an evacuation drill. Even the Prime Minster participates: at this year’s closing ceremony, Naoto Kan spoke about the importance of “mutual aid” in times of crisis.  Japan boasts the world’s most sophisticated earthquake early-warning systems. Emergency drills organized by public and private organizations work, among other things, to transport “stranded” commuters from their offices to their homes. Japan’s tsunami warning service, set up in 1952, consists of 300 sensors around the archipelago, including 80 aquatic sensors that monitor seismic activity 24/7. Small wonder how they have survived such catastrophic events with minimal casualties. The key here is a precise focus on preparedness at every level.

Why is this important to community preparedness around the world? My two illustrated States in the USA, California and New York have similar hazard elements as Japan with unstable fault lines, which may potentially trigger seismic activity in the future according to leading scientists. Both States also have major cities near their significant coast lines which make them vulnerable to tsunamis among other natural hazards. For the sake of our discussion, this is representative of many other developed regions around the world. In terms of critical infrastructure both California and New York have nuclear power plants among their energy assets, which is common among modern industrialized regions around the glove. As far as I’m aware, the Department of Energy regulates construction of power plants and oil refineries to withstand large scale seismic activity, as well as, advanced preparedness (including early warning and evacuation of surrounding communities) procedures in case of emergencies. However the recent oil disaster off the Gulf of Mexico raises concern regarding how strict these procedures have in fact been, when you peeled the bureaucratic layers at such facilities. Both states also strictly regulate building codes to ensure that high-rise building and industrial facilities are built to endure earthquakes. In terms of readiness, California and New York have far reaching community preparedness programs as previously explained. California for its part having identified, through its risk management measures, the high probability of getting hit with another major earthquake, emphasizes such readiness more so than other States. Be that as it may, there is always room for improvement.

Japan’s approach to preparedness offers proven lessons for all communities around the world.  In addition, the aftermath of the recent tragedy has revealed a number of takeaways that can further advanced earthquake safety research. Critical infrastructure such as nuclear power plants, refineries, weapons stockpile (including research facilities handling deadly toxins) require renewed attention anywhere there is high probability of an earthquake. Every citizen needs to take responsibility for their preparedness: heeding early warning signals; stocking emergency supplies like food, water and medicine (I’d also consider stocking iodine, a radiation antidote if I lived close enough to a nuclear power plant facility), as well as having access to emergency communication, with social media being a proven tool for such events.

Community preparedness is an intelligent way to minimize the risk to life and property loss during natural disasters. I have been involved in these community resilience efforts through my participation in the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT). Comparing these two emergency preparedness programs from New York and California in light of recent experience around the world, should serve as motivation to get you acquainted with similar efforts in your community, and hopefully when disaster strikes you would know what to do. I hope that the magnitude of these tragic events would serve as incentive for everyone to keep preparedness top of mind. These life lessons carry incredible value beyond weathering a disaster, since they are about awareness and being ready for whatever the unpredictable force of nature throws at us.

Some Laser Pointers, a Risk to Civil Aviation

Despite what most of us know about external risks to aircraft, there appear to be other risks to civil aviation we should know and be concerned about. Most airplane passengers only reluctantly comply with often repeated request to turn off cell phones which may create electromagnetic interference with aircraft avionics. A few years ago we awoke to the reality of bird strikes as a very real safety risk to the commercial flights. There are other sinister threats or terrorist plots from shoe to underwear bombers to parcel bombs. For a brief while after 9/11 much attention was also paid to the laser guided shoulder-fired SAMs that could be used to bring down low-flying commercial aircrafts. Because SAMs could be acquired cheap on a bourgeoning global black market for these weapons; they were the subject of intense international arms control (mass destruction of stockpiles) and non-proliferation agreements.

A NYT article recently shed light on another risk to civil aviation, equally sinister for its intended consequences, but alarming due to its widespread, mostly benign use in everyday life. Some deranged individuals have taken to directing laser pointers to commercial aircraft’s darken cockpits, which can disorient or temporarily blind a pilot during critical landing and takeoff phases. These devices have also been aimed at helicopters (especially police air patrol units), which can compromise the safety of people on board as well as on the ground if the pilot lost control of the aircraft. In the US the authorities (FAA and FDA) are well aware of the problem and as the article points out, measures are already in place to regulate distribution and sale of powerful laser pointer devices, especially Class 4 lasers. But what if anything would be done elsewhere around the world to keep an individual with ill intent from directing their laser pointers at low-flying aircrafts from densely populated areas where detection can’t be assured. Perhaps Class 4 lasers and other such devices should be included in the list of Directed Energy (non-lethal) Weapons, which are subject to international enforcement under the CCWC as adopted in 1995 in Vienna.

Laser pointers and other similar devices are ubiquitous, but as laser technology becomes cheaper, more powerful devices would be available on the world’s mostly unregulated legit and illegitimate markets. I estimate more abuses of this technology would proliferate to the detriment of public safety. For that reason I’ll be keeping close attention on developments.

Natural Disasters: Stay Ready!

I’m not a climate researcher, I only know enough to make informed decisions. But, even I would be derelict to brush aside clear evidence that our climate has shown consistent signs of dramatic change. I think back to my early years in the Caribbean, back in the 80’s when major hurricanes, flooding and other natural disasters occurred on rare occasions. I recently spent a few years there and in that time span I witnessed more natural disasters than all others my parents, grandparents, uncles and similar wise elders have seen over their long lives in the region.

In fact, I’ve observed the same trends around the globe. Since last year massive snowstorms in the United States, floods in Australia, record drought in China and Russia (leading to massive wildfires) have put people’s lives at peril, as well as threaten our global food supply.

Since climate conditions don’t show any signs of improving over the coming decade and the global community don’t seem to agree on clear goals for tackling its effect, we as individuals should take the logical best option; which is learning as much as we can about the risks we face and preparing for unpredictable situations. With that in mind I would preface a number of preparedness tips by sharing information from cutting edge studies on root causes for the wild weather gyrations we’ve been experiencing.

Climate Tipping Points: (Source:

Scientists know from the geological record that the Earth’s climate can change rapidly. They have identified a number of potential tipping points where relatively small amounts of global warming caused by human activities could cause large changes in climate. Some tipping points, like the losses to the Amazon forests, involve positive feedback loops and could lead to runaway climate change.

Arctic ice cap: The white ice cap is good at reflecting the Sun’s warming light back into space. But when it melts, the dark ocean uncovered absorbs this heat. This leads to more melting, and so on.

Tundra: The high north is warming particularly fast, melting the permafrost that has locked up vast amounts of carbon in soils for thousands of years. Bacteria digesting the unfrozen soils generate methane, a potent greenhouse gas, leading to more warming.

Gas hydrates: Also involving methane, this tipping point involves huge reservoirs of methane frozen on or just below the ocean floor. The methane-water crystals are close to their melting point and highly unstable. A huge release could be triggered by a little warming.

West Antarctic ice sheet: Some scientists think this enormous ice sheet, much of which is below sea level, is vulnerable to small amounts of warming. If it all eventually melted, sea level would rise by six metres.

I’ll introduce a new slogan for this blog, which is “Protect People First”. That said, below are a few tips on protecting yourself when natural disasters strike.

If there are only moments to spare, you need to know how to react to everything from an earthquake to a tornado and a flood to hurricane. Study up on the basics so you can be decisive during the destruction:


Heed evacuation orders, first shutting off utilities. If you stay home, turn off gas lines and fill your tub with water. Secure shutters. During the storm, move to an interior room and close all doors.


If a flash-flood warning is issued, move to higher ground immediately–don’t wait to gather belongings. In any flood, avoid downed power lines and moving water. Six inches of moving water can make a pedestrian fall, while a foot will float most vehicles.


Once you hear a storm warning, tune to a weather radio (or similar emergency information source) for tornado alerts. If an alert comes, seek refuge in a basement–either your own or a neighbor’s–or go to an emergency shelter. As a last resort, stay on the lowest floor of your home. If you’re in a car as a tornado approaches, get out and seek shelter indoors. If you’re caught in the open, lie flat in a ditch or depression and cover your head with your hands.


Crawl under a sturdy table and cover your face and head with your arms. Stay away from windows and large bureaus or bookcases that could fall. If you become trapped under debris, cover your mouth with a cloth or shirt, and tap against a pipe or other object to make noise. (Don’t yell for help unless you have to; you risk inhaling dangerous quantities of dust.) If you are able, leave the building once the shaking stops–aftershocks can bring down a structure compromised by the initial quake. Finally, if you’re outside during the quake, steer clear of buildings and utility wires.


Contact your local fire department, health department or forestry office for information on fire laws. Make sure that fire vehicles can get to your home. Plan several escape routes away from your home – by car and by foot. Teach each family member how to use the fire extinguisher (ABC type) and show them where it’s kept.  Keep handy household items that can be-used as fire tools: a rake, axe, handsaw or chainsaw, bucket and shovel


Respiratory illnesses, such as the flu, are spread by coughing, sneezing and unclean hands. Because of this, one of the most important things you can do to stop flu transmission is to wash your hands frequently with soap and warm, clean water for 10-20 seconds. If running water is not available, an alcohol-based hand sanitizer can be used if your hands are not visibly soiled.  Since employees often spend up to eight hours a day in an office, breathing the same air and coming into contact with the same surfaces, the office can be a breeding ground for viruses and bacterial infections to spread. Pay close attention to personal and workplace hygiene.  During a flu outbreak, disinfecting is critical! Give special attention to highly touched environmental surfaces in your work area and office such as desks, keyboard/mouse, phones, printers, doorknobs, light switches, etc.

Last word on natural disaster preparedness: Do not undermine the power of social media as an early warning source of information. I personally use twitter to gather and forward information on risk conditions around the world. My experience has been that I ramp up intake of local and global developing situation faster and more accurately than any other media source. So, whatever your preference for staying connected, learn to harness the power of crowd-sourced information as your own miner’s canary.