We all have our needs – food, water, clothing, cars, iPhones, beer, hanging out with friends, needing new shoes, and the million other reasons that cause us to leave our homes. When we enter into the public sphere, we willingly abandon the defensible security and safety of our personal anchor points, our homes, and take on the challenge of ensuring our own safety out in the community. As recent history has shown, securing these public areas is very difficult because of the inherent nature of being in areas that are open to anyone. However, instead of assuming that these places can’t be secured, it just requires that people have the ability to clearly establish what patterns exist and how criminals will deviate from that baseline.
The public areas that we visit are places that we classify as Habitual Areas. This type of location is identified by the lack of any access control measure designed to keep specific people (or types of people) from entering. While it might seem like it is a convoluted way to explain the concept, identifying a location as being open is the same as realizing that there aren’t any barriers in place that restrict who can enters or leave the area. This topic of control is so important because it is the deciding factor when attempting to distinguish between a habitual area or an anchor point. If every person can enter into the building, it is a habitual area. If you need to meet some set of criteria before being allowed inside, it is an anchor point.
This idea of control access to areas has two components; the first is the physical security measures that we are used to seeing such as metal detectors or turnstiles, while the second is the human component, which truly reveals how open a place is to others. While the physical aspects are certainly an element to be considered, accurate assessments about an area must come from observing the behavior of the people within. An office building that has turnstiles but chooses keep them unmanned and allow all people to walk through them without question would be a habitual area, even though it has a physical characteristic that we commonly associate with anchor points. A school building, on the other hand, that doesn’t have any physical security measures in place, but instead has members of the staff trained to challenge and question each and every person who walks onto school property would be an anchor point. It is the behavior of the people within these areas that determine their open or exclusive nature.
Identifying habitual areas is important because these locations make up an overwhelming majority of the places that we visit; yet they pose a significant challenge to the security providers tasked with keeping them safe. In a habitual area, no one can be easily identified as an anomaly simply due to the fact that they don’t belong in that area because no one is excluded from entering. That is why these areas are considered difficult; it demands a higher degree of security awareness and education in order to recognize the criminals whose behavior causes them to stand out from the crowd. Overcoming this challenge is possible, but it requires a very clearly articulated baseline that allows our nation’s protectors the ability to notice the subtle indicators that help to distinguish between those with legitimate and violent intentions. Ensuring our safety in public is not impossible – it just requires practice.