Friday, May 27, 2011

Not Just Another Three Day Weekend

Memorial Day has been purchased with the blood of our fellow countrymen...

On this Memorial Day weekend we enjoy our annual opportunity to formally honor the memory of the men and women of our armed forces who have given their last breath in the defense of their country. These people were our relatives, friends, and neighbors who put the needs of our country ahead of their own interests, even unto death. They all deserve at least a moment's quiet consideration.

Thank you.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Is There A Secret PATRIOT Act?

Has the Obama administration decided the USA PATRIOT Act means more than what it says it does?

The Bill of Rights...for those who have forgotten what it looks like.

After a classified briefing Congressmen Ron Wyden and Mark Udall proposed an amendment to the Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001 (USA PATRIOT Act).  Read it carefully and tell me why it might be needed.

AMENDMENT intended to be proposed by Mr. WYDEN (for himself and Mr. UDALL of Colorado)
13    (8) while it is entirely appropriate for particular
14 intelligence collection techniques to be kept secret,
15 the laws that authorize such techniques, and the
16 United States Government’s official interpretation of
17 these laws, should not be kept secret but should in
18 stead be transparent to the public, so that these
19 laws can be the subject of informed public debate
20 and consideration.

Why is the current administration's interpretation of PATRIOT Act provisions classified? Has Obama's DOJ taking a page from the Bush administration playbook? Hide the ball, rendition the suspects, refine the evidence, enhance the interrogation techniques?  How many secret memos are there? Why doesn't Obama trust the American people to know how he plans to apply the PATRIOT Act?  What are they hiding and why are they hiding it?  If neither Republican nor Democrat administrations can be trusted with the Constitution how about we scrap the so called PATRIOT Act altogether? 

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Harold Camping

Lowering the bar for halfwits, nitwits, dipsticks, and whackaloons the world over...

Wrong in 1994, wrong in 2011.

In the immortal words of Bugs Bunny "What a maroon!"

By the way, Harold, if the last 1700 years proves anything it is that the Bible guarantees nothing.

Friday, May 20, 2011

CDC Preparedness 101: Zombie Apocalypse

This is brilliant!

Even if the emergency is not an outbreak of Ataxic Neurodegenerative Satiety Deficiency Syndrome that's okay with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  The CDC doesn't care why you prepare, only that you do prepare.  I so hope no one gets fired for this clever outreach program.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Lest We Forget

The Space Transportation System is a very, very dangerous piece of hardware...

STS 51 L Challenger 1986

As the STS program approaches its last few flights the media and the science blogosphere is busy extolling all the fine times and neat discoveries made possible by the space shuttle.  All the reverie and poetical waxing pays short shrift to the system's shortcomings.  It compromised crew safety from the conceptual stage of the program, arguably in exchange for features the program never delivered.  It has experienced catastrophic failure and killed its crews twice in 133 missions.  Yes, the shuttle blows up once every 66 missions, so far.  I certainly hope Endeavor's final mission and STS-135 Atlantis do not change these unhappy numbers, but "it ain't over 'til it's over."

STS 107 Columbia 2003

Until all the shuttles are safely grounded let's keep our "fingers crossed."  Two more landings and one more launch and our astronauts can return to using a space vehicle that provides a proper launch escape system and (hopefully) a reentry vehicle that can't be killed by a chunk of foam insulation hitting it.

UPDATED: Here's a nice blog post by a writer who is not getting all weepy about the end of the Shuttle program.

ANOTHER UPDATE: I must have missed the memo.  I jumped the gun on dissing the shuttle.  Apparently the mainstream media and the blogosphere were waiting until the run up to the final flight of Atlantis to trot out the deadly shortcomings and massive cost overruns of the STS.

Godspeed, Atlantis!  May you bring your last crew safely home.

FINAL UPDATE: Atlantis returned without obvious incident, leaving the STS with a record of not killing it crew 133 our of 135 missions.  PZ Myers linked to this excellent summary of the many shortcomings of the STS written by Amos Zeeberg, Online Managing Editor at Discover magazine.  PeeZed's pharyngulates have reminded me there were other skeptical voices along the way.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Where Do I Come From?

Whence comes one's world view...

image from our friend Sam at

A correspondent at CFI forums asked "Do we learn our skepticism from books, experience, or hearsay?"

My atheism was cultivated in my weekly Roman Catholic Catechism classes.

My agnosticism was acquired reading on anthropology, astronomy, cosmology, history, natural history, neurology, philosophy, psychology, religion, and theology. Still working on it.  If ever I no longer lack knowledge I'll let you know.

My humanism was nurtured by my family - most all of whom were or are persons of faith, and my friends - some of whom were or are not.

My secularism arose from personal experience and a reading of history.

My skepticism came from pounding through my iPhone podcast directory at 2x playback speed.

My recent and incomplete bibliography is here.

My current podcast listening schedule is here.

I propose to remain a work in progress.

Skip Anyway

Who would you have play you in your teen biopic?

It's Kind of a Funny Story is the story of a depressed teen who admits himself to an improbably porous mental health unit. It's sweet but not saccharine.  It has real edges here and there.  Adapted for the screen (from the novel by Ned Vizzini) and directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, it is visually creative, a touch surreal in all the right places, and features a clever and diverse soundtrack.

Keir Gilchrist carries the show through the funny, the dark, and the surreal.  He plays a kid smart enough to know he doesn't have all the answers, just a mess of questions.  Emma Roberts plays recovering but brittle so naturally you forget how beautiful she is.  Zach Galifianakis provides a strong supporting role, but does not overwhelm the story, which he could without trying.  There are other roles - patients, orderlies, therapists, family, and friends - which offer up moments of truth.


Saturday, May 14, 2011

Why Do Atheists Eat Their Own Young?

Chris Mooney, author, speaker, blogger, and a host of the CFI podcast Point of Inquiry, is a moderate voice in the science and religion debates...

image courtesy of

For choosing dialogue over confrontation, and for accepting a grant from the Templeton Foundation, Mooney is accused of being an "accommodationist."  Apparently other pejoratives, such as sympathizer, collaborator, and quisling just don't strike the correct tone.

I see strong parallels between the fight for the rights of the non-religious and other civil rights issues, most recently the ongoing struggle of the GLBT community. There are academic theorists and philosophers. There are angry protests and pride parades. There are closeted benefactors. There are enclaves, cities, states, parties, and professions where people find acceptance. There are friends who disagree. There are hotlines and gathering places for damaged souls. There are legal challenges. There are neighbors who are out. There are people who feel it is their right to out others. There are people who refuse to be defined by the issue. There are political activists. There are political alliances. There are positive examples in art. There are setbacks and successes.  Both remain multi-generational works in progress.

Are you agnostic, antitheist, atheist, bright, deist, determinist, freethinker, humanist, materialist, mechanist, methodological naturalist, nihilist, none, non-believer, non-theist, other, pantheist, philosophical naturalist, science blogger, science educator, scientist, secular, or skeptic? Which one is right? Who chooses the members of our club? Which tactic is appropriate? Which strategy best suits our long term interests? Who makes a greater contribution to the desired goal? Who chooses the goals?

These are marathons.  There are myriad paths to the finish lines.  We need all the help we can get.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Preventing and Responding to Vandalism at Houses of Worship

First published at Church Security Consultant...

photo courtesy of

On April 5th, 2006, two 19 year-old men entered a worship center that was under construction in a Minneapolis suburb and used baseball bats to cause $200,000 in damage (Adam, 2006).  In May of 2010, a monastery in Rochester, MN, responded to years of repeated vandalism, threats, and harassment by installing a variety of security improvements (Brown, 2010).  Of the many challenges faith communities may have to address, one that can affect any worship center is the threat of vandalism.  While the examples above involved a Hindu temple and a Buddhist monastery, Christian churches have a long and unhappy history of being subjected to vandalism.  Christian congregations, representing the vast majority of worship centers in the U.S., may be expected to suffer the greatest number of incidents.  Jewish synagogues and Muslim mosques have long been a target for hate crimes perpetrated by persons with an anti-Semitic or anti-Muslim bias (FBI, 2009).

Vandalism affects urban, suburban, and rural churches, but may take different forms depending on the location of the house of worship.  Urban churches may suffer from the same graffiti and random acts of property damage as other buildings in the surrounding community.  Due to their seclusion damage to rural facilities may go unnoticed for longer periods of time.  Vandalism – sometimes simply called Damage to Property – is a property crime and may be a felony depending on the value of the damage.  Its precise definition and elements will vary from one state to another, but it generally takes the form of “whoever intentionally causes damage to physical property of another without the latter's consent.”  (Minnesota Statute 609.595)  Some vandalism is simply random thoughtless property damage.  Vandalism is sometimes perpetrated during other crimes such as burglary.  An extreme sort of vandalism is arson, which goes beyond simply damaging or defacing property to attempting to destroy it.  Some vandalism is committed with the intent to intimidate the congregation.  Regardless the location or intention, in the end effective vandalism prevention will be part of a holistic crime prevention effort.

It is possible to regard vandalism in two ways, random or targeted.  Random vandalism occurs when unattended youth, gangs, or graffiti artists choose to damage your facility for reasons other than the fact that it houses a church.  Unattended or unsupervised young people, perhaps even from your own congregation, might choose to carve their initials next to those of someone else.  Skateboarders damage your landscaping, handrails, and benches.  Gangs use “tags” – names, symbols, and phrases – to mark their territory.  They may use a wall of your building or a fence on your property, not because it is part of synagogue or mosque, but because you are on the border of contested turf.  Likewise a graffiti artist or “tagger” may choose your wall as his canvas without regard to what goes on inside the building.

Targeted vandalism can take the form of vulgar statements, hateful utterances, or symbols intended to strike fear in the hearts of those who see them.  They may target named individuals, members of church leadership, or cast aspersions on a particular sect.  Neo-Nazi swastikas are scrawled on synagogues, crosses are burned by white supremacists on the lawns of black churches, and in the example given in the opening paragraph, pro-Christian slogans have been painted on the driveway leading to a Buddhist sanctuary.

Crime prevention experts agree that vandalism is a crime that must be reported promptly to police and your insurance agent or property manager.  As soon the damage is documented it must be promptly repaired or covered with a fresh coat of paint.  This will deny the vandals the thrill of seeing their handiwork and the community’s response to it.  By taking care of your church property you will send a signal to the community, your membership, and the vandals that you intend to protect and preserve a quality environment.

There is an important concept in crime prevention call “Broken Window Theory” (Wilson and Kelling, 1982) that argues that damage to a facility that goes unnoticed or un-repaired sends a dangerous signal to the entire community – perpetrator, bystander, and victim alike – that the owner of the property does not care.  Litter uncollected, lawns un-mowed, or a broken window not replaced will attract more disorder and more damage.  A single broken window pane might attract persons who decide to knock out all the other window panes.  That gap in the perimeter of your building might attract persons to enter the building to perpetrate more vandalism, or other offenses such as vagrancy, theft, burglary, or arson.  In extreme cases a run-down facility can become the site of crimes against persons.

Preventing and responding to vandalism and graffiti requires a community effort.  Consult with persons who live in the neighborhood around your church.  There may be others in your community who are experiencing the same problems.  They have a vested interest in the protecting the community you share.  Local schools may also experience vandalism.  The police department’s school resource officer assigned to nearby schools may have information about perpetrators.  Neighboring congregations may be able to look after your property in the same way you report suspicious activity that affects them.  If you do not belong to the neighborhood watch for the area surrounding your facility, join it today.  If there is no community watch, talk with your local law enforcement agency about hosting and leading such an effort.  Participate in National Night Out, Take Back the Night, Crime Stoppers, or other crime prevention programs.

There are some cases that may make you more vulnerable to vandalism, graffiti, or other property damage.  Special considerations include new construction or renovation, where the property is less secure or hidden from view by construction materials.  Make certain that paints and tools are stored securely.  If you own unoccupied property, unused buildings, garages, or storage sheds look after their security.  The may present an attractive nuisance or a hiding place for gangs, inappropriate activity or disordered individuals.  If your church or pastor takes on controversial service projects or hold strong views on social issues you may attract protesters, some of whom may resort to vandalism.  If you operate outreach programs to disadvantaged members of the community you may have to operate in crime prone areas.  This is not a reason not to house the homeless, provide meals, or host recovery meetings; it simply means you must pay close attention to the security of your facilities and the safety of your personnel.  If your sanctuary features irreplaceable artwork, such as statuary or stained glass windows, additional protection may be needed.  If you maintain a cemetery, you may need to schedule extra security, provide lighting, or lock the gates during mischief prone holidays such as Halloween.  If you operate a church school, you may experience the anger of disgruntled students.  Not only is “an ounce of prevention worth a pound of cure,” by minimizing opportunities for disorder you may even help deliver potential perpetrators from temptation.

Be prepared to marshal all the resources at your disposal.  Your church hierarchy may be able to offer policy guidance, expert advice, or financial support.  Be sure to involve your insurance agent.  He or she has the resources and expertise of the firm’s underwriters to draw upon.  Local law enforcement crime prevention specialists can help you determine how to effectively respond to vandalism and how to reduce the likelihood it will occur again.  If the vandalism you experience takes the form of a hate crime or terroristic threat, state or federal law enforcement agencies may have the authority to investigate.  You may have police and security professionals in your congregation, or professional security associations in your community, who can provide guidance.  You may choose to create a protection committee or ministry to look after the safety and security of the congregation and its property.  In extreme cases you may choose to work with a security consultant, especially if improvements to lighting, barriers, security cameras, or other systems are needed.  Depending on the nature of the challenge, you may find a consultant willing to assist a non-profit organization on a pro bono basis or for a reduced fee.  There are some consultancies that specialize in church security, such as run by Jim McGuffey, CPP, the host of the Church Security Consultant webside.  

In order to prevent vandalism or to prevent its recurrence, you must examine a variety of solutions.  There is no silver bullet that will work in all cases.  First, make certain that all young people at your facility, whether a school, activity center, or sanctuary are appropriately supervised.  Boredom, peer pressure, and the knowledge that no one is watching may tempt even youngsters in your faith community to misbehavior.  Evaluate your property’s sight lines to determine where there are places of concealment.  Lighting, especially motion sensor lighting, can attract the attention of neighbors and passersby.  Be careful to be a good neighbor when choosing security lighting; glare from your property might cause your neighbors to draw their blinds.  Fences can be both a barrier to prevent problems or a “canvas” for graffiti vandals.  If you choose to erect fences consider using chain link or palisade styles which provide a barrier but do not block sight lines and are not as attractive a target for vandals.  An open gate marks a ceremonial threshold even when open for gatherings, events, or services.  While you will likely be required to leave open a path for emergency vehicles even after hours, some gates might be closed and locked to create a “cul de sac” effect that may deter criminals or make it easier for the police to apprehend them.  There are tamper resistant materials and finishes you can choose for new construction or remodeling, or to address a problem prone area.  Dark finishes are recommended over light colors.  Solid walls can be made less interesting by planting creeping vines or hedges.  Another solution, which may seem counter-intuitive, is to provide artists in your community a dedicated “art wall” on which to create appropriately themed murals.  Some graffiti makers who fancy themselves as artists have a code and are inclined to respect existing artwork (Ross, 2009).  As mentioned earlier, prompt repair or repainting surfaces covered with graffiti is essential to keep a problem from taking hold.  Work with your local police to document the crime appropriately before covering it.

Crime prevention experts recommend prosecuting any vandals caught damaging church property.  Vandals are forcing you to spend money that could have been put to a higher purpose elsewhere.  By taking a strong stand, the congregation, the community, and the offenders will know you care.  If you report these crimes when others do not, you may attract attention to offenses occurring throughout the community.  Youth offenders are not helped by letting them off before adjudication.  You may certainly choose to extend mercy after judgment.  Perhaps you can influence the nature of their sentence – which frequently takes the form of community service – after they have been held accountable for their misconduct.  If you and your protection ministry become adept at preventing and responding to graffiti, you might share the wealth by host church security training for other churches or other institutions in your community.

If you wish to learn more about preventing and responding to vandalism in houses of worship, there are many resources you can use for little or no cost.  Your local ASIS International chapter can direct you to experts and materials.  You can find many free articles and guidelines as well as an online bookstore at its website.  ASIS even sponsors a Houses of Worship Security Working Group.  Your local law enforcement agency – city, country, or state – may offer crime general crime prevention advice and guidance for preventing crimes at churches in particular.  Again, websites hosted by these agencies can be a wealth of knowledge, contacts, and free information.  In fact, a Google search for “preventing church vandalism” will link you to thousands of website resources across the country and around the world.  A vandalism prevention idea from New Zealand might work just fine in New York or New Mexico.  As we discussed earlier some sorts of vandalism attract the interest of federal law enforcement agencies, such as the FBI – who may have jurisdiction over some hate crimes, or the Bureau of Alcohol Tobaccoand Firearms (BATF) – whose authority includes the investigation of arson and bombings.  These and other federal organizations also offer free educational materials at their websites.  Your insurance company (and others) offers free materials on the web in addition to the services they provide clients directly.  There are a growing number of church security associations.  Many provide free content at their websites.  Some require a subscription to access their information.  Still others sell books and guidelines.  Shop carefully; there are a lot of free resources out there for the asking.  Don’t forget to visit your local libraries where you, or members of your protection committee, can borrow books on the topic of crime prevention.

By caring for your property, by promptly repairing each “broken window,” and scrubbing off each “tag,” you reduce the likelihood that other crimes will occur.  Remember, effective vandalism prevention is also crime prevention.  By refusing to let vandalism and graffiti take hold, you make a statement to your congregation, your neighborhood, and the community at large, that your house of worship, and all others in your community, deserve and demand compassion, caring, and respect.  


Houses of Worship Security Resource Guide, by ASIS Houses of Worship Security Working Group 

Church Safety Solutions, by Zurich Services Corporation hosted by Brotherhood Mutual Insurance Co. and Christianity Today International


Adams, J. (2006) Two men are charged in Hindu temple vandalism. Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN), May, 13, 2006. Retrieved from

Brown, C. (2010) For seven years, monks have had no peace. Star Tribune (Rochester, Minnesota), May 29, 2010.  Retrieved from

FBI (2009) Hate crime statistics 2009. Federal Bureau of Investigation, Retrieved from

Minnesota Office of the Revisor of Statutes (2010) 609.595 Damage to property.  Minnesota Statutes.  Retrieved from

Ross, C. (2009) Murals help deter graffiti vandalism. North County Times, Saturday, January 2, 2010.  Retrieved from

Wilson, J. and Kelling, G. (1982) Broken windows. Atlantic Magazine, May, 1982.  Retrieved from

UPDATE: Yet another community responds to the desecration of their cemetery

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

TSA Checkpoints: A Modest Proposal

A LinkedIn associate and I have an idea for re-branding TSA Checkpoints as a nation-wide franchise of Department of Healthy Screening clinics...

We'll have you on your flight in no time!

"Did anyone else catch today's story about the possibility of screeners doing DNA swabs? Great news! If we hold out long enough, those pesky insurance co-pays will disappear and we can have all of our health screenings, breast exams and Lord knows what else, conducted in the airport as we pass through security. I'm all about multi-tasking. I wonder if they can check my cholesterol and this eye tic I develop when I read articles about TSA. At least maybe I'll go from 'Female Random!' and pat down before I even hit the scanners to not having to schedule a physical in the doctors office ever again.  "Excuse me Officer, does this feel weird to you? I feel like it might be something."

Rachel, you owe my employer a new keyboard - one without cheap dark roast coffee sputtered all over it.

But I think you're on to something. Maybe the TSA can check us for fever, test us for strep throat, and prevent pandemic by giving us our annual flu jab.  They can assess our exposure to hazardous chemicals like nitrates.  They can distribute Eddie Eagle firearm safety brochures.  They can teach our kids not to run with scissors, especially on the jet way.  Weight Watchers can track our height, weight, and body mass index throughout the travel year.  Abdominal X-rays to check for explosives carried "drug mule-style" would require a pregnancy test for female suspects - no charge of course. Lens Crafters can modify retina scanners to provide eye exams. The American Cancer Society can buy signage rights where the breast exams and prostate palpations are performed. Gold's Gym can measure the pulse, respiration rate, and flexibility of travelers as they do the TSA "coats-shoes-belt" drill. Dr. Scholl's can size us for orthotics by evaluating our postures in stocking feet. The ever perky Denise Austin can brand a TSA 3-1-1 workout video.  

Just think of it, nationalized health care that contributes to the global war on terror while turning a tidy profit!  Yes indeed, it's clear we've all been looking at this the wrong way...

Saturday, May 7, 2011

This and That

From some of the discussion groups I frequent...


image from

"Does anyone have a report or know of a study that has been conducted that indicates whether or not a newly-constructed homeless shelter increased crime or risk within a geographic area? A residential community or commercial center?"

A quick Google of the terms homeless shelter effect on "crime rate" pdf returned some papers such as:

Some are academic, others are position papers written by organizations with an obvious stake in outcomes. I don't have time to assess them for bias and agenda. Perhaps you can let us know what you find in the course of your research on this important topic.

"I'm searching for a template or developed scenario to conduct a response exercise/drill on purposeful food contamination in the retail convenience store sector."

You might try a replay of the 1984 Rajneeshee bioterror attack.

UPDATE: Another poster suggested DHS/FEMA National Planning Scenario 13: Biological Attack – Food Contamination

And CARVER + Shock.

Not cheerful stuff...

"Interested in CPTED guidelines. Any CPP out there currently working with CPTED principles?"

There is a CPTED group at LinkedIn managed by Severin Sorenson, one of the top people in the field. He has a website with resources too.

Anything by Randall Atlas is worth reading.  His website is here.

Likewise Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design by the late Timothy Crowe is a classic in the field

In the mean time just in case you haven't read Creating Defensible Space your reference library is incomplete.

The wikipedia external links on the topic lead us to a very interesting annotated bibliography

Friday, May 6, 2011

Fifty Years Since Freedom Seven

I'd be remiss if I didn't tip my hat to the memory of Alan Shepard's historic sub-orbital flight...

The anniversary has been written up by many people who actually remember it. I was three years old.  I became aware of the space program during the Gemini missions and came of age during Apollo.  One summer in the late 60s my Aunt Phyllis drove me to Casselton, North Dakota, to see a mock-up of the Mercury capsule.  I patiently waited my turn to sit in the capsule.  It was not roomy, even for a kid.  I had to be gently encouraged to exit when my time was up.  I went to the back of the line to wait for another turn.  Tom Wolfe did a nice job of the retelling the story of the Mercury Seven in his book The Right Stuff. The movie of the same name is worth watching again if you haven't seen it in a while,  Alan Shepard traveled to moon as the commander of Apollo 14 in 1971.  He died in 1998. 

UPDATE: Some folks never realized that the Redstone used for the two sub-orbital flights was essentially a short range battlefield missile that relied heavily on the design of the WWII German V2 rocket designed by Werner von Braun.  The Atlas rocket used in the Mercury project's orbital missions, and the Titan booster used for all the Gemini missions, were originally intercontinental ballistic missiles designed to deliver Cold War nuclear weapons.  Neat article here.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Private Security Attitudes About The Role of Weapons in Preventing Workplace Violence II

The survey results are in...

image from

Some recent discussions at the Security Source Online discussion group at LinkedIn got me thinking there may be some detectable demographic differences between security professionals who hold strong opinions regarding the role of armed security personnel and armed citizens in reducing homicides at work, in houses of worship, or at school.

I used Survey Monkey instead of LinkedIn Polls as there are people who were inviting to participate who may not have a LinkedIn account. I do not have a premium account at Survey Monkey so I was limited to ten questions.

Private security professionals at several LinkedIn groups, the management staff of a contract guarding company, line officers at a guarding contract client site, and three security-related blogs were asked to answer a brief survey at Survey Monkey titled “Private Security Attitudes about the Role of Weapons in Preventing Workplace Violence.” Five questions were asked. Three solicited opinions on the role of weapons in preventing or responding to workplace violence. Two questions assessed the knowledge of the magnitude and nature of the problem. Then five demographic questions were asked. This was a crude instrument and a very small, self-selected sample, but there were several results I find striking.

1) Homicides at work, in church, and at school in the U.S. have reached epidemic proportions.

24 answered True (42.9%)

29 answered False (51.8%)

Three answered “Other” (05.4%)


“Epidemic is to strong a word. Worrysome is more accurate.”

“Epidemic too strong, but clearly homicides are too many”

“Don't know the data.”

2) Having armed guards on the premises will reduce the number of homicides at work, at church, or at school in the U.S.

29 replied True (51.8%)

22 replied False (39.3%)

Five replied “Other” (08.9%)


“armed and well trained”

“uniformed presence/marked vehicles could reduce”

“They will but at what expense?”

“Some armed guards would help, but not all should be armed as this is not needed.”

“I believe having armed security will help in reducing the risk factor for homicides in the workplace versus not having them.”

3) Allowing employees, members of the congregation, school staff, or adult students to carry concealed firearms will reduce the number of homicides at work, at church, or at school in the U.S.

21 said True (37.5%)

29 said False (51.8%)

Six said “Other” (10.7%)


“yes, with proper situational and firearms training”

“They will but at what expense?”

“Might decrease the number but not stop them.”

“depends upon their training”

“not sure, lets hear the evidence”

“Only professionals should carry, which train for those types of high risk workplace violence incidents.”

4) How many workplace violence murders occur each year in the U.S.?

For this question we rely on the Revisions to the 2009 Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI) counts (2011) published by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The numbers were revised on May 4, 2011. Prior to this adjustment the number for 2009 was 521. It has since been revised to 542.

25 respondents under-estimated, 57% (10-350).

Five (11%) responded saying the number was between 500-600. 521 was the correct answer; only one respondent was precisely correct.

14 respondents over-estimated, 32% (1000-3000, and one respondent said 40,000).


“not sure”

“According to the BLS 2009 report there were 4,340 fatalities in the work place during 2009, with 521 by homicide. Although the BLS (1992 - 2009) report has shown a lessening of fatalities during this time, it should be remembered that medical science is saving ever more lives during this same time frame. To look ONLY at the # of Fatalities would be flawed. We must look at how many times someone TRIED to kill other humans in the work place, not just the # that actually died of their injuries.”


“Approximately 1,000 murders occur, however there are more than one million workplace occurrences if you include incidents that do not result in murder.”

“Not sure, but I do know its out of control”

“Dont know”



“(which includes service workers killed in robberies, police officers killed in the line of duty, etc.)”

“Don't know.”

No respondent got this and the next question right.

5) What percentage of workplace violence murders in the U.S. are committed by co-workers, former co-workers, clients, family, or friends of the victim?

For this question we take our answer from Occupational homicides by selected characteristics, 1997-2009, published by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2011). The correct answer is 24%.

37 said 70% (68.5%)

Six said 50% (11.1%)

Four selected the closest to the correct answer of 30% (7.4%)
Five said 10% (9.3%)

Two said “Other” (3.7%)


“Again the BLS (1992-2009) report shows that although Fatalities dropped 50% from 1992 to 2008, they have only dropped 1% from 2008 - 2009 and again the BLS report only shows fatalities.”

“Don't know.”

No respondent got this and the former question right.

A) How long have you worked in the private security field?

Less than 10 24.1% 13

10-20 31.5% 17

20-30 27.8% 15

30-40 13.0% 07

More than 40 03.7% 02

B) What is your age and gender?

52 men and four women participated in the survey.

(Analysis of ages will be presented shortly.)

C) Education 

HS or GED 13.0% 07

Two Year Degree 13.0% 07

Four Year Degree 53.7% 29

Masters 16.7% 09

Doctorate 00.0% 00

Post doctorate 00.0% 00

Other 03.7% 02

D) I am or have been a law enforcement officer and/or a member of the armed services

True 63.0% 34

False 37.0% 20

Other 00.0% 00

E) Your politics

Democrat 18.5% 10

Independent 24.1% 13

Republican 38.9% 21

Libertarian 07.4% 04

Other 11.1% 06


When asked the number of workplace violence murders committed each year in the U.S. 57% of respondents under-estimated. Only one in ten (9.6%) private security professionals correctly answered the question. 32% over-estimated the number. 15% of respondents did not know the answer.

When asked the percentage of workplace violence murders in the U.S. committed by co-workers, former co-workers, clients, family, or friends of the victim 10% of respondents underestimated. Only one in 12 (8.0%) private security professional correctly answered the question. Four out of five (83%) private security professionals over-estimated the percentage of workplace violence murders in the U.S. committed by co-workers, former co-workers, clients, family, or friends of the victim.

This has been explained by others who study the psychology of risk. We tend to overestimate the risk of encountering exotic hazards (airplane crashes) and downplay the frequency of more mundane hazards (car crashes).

Of the demographic traits collected none seemed to correlate with those in error or the few who got the right answers.


As I mentioned in the introduction, this was a crude instrument. I am also no sort of statistician.  The survey represents very small, self-selected sample. The opinions expressed are just that, opinions. But two fact-based questions were asked. The idea that self-selected private security professionals with strong opinions about the risk of workplace violence were unable to accurately describe the magnitude or nature of lethal workplace violence is striking. This may be the result of lack of access to or awareness of the available statistics. Or it may be the consequence of the very human tendency to get it wrong when we conflate our feelings about risk with actually thinking about the real numbers.


U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2011) Revisions to the 2009 Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI) counts. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved from

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2011) Occupational homicides by selected characteristics, 1997-2009. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved from

UPDATED TO ADD: Some discussion group correspondents ignore cases that challenge what seems to be an article of faith...

"There is no time to waste as we saw in the Columbine and Virginia Tech slayings. Waiting for police response did no good to the countless victims."

Rather, as we saw at Columbine having a sheriff's deputy on site when the shooting started did the the countless victims no good. Why does everyone forget there was an armed school resource officer at Columbine that day? He exchanged gunfire with Harris without effect (his four pistol shots from 60 yards were misses), called for backup, and waited for it to arrive. Should he have been indoors instead of eating lunch in his squad car in the parking lot? Should he have entered the building to press home an attack on Dylan and Klebold? Should he have been better armed and better trained? Given that one cop with a pistol in the wrong spot was not enough to make a difference, how many appropriately armed and equipped personnel in the right spot would have been needed to stop the killing immediately?