Friday, January 25, 2013

You’re Not Quite Afraid Enough

"Fire and brimstone coming down from the skies! Rivers and seas boiling! Forty years of darkness! Earthquakes, volcanoes…  The dead rising from the grave! Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together...mass hysteria."

There I was, perusing my favorite LinkedIn groups when I stumbled across an advertisement in the ASIS International group.

“Street Smart Home Security Tips, by The Security Sensei”

I made a visit to the Global Security Experts website to see if they have anything new on offer, and to see if they are still using lurid claims in their bunker mentality marketing campaign.  Alas, there are no new products, but on the latter point I was disappointed but not surprised.  There, on their facts and statistics page, I encountered this frightful pellet of information:

"From 1994 to 2000, an average of 3,600,000 home invasions occurred each year."

Let’s just say I couldn’t decide whether this was a LOL or WTF moment.  So I responded to the Security Sensei.   

Sensei, your sales website tells visitors: 

"From 1994 to 2000, an average of 3,600,000 home invasions occurred each year."

“A home invasion is when a criminal forces his way into an occupied dwelling and carries out a robbery or other violent crime. A home invasion is much like a carjacking, as the crime takes place when the victims are present."

“Home invasions are difficult to track because these crimes are usually filed as a burglary, robbery, assault, battery, rape, and even murder. This makes it difficult to keep the public informed as to just how prevalent the occurrences of actual home invasions are in their own communities.” 

Can you explain how your firm arrived at this shocking number?  In 1994 (the most violent year between 1994 and 2000) there were 1,926,000 violent crimes of all types tracked by the FBI.  That’s a victimization rate of 713 per 100,000 people.  If true, your claim of 3,600,000 home invasions would represent a rate of over 1,332 per 100,000 for that crime alone.  What gives? 

We’ll see if the Sensei has anything to say. 

My point is not that crime isn’t a problem.  It’s not that people don’t have an interest in looking after their families.  It’s not even that Global Security Experts don’t sell a really neat doorstop.  My point is that security professionals should not scare people, not accidentally and never on purpose.  And security product salesmen should drum up business or close the deal by using inflated, incorrect, or fabricated statistics to generate fear.

UPDATE 25 January 2013: That was quick.  Here's the Sensei's reply

"As always thank you for your insightful comment. I will contact our 'fact checker' on Monday to ascertain the source. In the event the statistic was misquoted I will have it omitted from our website.

Please know we strive to represent the security industry in a fair and transparent manner. Occasionally things slip through the cracks and for that I sincerely apologize.

apologize for any inconvenience."

RE-UPDATE 26 January 2013: The Sensei's removed his post from the LinkedIn ASIS International group.  That was quick too.  Come Monday perhaps his 'fact checker' can show us in what universe one of every 75 Americans is the victim of a home invasion each year.

ANOTHER UPDATE 27 January 2013: The Sensei replied in the comment section of this post.

"We have removed the inaccurate stat as promised. I am curious to know if you will be contacting the dozens of other companies listing the same home invasion stats.

It appears you must have a lot free time, why not target the other companies who are truly dishonest. As opposed to my company who is now operating for 16 years without a single customer, state or federal complaint?

If your going to appoint yourself the security stat sheriff I would hope you would contact other companies using the same or similar stats"

As for his point about my choosing to act as his statistical conscience, my initial reaction is that he brought his errant numbers and fear-fraught advertorials to me by posting them in forums and online versions of security trade magazines that I read.  I have not gone looking for him elsewhere.  Are there other firms using the same incorrect if not fictitious numbers?  Having got all up in the Sensei's grille about it I'm a little tempted to learn who those mis-marketeers might be.  For now, all I know is that I've not encountered them where I hang out.  Others have trotted out bad numbers or fake numbers when discussing other topics - especially news reports related to workplace violence - and I have called them on it too.  Does pointing out incorrect or incorrectly used numbers, especially those being abused for commercial purposes, especially as it applies to my profession, especially when they create irrational fears makes my job harder, make me a "security stat sheriff," and if so, is that a bad thing?  I'll have to think on that.