Thursday, January 13, 2022

Book Review: "Suburban Defense" by Don Shift

Book: Suburban Defense: A cop's guide to protecting your home and neighborhood during riots, civil war, or SHTF. by Don Shift (2021, 404 pages).

    As you can already guess, Shift's background is in law enforcement in the greater Los Angeles area; specifically, as a member of the Ventura County Sheriff's Office. He brings his experience in law enforcement together with his interest in disaster preparation to provide a detailed look at how you could defend your home and neighborhood against mobs, looters and bandits in a post-SHTF situation such as after a natural disaster, economic crash, or civil unrest such as we saw in 2020.

    Because of the timing of this book, Shift was able to incorporate information and trends we saw play out in the rioting of 2020, including the political motivated prosecution of people that tried to protect themselves or their homes from the hands of mobs of protesters, rioters, looters and arsonists. He also takes the realistic assessment that not all disasters or events will be periods where we are without rule of law (WROL), or that even if we experience WROL, it most likely will only be temporary such that readers will eventually face scrutiny by law enforcement. Thus, his advice covers legal options for defending your neighborhood, but also has suggestions if the breakdown will be longer and much worse.

    His book is split into the following parts:

  1. Critical Event Categories: This section covers some basic terms such as SHTF, WROL, and "Grid Down" before discussing different scenarios we may face ranging from what the press euphemistically calls "mostly peaceful protests" and up through longer term WROL. For each category he briefly discusses the characteristics of the situation and potential threats, defensive preparations, defensive tactics, possible blow-back, and more. This chapter alone would give you a good overview on to protect your home and/or neighborhood.
  2. Neighbors and Defenders: This chapter covers putting together a neighborhood team, the typical types of support (or opposition) you might get from various neighbors, and so on. I appreciate Shift's bluntness in pointing out that some neighbors will be opposed to any sort of defense or use of force; and some will actually sympathize or support those threatening the neighborhood. 
  3. Intelligence: Shift here covers what your purpose is for collecting intelligence and the importance of learning about the area in which you live and how to go about better learning the lay of the land and observing what is going on around you and the people that live in or frequent your neighborhood. He also covers the basics of intelligence and analysis appropriate for your situation (remember that you are not a law enforcement or military agency--your goals are more limited); the difference between strategic and tactical intelligence; putting together problem and target profiles; and methods of gathering intelligence based on resources available to the general public.
  4. Communications: This chapter covers communication basics. Because Shift does not believe that we can depend on the internet or phone communications being available, the majority of the chapter concerns itself with radio communications. He also makes recommendations as to the type of equipment and preparation to make in regard to communications, including recommending that you get a HAM license.
  5. Self-Defense Legalities: As I have harped on before, preparation for defending yourself necessarily needs to include an understanding of the basic laws or rules of self-defense, including any peculiarities of your jurisdiction. Obviously Shift cannot address the peculiarities of one jurisdiction over another, but he does delve quite deeply into the law of self-defense, particularly against a group of protesters, mobs, or other organized groups. And based on what we saw in 2020, he also warns of liberal prosecutors that sympathize with the mob and will actively seek to prosecute anyone defending themselves against a favored demographic. This chapter alone is worth the cost of the book.
  6. Hardening the Home: As you can guess, this section discusses methods of making your home more physically able to stop intruders. He doesn't limit it to the physical structure of the home, but also addresses methods that you can use in landscaping and fencing to keep protesters or an angry mob from bothering your home. Probably most important of all, he discusses the deficiencies of modern home construction when it comes to defense, and how best to protect yourself should someone start shooting or firebombing your property.
  7. Defending Your Suburb: Here, Shift moves beyond your individual home to methods to protect your neighborhood, most of which involves limiting access through use of barriers or gates, having layers of protection, and requiring armed people to stand watch. He discusses methods of surveillance to make sure people aren't trying to sneak into the neighborhood or see what they are doing the next street over. Shift discusses different types of barriers and how to make your own or how to arrange vehicles to be used as barriers; as well as using barriers and vehicles to funnel people into an "engagement area" (or kill zone, if need be). But even with all that, you could have protesters call your bluff and attempt to force their way into your neighborhood and/or provoke your defense team to shoot or otherwise use illegal force to either justify the mobs use of force or to call down the whole apparatus of the law on you. Thus, a big part of defending your suburb, Shift writes, is to exercise restraint--you certainly don't want to be chucked in jail, but you don't want to unnecessarily alienate people in your neighborhood or potential allies. Discretion is the better part of valor in this situation. On this note, Shift discusses neighbors that will be upset with an access control into or out of the neighborhood and how to deal with this problem in a way that won't get you arrested or turn the uncooperative neighbor into an enemy. Finally, he discusses how to give orders to people that might try to breach the barrier, and preparing for a mob approaching the barriers. 
  8. Apartment Complexes: While we tend to think of the suburbs as full of single-family homes, if we think about it, we will realize that there are a large number of apartment complexes. Shift discusses the peculiarities and challenges for securing and defending an apartment complex.
  9. Dealing With Police In A Crises Situation: The basic gist of this section is that police can be a resource, but that they are not your friends. Be civil and cooperative, but don't share your plans. As with your neighbors, there may be members of the police force that support protesters and rioters or their goals and who would like to make an example of a less politically favored demographic. Shift discusses why the police do the things they do, how to deal with an upset officer, and interactions between armed citizens and police, with specific instructions and guidelines for when interacting with police or if you should be detained.
  10. Riot Basics: This section covers how riots start, the difference between a crowd and mob, and how to analyze the threat of a crowd turning into a riot.
  11. Riot And Crowd Control: This section deals with some methods for attempting to control a crowd or mob, keeping in mind that you are not law enforcement and likely lack the manpower and training to force a mob to disburse. Shift also covers the use of force and use of force continuum, and the difference between what you, as the private citizen can do, versus law enforcement. As Shift notes, "[f]or the private citizen, in a non-life threatening situation reasonable self-defense force is that which ends the criminal action. Using the standard of reasonableness, this would mean the least amount of force necessary to get the person to stop is used." He discusses possible responses to different levels of force used by a mob as well as tools or devices useful at different levels of force. He really likes the use of paintball guns as less than lethal deterrence.
  12. Fighting And Combat In A Suburb: Shift initially discusses bullet penetration and the difference between cover and concealment--your home is likely only the latter as against rifle rounds. He also discusses the effectiveness of expedient cover such as sand or earth filled bags, water barrels, vehicles, and so on. He also discusses other skills such as movement, breaking contact, setting up fields of fire, stopping a vehicle with gun fire, combat at night, and the use of snipers. Shift also covers rules of engagement and what to do in a hostage situation: "If a bad guy has taken a loved one hostage and tells you to drop your weapon (or anything else), don't comply." Finally, he discusses what to do if you need to retreat or your neighborhood is overrun. 
  13. Arson And IEDs: This is a useful situation if you don't know how to react to such attacks. 
  14. Night Vision: As you would expect, this chapter covers night vision devices and the advantages they bring to the table. But if you can't afford quality night vision devices, he provides tips on maximizing your own natural vision, while attempting to reassure the reader that attackers will most likely not have such devices. 
  15. Firearms And Tactical Accessories: This section is really intended for the person without much knowledge of defensive firearms, being a quick explanation of defensive firearms and some recommendations with a primary emphasis on a military style semi-auto rifle. He also discusses some less-lethal weapons such as Tasers and pepper spray. Shift also provides recommendations as how much ammo you should store, which you will probably find to be less than most other sources recommend. He also discusses accessories such as optical and night sights, weapon mounted lights (but recommends against using lasers), load bearing equipment, body armor, etc. He also provides some advice about creating reasonable doubt as to whether you used a firearm such as purchasing a firearm through a private sale, always handling and loading ammunition while wearing gloves to prevent fingerprints, and ditching a gun. 
  16. Vehicles: This section goes outside the realm of your neighborhood to discuss what to do if you are in a vehicle and surrounded by protesters or a mob. This is a delicate subject because protesters, even if they are beating on your car, generally will not pose a risk of grave bodily harm necessary to allow the use of lethal force, but it is an especially frightening situation that may cause you to press on the gas petal ... which would be a use of lethal force. As always, your best defense is to not be there. But if you are there, he provides some guidance, including moving through a crowd and what to do if your vehicle comes under gun fire. Other topics include how to properly ram another vehicle, and moving in convoys. 
  17. Evacuation: The worst has happened, and you must abandon your home. Shift explains things to consider before you run out the door, such as were are you going, getting out of your house in hurry (e.g., if it is on fire, you come under attack, etc.), etc.
  18. Refugees And Tent Camps: Don't be a refugee, and don't let refugees set up camp near your neighborhood. Shift, tongue in cheek, warns that "[r]ural and distant suburb residents should plan for and expect large numbers of individuals leaving large cities. Not insignificant numbers of these urbanites will have low impulse control and proclivity to violence." 
    So the foregoing is a brief outline of what this lengthy book is about. What I can tell you is that while I already knew a lot of the information in this book and you can find bits and pieces in other books, there was a lot of new information and ideas. Most importantly, Shift has collected this information and filtered it through the perspective of a law enforcement officer. Most other books I've read dealing with defense of a home, neighborhood, or community assume a complete absence of law allowing you to respond to threats in a militaristic manner. Shift notes that the reality is that law and order will return whether it is within a few hours, days, or weeks, and you will face the consequences if you defended yourself unlawfully. We saw this in the aftermath of Katrina, for instance. Obviously justice was not meted out for every assault or death, but where there was evidence it was pursued. 

    There were certain points I could quibble with. For instance, Shift gave the impression that trees were only concealment and not cover, whereas tests I've seen involving shooting at trees to determine penetration have generally shown that a healthy tree of 12 inches in diameter will stop common rifle rounds, at least through the center line of the trunk. But I found the book to be well thought out and full of useful information and points to consider.

    I would recommend this book to anyone living in a subdivision, suburb, or, even, a small town, as I believe it offers the most realistic assessment of civilian defense of a house or neighborhood, especially in light of Soros-backed prosecutors that worship at the feet of "wokeness" and will figuratively crucify any homeowner that dares to protect their property against a crowd. And should things go south where legalities are no longer a concern, Shift provides the basics for defense under those situations as well.

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