The Philippines’ first and only industry magazine that deals with safety and security matters pervading the environment today.

The Need For StreetSmarts

In these difficult economic times caused by the global financial crisis, increased desperation raises the risks of street crime. Coupled with the operations of transnational crime syndicates, gangs and the links of drugs to violent street crime, citizens need to seriously take a look at the precautions they take for their own personal safety. They need to be Street Smart.

Gangs are the new Mafia. They control specific areas of real estate within which they operate protection rackets, sell drugs, steal property, extort, deal in illegal weapons, engage in hooliganism, rape, murder and recruit more gang members in order to strengthen their ranks. It is easy to enter a gang, but you can never leave.

Ironically, revenue generation through prohibited drugs is a multiple-edged blade used by gangs with broad-reaching effects. Through drugs, they raise large profits, achieve power through violence (drugs make criminals impervious to pain—they simply do not feel it while under the influence of such things as shabu, thus the tendency towards illogical and ruthless violence), and lastly, destroy the family as a unit of society.

Make no mistake about it, gangs are operated by dark business strategists, who will give “promotional” packages to students, offering to support their drug habits for free if they bring in ten new customers (usually from the ranks of our naïve and unsuspecting youth). What follows is an all-too-typical chain of events that destroys families and further contributes to street crime. The drug user will begin to fail in school, his health will begin to deteriorate, his mind will be altered by drugs, his priorities in life will change, he may develop animosity and a rebel-like attitude towards his parents. Suspicious of the worst, his parents will not give him his allowance because they fear he will use it for drugs. Things will then begin to disappear around the house as the drug user resorts to theft from his own home to fund his drug habit.

Shouting and fights will break out—I know of a 15-year-old who was in the process of ransacking his house looking for money or things of value to sell as his weeping mother looked on. Just then his father came home and a fight broke out. It almost became lethal because the youngster eventually had a knife at his father’s throat. The tiny bit of conscience he had left within him, along with his mother’s pleas, made him stop. I am no Biblical scholar, but surely this is what is meant by “the destruction of the woman and her seed.” Incidents like this happen in tens of thousands of homes around the nation. Estimates place the number of drug users in our country at over 3 million going towards 4 million. The growth rate is similar to our birth rate at roughly 3 new users every minute.

The resulting lack of peace and harmony in homes drives our youth into the streets and into “surrogate families” where they find acceptance and sympathy—gangs. New gang members are initiated in twisted rituals and recruited into a life of crime. Included in their regular activities is violence against other gangs in turf wars that determine their wealth and power. Gangs have signs and a language all of their own, typically used to mark-off territories, making it clear that outsiders are not welcome.  It is a normal part of gang life that eventually one goes to jail. Prisons are “finishing schools” where youngsters mix with hardened criminals and get their “Masters Degree” in crime. Indeed, many gang operations are controlled from within prisons. Some gangs have become so powerful that they operate across national boundaries and have thousands of members.

So you can see how the streets are now a different place. If we are not aware of the dangers we are exposed to when we are in public, then we are at an increased level of risk. You only have to be in the wrong place at the wrong time to get into trouble. We should seriously think about our own personal safety and for those we are most concerned about in life. I have been teaching Street Smarts for many years and have dissected the elements of risk, criminal modus operandi and personal safety measures that one must take in his own enlightened self-interest. Street Smarts is designed for call center workers, students, office workers, the elderly or anyone who feels that he might be at risk when in public. It gives you a personal radar system that will help keep you out of danger when out on the streets. It also addresses the issues of what to do when you are in harm’s way. Street Smarts is applicable anywhere and can be used in any big city of the world or a small town in the province.

Much of the priority is placed on prevention. It is my concern to keep you out of trouble—not get you into trouble. As they say, an ounce of prevention is worth more than a pound of cure. More than 50% of violent street crime involves bladed weapons, so there is also an emphasis on knife lethality awareness and how to escape the dangers posed by edged weapons. In the past, I had used experts from Japanese Martial Arts who specialized in the techniques passed down from ancient Samurai warriors. I was then of the impression that the Samurai had the best defensive techniques against the blade. Today, however, I have come to realize that our own Filipino Martial Arts (FMA) is much better. I noticed that Japanese systems were centered on fighting skills that were based on warriors using armor and thus the techniques used were adapted to that. Filipino warriors however, have never used armor and thus their fighting techniques are different and much more applicable in our modern-day scenarios. When the hosts of Discovery Channel’s “Fight Quest” searched the world for the best techniques for bladed weapons, they found them in the Philippines. This is something that Magellan discovered long ago.

Essentially, Street Smarts teaches to avoid danger as much as possible because there is no prize for “second place” against a street criminal. So if you can spot trouble while it is still avoidable—by all means, walk away from it. Your family will thank you for being non-confrontational when you come home. If street criminals still “get the drop on you”, it is best you give up your cell phone or wallet, as these things are replaceable—you on the other hand are not. Replacement costs for a cell phone will also be much cheaper than hospital or funeral expenses. There have been instances where victims have already given up their valuables, but are still harmed or killed by criminals. In these instances, you must defend at all costs! You must use proven defensive techniques that will get you out of harm’s way as quickly and effectively as possible, then exit the danger zone immediately and report the crime.

Street Smarts has follow-on training programs that will teach you to use improvised weapons such as key chains, O.C. spray, flash lights, ball pens, umbrellas or hair brushes to defend yourself and get out of trouble. There are no rules out on the street and you have to have a totally different mindset when you are dealing with street criminals. The specialized training programs can be likened to doing a regular fitness program, but at the same time you are learning critical defensive skills that could one day save your life. I must emphasize at this point that in order to develop proficiency, you must practice regularly. Under stress, you will defend yourself as you have trained—it will take place automatically. Perfect practice makes for perfect defense. You must make the personal choice not to become a victim way before you get into trouble, the skills you use to defend  yourself are developed over time.

There are many so-called experts out there; I have seen things on national TV that made knife defense look easy as 1-2-3. Let me tell you, it is not that simple and media should be held accountable for the misconceptions that it spreads in the name of sensationalism. Things are easy when they are “scripted.” People could get hurt if they believe in the “quick-fix” approach. I seriously doubt that you will be able to defend yourself against a knife attack with something you saw on TV from the comfort of your couch. You have to train in proven and effective techniques for a few months before you can reach a level of proficiency that will keep you out of harm’s way. If you can put in six months, so much the better. Treat it like going to a different kind of gym. Be very careful what you bet your life on.

With the opening of schools, it is important that students be aware of the risks they may be exposed to when in public. Many go to malls or upbeat commercial establishment that look very safe, but we must keep in mind that criminals are 2-legged predators, they will go where they can find their prey. In today’s difficult times you need an internal radar system that will help you steer clear of trouble, you need Street Smarts. •

We also teach the various stages of escalation in street crime. Each stage is separate and distinct. There are different protocols for each stage, as well as interventions that help make it possible for you to avoid becoming a victim. It is possible for you to get out of trouble in the early stages of a crime that is about to happen—it is important that you know them and not let the situation deteriorate to the point that you will be at risk. Street Smarts also teaches the various levels of awareness key to your survival on the streets; the key elements of street crime; the importance of intuition; criminal modus operandi and countermeasures you can employ against each criminal procedure; practical tips & techniques for personal safety on the street; how to report a crime; the concept of safe havens for community peace & order; what to do to prevent cell phone theft; strike points that can be effectively used against any aggressor (large or small); and many other simple but practical protocols that you can use for your own personal safety.