Wednesday, September 9, 2009



By : Mr. G. Chadwick Klauenberg, Esq., J.D. (University of Pennsylvania Law School 1980), Former Chief of Police, East Orange, New Jersey (1985-2005); Published Author, Can’t Thug This : Hoodlum Management in 21st Century Urban America (New York Times Bestseller List), a Best-Selling Self-Defense Handbook; Amateur Chef; Property Owner (residence and beachfront properties).

We live in a violent society. For those who inhabit cities in the United States, crime is a very real danger. Murderous gangs roam the streets. Discharged and undiagnosed psychiatric patients threaten to push innocent commuters before onrushing subway trains. Con artists defraud hard-working men and women with fanciful yarns. And thousands of petty thieves mill through the streets every day, picking pockets, stealing, looting, robbing and swindling.

It is essential to know how to deal with crime. But today I do not write to call for greater enforcement against criminals. I leave that to legislators and executive officials in State government. Rather, today I write in order to inform the public about an important skill: How to keep yourself and your property safe from violent crime. Today, we are not talking about theories and abstractions. We are talking about real-life, practical skills that will prevent you from being the next police statistic.

Let’s face it: Many criminals want your property. They want your wallet, your watch, your Gucci handbag, your billfold, your cash, your family amulet, your car and even your furniture. Criminals are not like you or me. They do not work, make money, pay taxes and buy things at Wal-Mart®. No, they have separated themselves from society. Unlike us, they acquire money and property by violence, scheme and coercion. Everybody wants property in our society. Yet there is a legal way to do it. Criminals don’t follow the legal way.

It is illegal to steal and rob. As law-abiding citizens, we find it appalling that some people commit violence in order to obtain property. But that does not alter the fact that many people do it. For that reason, we must be prepared to deal with robbers and thieves. They are out there. They see our property. They want it. And they are ready to hurt us to take it from us. Put simply, we must be on our guard.

I have written many articles about self-defense and practical crime prevention. I always take a practical approach. I do not try to explain social trends and the reasons “why” criminals become criminals. I do not rationalize criminal behavior, nor do I make excuses for criminals, like blaming bad schools, bad parenting and poverty. Rather, I try to keep law-abiding citizens—like you—safe from hooligans. It does not help a robbery victim to understand why her assailant is a hooligan; it helps to prevent the hooligan from attacking in the first place. Hooligans are hooligans. In my book, that fact doesn’t change. And it makes no sense to debate it.

Let’s talk robbery. We must always fear robbers. They lurk everywhere. At this very moment, some thug may be sitting in a car outside your townhouse, observing your daily routine. He may be looking at your clothes, your briefcase and even the grocery bags you carry on the way home from work every night at 9 PM. He may be looking at your house and guessing that you have quite a lot of property. He may be plotting the right moment to ambush you and take your wallet. Put simply, robbers are everywhere. As long as you have property, robbers will try to take it from you.

I was a police chief for 20 years. Before that, I went to law school. From both a legal and law enforcement perspective, I know a thing or two about robbers. My knowledge can help you avert robbery. Robbery has a legal definition. In the law, behavior either fits the definition or it doesn’t. You can legally avoid robbery if you know what robbery actually means. When you understand what robbery actually is, you can take steps to make it impossible for a criminal to rob you.

At common law and in most State law, robbery is “the taking of personal property from a person by force or fear.” That means a person can rob you with a toy gun because he creates “fear” in order to take your personal property. It also means no one can rob your house, or your tree, or even apples from your tree, because those things are “real property,” not “personal property.” “Personal property” is “anything that is movable,” like a watch, a wallet, a pocket-knife, a painting or a jar. Apples are movable, too, but they are an exception to the rule because they come from trees, which are not “personal property.” There has also been some debate whether a mobile home is “personal property.” But let’s not get too philosophical; in most cases, a robber doesn’t want your trailer or your apple orchard.

No matter the circumstances, robbery cannot occur without “property.” A criminal cannot legally commit robbery without “taking property.” From a practical perspective, this means you can completely avoid robbery by refusing to carry, own or otherwise lay claim to property. Consider this: If you own nothing and go about naked on the street, you cannot be robbed. Legally, no criminal can rob you if you are naked, penniless and possess nothing. Now, if you were naked and had a rope around your neck, a criminal could rob you by threatening to kill you unless you gave him the rope. But again, you can avoid that situation by simply owning or possessing nothing at all, not even a rope. Property is the key to robbery. Without property, you cannot be robbed. Thus, refusing to own or possess anything is the best defense against robbery.

Other crime prevention advocates recommend lesser measures to prevent robbery. They offer advice such as “don’t go out by yourself;” “watch your belongings;” “stay away from bad neighborhoods;” and “don’t show off expensive goods.” Yet these are half-measures. They do not make it legally impossible to suffer robbery. Rather, they still allow robbers an opportunity to commit robbery. If you “don’t go out by yourself,” yet still own property, a criminal can rob you because there is property available to “take by force or fear.” Similarly, even if you don’t “show off expensive goods,” a criminal can still rob you because you have “expensive goods” (which are “personal property”) to take “by force or fear.” It doesn’t matter whether you conceal it; if you have it, someone can take it. In sum, then, these measures may reduce the chance that you will suffer robbery. But they do not render robbery legally impossible.

Wouldn’t you rather make it impossible for a criminal to rob you? A 0% chance of robbery is preferable to a 10% chance. The only sure way to make robbery legally impossible is to stop owning or possessing property. No matter how much you conceal or protect your property, a determined robber always has something to “take by force or fear.” But if you are naked, broke and destitute, you have nothing that can be robbed. The minute you obtain property you are subject to robbery. Why increase your risk? Just don’t own anything; it will render robbery a hollow threat.

Law teaches us many things. Many people think that the law does not provide practical solutions to real problems. But here we see that the law allows us to effectively prevent crime. By understanding what robbery actually means, we can stop robbers before they even obtain the legal opportunity to violate our property rights. Let robbers try to rob you. If you are naked and own nothing, you are completely safe.

Now, a would-be robber might get angry when he discovers you have nothing to “take by force or fear.” In that case, he might attack you with a weapon or his fists. If you are a woman, he might try to sexually assault you. In fact, these chances increase if you are naked on the street. Nonetheless, none of these criminal acts would be robbery. They might be rape, or murder, or attempted rape, or attempted murder, or assault, or sexual assault or battery. But they would not be robbery because the criminal has no “personal property to take.”

Let the law work for you. The law is not just a post hoc remedy intended to deter future criminals from violating your rights. It is a proactive tool. You must merely understand what the law requires before setting off on your daily routine. I have dedicated my life to preventing crime. We can prevent crime by understanding legal definitions. That is why I say to you: If you know what robbery actually means, you can make it impossible for anyone to rob you. Just refuse to own or possess anything.

This is not an absurd recommendation. How can we call a solution absurd if it completely prevents a potential problem? In my opinion, a solution that completely removes the possibility of a problem is a winning solution, not an absurd one. To that extent, heed my advice. If you wish to forever free yourself from robbers, simply give up all your property and live penniless—and naked—on the street. If you do that, you will literally have no “personal property” to “take by force or fear,” not even tattered old rags.

Just imagine how good you’ll feel knowing you can’t be robbed. If someone puts a gun in your face while you’re naked and broke, let him say: “This is a robbery.” You can confidently say: “No it isn’t. I cannot legally be robbed.”

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