7 Signs that a Weapon Is Being Concealed

By Michael Dorn

Helpful PowerPoint Presentation on Disguised Weapons

The man stood unnoticed outside the grocery store for nearly three hours before his ex-wife arrived. As she stepped from a taxicab, the man quickly stepped toward her and, to the shock of everyone present, quickly raised a 12-gauge pump shotgun from under his coat and killed her. Before the deputy sheriff who was less than 50 feet away could react, the suspect turned the gun on himself and committed suicide.

This homicide occurred even though the grocery store hired an officer to protect patrons and employees. Although the deputy was an eight-year veteran, he did not notice the obvious physical behaviors that indicated he was standing near a heavily armed individual. These indicators could have helped avert the murder had they been noticed in time.

In this case, the victim was killed at a grocery store, but similar attacks have taken place at and near schools, hospitals and institutions of higher learning. In some instances, students have entered K-12 schools and universities undetected while concealing rifles and shotguns before committing multiple-victim homicides.

One valuable tool for campus personnel is the technique of visual weapons screening. Visual screening techniques have been used to recover thousands of firearms and other weapons and have averted a number of planned weapons assaults. Visual screening is an inexpensive and effective means to help counter such dangers as campus violence, gang violence and even terrorism. Visual screening is not a theoretical concept but a proven technique tested under difficult field conditions.

Weapons Violators Come From All Backgrounds

Studies indicate there is no reliable profile of the weapons violator. People who carry and use weapons unlawfully are white, Latino, Asian or any other race or ethnicity. They are male or female. They wear expensive clothing, including tailored suits, and they are from all socioeconomic classes.

A weapons violator may be a high school dropout or, as we have seen in several university shootings, may have a Ph.D. or be working on one. The violator may at first glance look like anyone else because there is no reliable or viable profile. In fact, relying on this method can be dangerous. What is consistent about those who carry a weapon unlawfully, particularly a firearm, is the presence of certain physical behaviors. In short, individuals who carry a gun do specific things we can observe because of the presence of the gun on their person. Rather than relying on ineffective and, in our country at least, illegal methods like profiling, police and security personnel should focus their attentions on the specific behaviors that may indicate the presence of a weapon.

Screeners Must Consider Many Behaviors

Visual weapons screening is a valuable tool that helps officers and others with security concerns spot individuals who deserve closer observation and, when appropriate, a lawful physical search. In some cases, the indicator may be rather weak and will be observed when people are not armed — for example, the sag of a jacket on one side of the body. In other instances, such as when the muzzle of a shotgun can be seen protruding from under a trench coat, we know instantly the individual is in fact carrying a weapon (and in that case, is most likely about to use it).

One of the most important concepts of visual weapons screening is behavior clusters. For example, an individual who fails to swing his right arm may be armed and trying to avoid hitting their elbow on the weapon. But an individual who adjusts something under his clothing above the waistline, looks around very nervously and then walks away while not swinging his right arm when he spots an officer watching him is far more likely to be armed. The totality of circumstances will dictate the degree of likelihood of an individual being armed.

Learn to Recognize These Behaviors

Officers and other campus personnel, such as school counselors and faculty members, have learned to identify the specific indicators that a person may be armed. Below are a few of the most common. It should be noted, however, that the following signs do not always indicate the presence of a weapon:

1. Security Check:
Gun violators in particular will typically touch and/or adjust the weapons concealed on their bodies numerous times during the day. This may be a gentle and difficult to observe bump with the elbow, wrist or hand. On rare occasions, it could be a distinct grasping of the weapon as they adjust it. Violators often make this gesture when getting out of a chair or a car or when walking up a flight of stairs or high curb.

2. Unnatural Gait:
Gun violators may walk with an awkward gait. They may fail to bend their knees because they have rifles or shotguns in their pants. They may also walk uncomfortably because they have guns, knives or other weapons hidden in their boots or shoes causing discomfort. Again, the total circumstances will indicate the likelihood of a weapon being present.

For example, an individual with a disability may also not bend the leg or walk with an unnatural gait, but he or she will likely not appear to be nervous. You will also not see the rigid line of a rifle running down the outer pants leg as the person walks or the periodic bulge from the butt of the gun above the waistband as it moves back and forth.

3. Jacket Sag:
When you place a handgun in a jacket pocket, the coat typically hangs lower on the side where the weapon is located. In addition, you will often see the fabric pulled tight from the weight of the gun, and the weapon may swing as a violator walks. Often, the outline of the weapon may be observed in the pocket area. In some cases, the violator will attempt to hold or pin the weapon if it begins to swing or beat against their body. In cases where the violator becomes extremely nervous when approached by an officer, he or she may actually grasp the weapon to keep it from swinging or put a hand in the pocket. While this is often seen when people have items other than a weapon in their pocket, it is also an indicator that is very typical of the gun violator, particularly when observed with other behaviors described here.

4. Hunchback Stride:
When trying to conceal a shotgun, rifle or submachine gun under a coat while walking, the butt of the weapon will often cause a noticeable bulge behind the armpit. Additionally, the jacket does not move naturally because it is supported by the outline of the weapon. Also, when someone wears a shoulder holster or straps on a sawed-off rifle, shotgun or submachine gun under his or her arm, a bulge in front of or behind the armpit will often be visible.

5. Bulges and the Outline of a Weapon:
An alert officer can often spot the telltale bulge of the weapon or, in some instances, the distinct outline of a handgun, knife or brass knuckles in a violator’s pocket. This may also sometimes be observed in a woman’s purse, book bag or other hand carried item. In some instances, violators wrap a long gun in a blanket or long jacket.

6. Visible Weapon:
Clearly the most reliable of all the indicators is when the weapon can actually be seen. It is astounding how many times an armed intruder has entered a facility with a rifle or shotgun protruding from under his or her jacket without being observed by staff.
In some cases, the butt of a handgun is visible because it is sticking out from a back or front pocket. A more common instance is the clip-on pocketknife that can be observed clipped to a front pocket or in the waistband.

7. Palming:
Most often observed with the edged weapon violator but occasionally seen with gun violators, palming behaviors often indicate imminent risk to the observer. The knife violator may run the blade of the weapon up along the arm or behind the leg to conceal it from frontal view. Just before a target is attacked, a violator will also typically have his or her eyes fixed on the intended victim.

Apply Weapons Detection Practices Wisely

Visual weapons screening has proven to be extremely effective, especially if the screener is properly trained. But as mentioned before, these techniques must be applied with common sense, in accordance with the laws of search and seizure for your situation and with a careful view of the overall context. Visual screening techniques are easy to learn, retain and apply as long as those who need to use them are alert and observant.
Use these simple but powerful techniques to your best advantage. The life you save may be your very own.

About the Author: Michael Dorn
Michael Dorn serves as the Executive Director of Safe Havens International, a global non- profit campus safety center. During his 30 year campus safety career, Michael has served as a university police officer, corporal, sergeant and lieutenant. He served as a school system police chief for ten years before being appointed the lead expert for the nation’s largest state government K-20 school safety center. The author of 25 books on school safety, his work has taken him to Central America, Mexico, Canada, Europe, Asia, South Africa and the Middle East. Michael welcomes comments, questions or requests for clarification at mike@weakfish.org. Note: The views expressed by guest bloggers and contributors are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, Campus Safety magazine. Contact Michael Dorn: mike@weakfish.org

How to Prevent Identity Theft

Identity theft is a serious problem affecting more people every day. That’s why learning how to prevent it is so important. Knowing how to prevent identity theft makes your identity more secure. The more people who know how to prevent identity theft, the less inclined others may be to commit the crime.

Preventing identity theft starts with managing your personal information carefully and sensibly. We recommend a few simple precautions to keep your personal information safe:

Only carry essential documents with you.

Not carrying extra credit cards, your Social Security card, birth certificate or passport with you outside the house can help you prevent identity theft.

Keep new checks out of the mail.
When ordering new checks, you can prevent identity theft by picking them up at the bank instead of having them sent to your home. This makes it harder for your checks to be stolen, altered and cashed by identity thieves.

Be careful when giving out personal information over the phone.
Identity thieves may call, posing as banks or government agencies. To prevent identity theft, do not give out personal information over the phone unless you initiated the call.

Your trash is their treasure.
To prevent identity theft, shred your receipts, credit card offers, bank statements, returned checks and any other sensitive information before throwing it away.

Make sure others are keeping you safe.
Ensure that your employer, landlord and anyone else with access to your personal data keeps your records safe.

Stay on top of your credit.
Make sure your credit reports are accurate and that you sign up for a credit monitoring service, which can alert you by email to changes in your credit report – a helpful way to prevent identity theft.

Protect your Social Security Number.

To prevent identity theft, make sure your bank does not print your Social Security Number on your personal checks.

Follow your credit card billing cycles closely. Identity thieves can start by changing your billing address. Making sure you receive your credit card bill every month is an easy way to prevent identity theft.

Keep a list of account numbers, expiration dates and telephone numbers filed away.
If your wallet is stolen, being able to quickly alert your creditors is essential to prevent identity theft.

Create passwords or PIN numbers out of a random mix of letters and numbers.
Doing so makes it harder for identity thieves to discover these codes, and makes it easier for you to prevent identity theft.

Security at the Bank

You can limit your vulnerability to theft at the bank or ATM with a little caution and a few basic strategies:

  • Speak Softly to the Teller.
  • Fill Out Your Forms Ahead of Time.
  • Inspect the ATM Before You Use It.
  • Shred Your Receipts. Many people throw out their bank or ATM receipts as soon as they get them. However, a thief can use the receipt to determine if you’re a good target for robbery.
  • Stick to Daylight Hours. Emergencies happen, and sometimes you have to use the ATM at night. However, whenever possible, stick to the daytime when doing your banking.

Building a Better Officer: New Ways to Decrease Turnover and Increase Efficiency

By Paul Hughes · October 1, 2014

Recently, a discussion on LinkedIn asked the following question: “How do we reduce turnover among our security staff?” While many of the responses focused on training and recognition, there exists the notion that something is inherently wrong with the people who take those hourly officer positions. The real underlying concern isn’t, “Are we hiring the wrong people?” but instead, “What’s wrong with the way we are managing our people, and how do we develop the most effective and valuable security force possible?”

The answer begins with a close look at the way we traditionally classify the more than one million security officers in the United States: unarmed or armed? Armed security officers are more likely to be aligned with law enforcement, have tactical training, and be experienced with lethal weapons that are disallowed in some campus settings. Unarmed officers are typically younger, less experienced, earning a much lower hourly rate or salary (as low as $8.43/hour and a mean annual wage of just over $27,000 [BLS]). Ultimately, these unarmed officers are the employees who are expected to deliver an appropriate response, frequently without appropriate equipment or training.

The reason that security guards turnover at an astonishingly high rate — 400% — is also an indicator of operational risk. The avoidable risks that create a dispirited workforce also get companies in trouble with liability litigation. A security company executive said to us recently, “When they’re quitting your company to work for 50 cents less at McDonald’s, they aren’t quitting because of the pay.”

The True Cost of Avoidable Risk

A liability legal judgment can cost enough to put a smaller guard service company out of business overnight. For a large organization like the Los Angeles Dodgers, who were recently found partially liable for the beating of a fan that left him brain damaged, the judgment of $13.9 million is just the beginning of the fallout from inadequate and poorly prepared security forces. If building a better guard is the key to avoiding litigation, then why isn’t everyone doing it? There’s a misconception that it costs too much. Even a large organization like the Dodgers isn’t exempt from these mistakes. One former officer testified that the organization was ill-equipped to handle the massive crowd that arrived for opening day in 2011 when the beating incident occurred: “This is the first security job that I had worked where there really wasn’t any order to how things should be done as far as my safety, the protection of fans.” You can figure out how much that type of mistake is costing your organization. Assign a true dollar value to each of the following operational costs associated with lost employees.

No-shows: To re-assign staff and pay overtime covering absent officers will increase costs. Above average turnover: A study from the Center for American Progress on the cost of turnover says it will cost you about 16% of that person’s annual salary to replace him. Replacing lost business with new business: You’ll typically spend eight times as much earning a new account as you will maintaining the one you have. If you’re spending more to recover from turnover than you are on your equipment, it’s time to invest in better equipment.

There’s no mystery about it, security jobs come with personal risk. A recent spate of stabbings on hospital and school campuses has changed the language of planning for violent attacks from “active shooter response” to “urgent response.” While these types of attacks statistically are rare, unarmed officers do face armed attacks. Even with all the pieces in place for protecting a campus, the most essential piece is still human. A Michigan State University study concluded, “Many states still lack any training standards — meaning security guards must learn on the job if their company doesn’t provide training — while some states do not require any minimum education or even a criminal background check for guards.”
Ideally, the campus will have enacted training scenarios on a well-documented response plan, including emphasis on the role of the nonsworn campus security officer. That role is not to apprehend and detain an aggressor. A nonsworn officer should be capable of calling for assistance and immediately taking action that will delay and deter an attack on others while law enforcement arrives.

Because campuses may be located in or adjacent to high crime areas, the risk assessment should extend beyond the campus. Employees, students, visitors and patients may have to traverse areas with more known crime — such as parking garages — to reach their destination. In a healthcare setting, guards may be one part safety patrol and one part customer service, both keeping the peace and helping people who arrive distressed and in need of attention. They also are the front-line defense against people who are there to conduct illegal business such as stealing cars, dealing drug, and committing assaults.

Add in the potential for violence in an environment that is already stacked with vulnerabilities, and the role of the campus security officer demands more control than the average duty belt provides.

Burnout and the Duty Belt

If there is one notion that holds the security industry back from breaking out of its own stereotypes, it’s the false choice between unarmed and armed, and all the assumptions that follow. That’s a discussion that takes us to the duty belt.

Which tools to place on a guard’s duty belt can be a fiery topic. Is the belt carrying more than you need, or less than you want? Does it have too much force or too little defensive capability? All of which lead to risk and liability for the security provider and the client. Besides his own swagger, the only thing between a guard and a potentially bad incident outcome is the duty belt. Without the right tools, this can create a desperate situation, especially for a lone guard on foot patrol with responsibility for acres of campus and hundreds of lives.

A new classification of device has emerged that addresses the issue for security professionals of too little/too much, plus the need for quick communication and defense. An Enhanced Non- Lethal, or ENL, device combines the functions of several duty belt tools. The ability to immediately alert a supervisor to an incident in progress is crucial, as is the ability to accurately document that event and take steps to prevent escalation of the crime. Those actions can require three or four tools to accomplish, making the guard a soft target and putting the perpetrator at the advantage. For that reason, to be classified as an ENL, a device must offer two or more non-lethal technologies for de-escalation and an integrated alerting/communication capability in one platform.

The introduction of ENL devices into the previously “unarmed” guard category opens up a completely new offering for security operations: the “Intermediate” patrol. Consider all the tools that an unarmed officer on foot patrol on a college campus may be required to carry: they may be equipped with pepper spray, a flashlight, a baton, a radio with backup battery and/or a cellphone. If a situation occurs, an emergency response plan dictates the order in which actions to protect the campus and its constituents should occur, but a perpetrator’s plans seldom accommodate. And no matter how skilled the officer, he only has two hands.

Intermediate Response Wins Business

Intermediate response as a skill set is a new offering in the security marketplace. With this ENL capability, the security officer is now more confident and amply trained, which increases his or her value to the campus, lowers risk, and enhances the safety of everyone involved.

The winning point here is that the campus security officers have the right tools for the job without making administrators queasy about the potential use-of-force risk scenario that accompanies an armed security team.
Now that you know what turnover is costing you, it’s clear how intermediate defense can be a game changer.

Intermediate Response and the Security Officer: Paired for Success

Campuses of all sizes and types face huge responsibilities to assure the safety of their residents, visitors, patients and staff, and protection of their own assets. Add to these the responsibility to train, equip and elevate the confidence of their security team. Deploying intermediate, Enhanced Non-Lethal (ELN) tools offers defense and protection against risk and liability all in one tool — ENLs can produce better outcomes through incident control, staff morale and retention, as well as new offerings to bolster the bottom line.

Contact us to find out more
Call Murray Guard at (1-800) 238-3830

How to Keep Your Personal Information Secure

Protecting your personal information can help reduce your risk of identity theft. There are four main ways to do it: know who you share information with; store and dispose of your personal information securely, especially your Social Security number; ask questions before deciding to share your personal information; and maintain appropriate security on your computers and other electronic devices. (more…)

Office Creeper Awareness & Prevention

Editor’s Note: The myth about office creepers is that this individual stands out in a crowd; a person not dressed well, down on his/her luck, a loner.  This is not always the case especially in buildings where there may be a diverse tenant/resident mix.  In some cases the office creeper may work or live among us. The best defense is to be mindful of your surroundings, be careful not to allow individual(s) to tailgate when you enter the building, keep your personal items out of sight, always lock your door when you leave. Remember the office creeper generally works quickly, and is looking for an easy target. It is up to you not to become a victim. Report any suspicious activity to security, building management, and the police. (more…)

Active Shooter – Safety and Security Bulletin

When an Active Shooter is in your vicinity, you must be prepared both mentally and physically to deal with the situation.

You have Three (3) Options:

EVACUATE- When an active shooter is in your vicinity:

  • If there is a way out, and you can get out, GET OUT!  This is your first and best option.
  • Get out whether others agree to or not.
  • Leave your belongings behind.
  • Help others from entering the danger zone.
  • Call Police at 911 when safe to do so.

HIDE - If evacuation is not possible, find a place to hide.

  • Lock and/or barricade the door.
  • Silence your cell phone.
  • Hide behind large objects if possible.
  • Remain very quiet and do not leave until directed by law enforcement officers.
  • Your hiding place should:
    • Be out of the shooter’s view.
    • Provide protection if shots are fired in your direction.
    • Do not trap or restrict your options for movement.

TAKE ACTION – AS A LAST RESORT, and only if your life is in danger:

  • Attempt to incapacitate the shooter.
  • Act with physical aggression.
  • Improvise weapons.
  • Commit to your actions.

(more…)

WARNING : Cybercriminals eye gold with Olympic Games scams

The public’s appetite for scandal around the world is practically insatiable. Not surprisingly, cybercriminals try to take advantage of it, especially during an event like the Olympic Games.

But the good news, say experts, is that the bulk of the scams are unsophisticated, looking to take advantage of so-called “low-hanging fruit.”

One of the more recent, discovered by security vendor Sophos, is a malware campaign that tries to snare victims with a fake scandal at the Olympics. A post by Graham Cluley on Sophos’ Naked Security blog said a spam email comes with a subject line saying: “Huge scandal with the USA Women’s Gymnastics Team on the 2012 London Olympics.”

The body of the email then promises salacious details about USA women’s gymnastics gold-medal winner Gabrielle Douglas facing a lifetime ban after reportedly testing positive to banned diuretic furosemide. “View the video on YouTube now,” it says. (more…)