Noise: Deterrent Against Attackers?
The funniest video you’ll see all week leads us to a useful question…
It’s a tense, suspenseful video depicting a tense, suspenseful situation. Indian police have brought a dangerous criminal to bay, and are trying to open fire when…well, you know? It’s probably best if you watch it for yourself. So, today I learned two things: First, that the Indian onomatopoetic for gunfire is “thain thain,” not “bang bang,” and second, that it actually worked at least once in the world. For that reason and that reason alone I’ll revisit a very common theme that we see here in the States all the time, which is whether the use of noise can realistically serve as a deterrent to an unlawful attack.
I’ll clarify that yes, of course, sonic weapons exist and have been used by militaries and police forces worldwide for some time now. I’m referring not to that sort of specialty equipment, but instead to the general lore that burglars are deterred by loud burglar alarms, rapists and muggers by whistles, and home invaders by the sound of firearms being prepared for use. Interestingly, this lore is frequently offered in the form of advice to someone who is considering the idea of buying a gun for self-protection. Most of it is probably well-meaning, but that doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily good advice.
The Magic Whistle
“Don’t get a gun,” they say to women who must spend time alone in public after dark. “Get a really loud whistle!” I wish I knew where this one came from. Do they think that the whistle will summon help in a way that a woman’s voice couldn’t? I can’t imagine anyone who’d be willing to ignore a woman’s screams but would leap into action like a Jockey-shorted Batman if they heard a whistle. Do they think that it’ll serve as pain compliance? As anyone who’s ever had P.E. with Coach Billings can affirm, a really loud whistle can be rather painful…but it’s certainly not going to stop a mugging, a rape, or (in my case) a really nasty purple nurple if the perpetrator is sufficiently determined. Still, on the off-chance that you happen to have a slingshot on you, I imagine a nice steel whistle hurled at sufficient speed might actually function as a very primitive ballistic weapon. So I’ll put this at the top of the list as the 3rd dumbest thing I’ve ever heard.
The Unloaded Pump-Action Shotgun
This one was so weird that, the first time I heard it, I dismissed it as more bong-smoke wisdom courtesy of my moron roommate sophomore year. But then I heard it again, and again. (Interestingly, it tends to be directed most frequently at women who live alone.) It seems to spring from the idea that a loaded gun is inherently far more dangerous to its owner than it would be to any home invader. So, rather than keep the gun loaded, they say, you should keep it unloaded and just use it to make that famous “shuck-click” noise if you hear someone breaking in. Never mind that if the criminal knows what that sound is, he also knows that you just ejected a shell before another went into battery. Never mind that this maneuver would require you to stand very close to the robber in the process of breaking into your home. However, because it is possible to use an unloaded shotgun as a blunt striking object, I’ll still rank this idiocy just a hair higher than the whistle idea listed above.
The Super Loud Burglar Alarm
“But Trace!” you might say. “Super loud burglar alarms are everywhere, most security systems include them…why are you sneering at burglar alarms?” That’s because most professional burglars–the type who scout neighborhoods and target specific homes when they know the owners aren’t there–know perfectly well that as loud as the alarm is, it won’t hurt them. They’re also fully aware of the average police response time in the area, which tells them approximately how long they have from the time the alarm goes off until they need to be out of there. They also know that the overwhelming majority of times that burglar alarms go off, they’re going off because someone in the house forgot to disarm the alarm…and that, by the way, is why this one is at the bottom of my list. Even if someone happens to be home when the alarm goes off, their first thought is probably going to be “Ugh, now I have to go put in my passcode.”
Now, there are definitely some noises that can make a home invader think twice…the clamorous barks of a family of Rottweilers comes to mind. But if you’re absolutely determined to defend yourself with nothing but sound alone, I can suggest only one thing: This woman’s voice.
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