“What the elders see while sitting, the young ones standing on their toes won't see" – African proverb

Our progress in the field of medical sciences has seen life expectancy of people being increased substantially, thereby increasing the number of senior citizens in our midst. Gone are the days when elders used to shuffle around within the confines of their homes and retire to bed at the last ray of sunset. Today elders are more energetic, effervescent and determined to make a better change in the lives of their wards, families and the society at large.

They have immense knowledge and experience about social behaviour, which after retirement takes a back seat, as their attention is diverted to activities which they can engage in fruitfully due to their diminished physical health. They are indeed a force multiplier to help deter, deny and detect any type of wrongdoing or a probable crime in the offing.

Day times more vulnerable for scouting by criminals

Social interaction has been curtailed after the rise of apartment complexes and housing societies. To add to these woes, many shopping establishments have shifted into buildings, malls and supermarkets, leaving the streets in the neighbourhood more open for movement of traffic but also more desolate. Patterns of transportation and movement of people have also changed due to the errant working hours, which generally keep the cityscape awake at different hours at night.

However, this generally gives out the perception that days are much safer and thereby many people become casual during the day as they engage in activities of the house or work. Early mornings, late afternoons and early evenings are generally times of the day when the social fabric of any neighbourhood is getting ready for, or is already well set into the routine of the day and generally disregards any stranger who wanders through their neighbourhood. This gives a window of opportunity to any criminal to scout his intended target or carry out his criminal act as the reaction to the crime is expected to be slow or none as any of the households are resting or vacant in that time.

The importance of 'silent observers' in this scenario

Here step in the silent observers – better known as 'elders'. This age group of adults has lived through myriad experiences throughout their life but are now not as physically strong enough to dissuade able-bodied youngsters from wrong doing. Elders have their own life ecosystem wherein their body clocks are tuned differently than the youngsters. Restricted by their physical abilities but their mind remains as sharp as ever. Once they have ensconced themselves in a routine of their choosing, they are mentally alert about what all goes on around in their surroundings, be it confined to home or outside in the neighbourhood.

Their frequenting a place regularly extends a sense of guardianship to that place and the route that they frequent. They notice small changes that go on in the neighbourhood which a busy individual might miss. They can gauge by behaviour, tone or mannerisms of a person whether the person is trustworthy or not. They at times can understand the sequence of events going on in their neighbourhood which might be a prelude to a crime about to occur. Combined faculties of elders who are meeting at a common place form a strong deterrence and their inputs on any occurrence can be cleverly pieced together by a good crime investigator to his advantage and understanding of how did the crime actually unfold.

Allow elders to air their observations freely

To aid these guardians to effectively exert their territoriality there is a necessity of having a regular and open dialogue with them. This could be by their spouses, children, neighbours or their trustworthy acquaintances who allow them to disseminate their information freely without being ridiculed. The elder people frequent certain spots because they are the comfort zones for their physical, mental and social well- being, and therefore when certain criminal elements encroach upon their physical comfort zone, elders will be quick to express dissent towards these newcomers and may collectively take action to dislodge these invaders of space.

The first one being passive, ensures that there is passage of information of a certain distasteful event to people like family and acquaintances who are in a position to take action against that event, which could be by direct intervention or alarming the law enforcement or civic authorities.

The second, which would mean directly confront such encroachments would unnerve those individuals trying to establish themselves around the environment either for scouting for opportunities to identify targets or trying to execute a method which would probably be a part of committing a crime.

Natural deterrence

Both these methods of expression give out the sensethat the environment in which the criminal is trying to perpetrate his crime, is being carefully watched by people. This causes natural deterrence in many cases; and in the remaining few cases, helps the law enforcement gain important clues from them which help them in apprehending the criminal.It is also advisable for the police to ensure that their beat patrols casually interact with the gatherings of elders, which will give the officers valuable intelligence about how the neighbourhood stands in terms of security. This two-way process will not only ensure that efficacy of the police is maintained but also will increase the confidence of the elderly in the law enforcers, and together they can ensure effective guardianship of the neighbourhoods they frequent.  

-Lt. Col. Omar S. Pathare (retd.), Security Consultant & Founder - FORTIFY


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