Stay Safe and Study the Architecture

By Bob Gorman posted 07-12-2018 12:57


As a kid, we all thought about booby-trapping our homes with intricate booby traps and swaying paint cans to outwit thieves. We channeled Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone.

When we evolved into hormone-driven teenagers, we would think of ways to avoid that noisy sliding glass doors as we tried to sneak out.

Almost from birth —remember climbing out of the crib (?) — we viewed the surrounding structures differently. Almost criminally. We focused on the tactical uses of architecture instead of the intended purpose.

Nicholas Wooldridge, a noted Las Vegas criminal defense attorney and an author of a recent post on AIA, is well aware of the ways architecture lends itself to people with criminal intent.

Wooldridge became fascinated with Geoff Manaugh’s book, A Burglar’s Guide to the City. While the subject didn’t reveal anything new for Wooldridge, it did build on what he already realized.

“There’s all this architecture hidden in plain sight in Las Vegas,” said Wooldridge. “I began to notice that even just reading police reports or talking to burglars or the FBI, there is always this architectural angle.”

“There is something interesting in the abstract side of burglary and how it undercuts all the things we trust about architecture,” Wooldridge added.

A variety of features lead to specific types of crime and burglaries.

Los Angeles lends itself to fast bank robberies with laid out escape routes thanks to the sprawling highways, for example.

Las Vegas, with its glitz, glam, and glamor. becomes an easy mark for someone willing to have an extra helping of chutzpah, play the role and rob casinos.

“The buildings we have, always hide other ways of using them,” said Wooldridge. “Then burglars come along and they show we can use the structures differently.”

At some point in life, everyone thinks like a burglar. Maybe it happens as a teenager tries to sneak out of the house or a pre-teen sneaking downstairs to gaze at Christmas presents. Think about the husband trying to sneak in — our out — for a rendezvous with a mistress. Everyone has a bit of burglar in them.

It’s more than burglars, crooks and defense attorneys who should pay attention to architecture. Everyone should be aware of their surroundings in case of natural disasters or political upheaval.

Urban Escape and Evasion

Looking at architecture inside a different context isn’t solely the realm of burglars and thieves. A different viewpoint of the surrounding buildings could one day save your life.

Think of the tourists who might have been in Turkey during the recent coup. What about straphangers on their day-after-day trip home when a riot breaks out? How about the survivors of the October 1, 2017, mass shooting in Las Vegas? Envisage a natural disaster when emergency services are too overwhelmed to help.

It can happen. It does happen.

Know Your Surroundings

Clark County, home to Las Vegas, is home to 2.1 million people, 15,000 known gang members and around 254 law enforcement officers for every 100,000 residents. The county has a few thousand hospital beds and 70-percent are filled at any moment. Think about the outcome if an earthquake nailed Sin City. It could happen. There are roughly 1,500 faults in the Silver State, making Nevada the third most seismically active region in the country, including the Decatur fault, a 13.5-mile fracture, running right through Las Vegas

After Katrina, the police went home. With families of their town to protect, they left behind people who were preyed upon without mercy. Don’t assume the government will protect you.

Learn your surroundings — thoroughly. What are the safe and dangerous areas? What about emergency response times? What kind of transportation systems are there?  The more you research this beforehand, the better off you will be.

The Takeaway

Stay safe and study architecture.

Learn the architecture of the structure you live in and that of the buildings you frequent. Once you’re familiar with that, then you are ready to build and hide a cache. The contents are up to you, but think about what you may need in a desperate situation, food, money, water, and a medical kit are just a few examples.

Use leak and corrosion proof containers such as Ziploc bags or PVC pipe with capped ends. Create several and hide them where they won’t be discovered. Put them somewhere where you can get to easily.