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Low-hanging fruit often the first to be eaten

In the wild, certain things are a given. Issues that deal with survival of the fittest, animal instincts and natural food chains are much more than just sayings that we use or bullet points on someone's PowerPoint presentation.

In the wild, these things are a way of life. Everything that occurs in the wild is more than just happenstance and is done as it has been done in the animal kingdom since the beginning of time. But, as difficult as life can be for wild animals, they are also very astute in taking advantage of situations that provide little effort with great reward.

It is much easier to take advantage of a potential meal when low-hanging fruit is discovered. Why go to any extra effort when the fruit is right in front of you, ready for the taking? This mentality of quick reward has been adapted from our animal friends by a different breed of animals - those whose survival is based on criminal activity.

It is not unusual for criminal activity to spike when the economy turns in a downward direction. We see the results every day on the 6 o'clock news. But what is unusual is the level of brazenness and violence that is being exhibited in many of those crimes today. Murders have occurred without rhyme or reason, even in situations in which the victims offered absolutely no resistance. While the violence that has been demonstrated in the commission of recent crimes has escalated, the crimes themselves fall completely in line with the low-hanging fruit theory.

Street crime has diverted completely to the opportunity that presents itself to the thug of the day. No surveillance, no plan of retreat, no nothing. It is just a matter of seeing a woman walking alone with a purse and the thief deciding that he wants the purse and everything that is in it.

Or it is just a matter of seeing someone opening their car and the decision that they want the car. These are absolute cases of low-hanging fruit with just a hint of the survival of the fittest, albeit a form of survival that is absolutely skewed from its original intent.

In this case, the survival, and the one who is most fit, is dictated by the one who has the gun. When we are confronted by this mentality, on the part of those who fall into this criminal category, we as a society are forced to make certain changes in the way that we carry on with our lives.

If this philosophy is based on instincts and tendencies of the wild, then we are forced to adapt to those changes of nature in order to survive ourselves. We must do all that we can to elevate the level of the fruit in hopes that the lazy hunter will look at other sources for their reward.

Utilizing those same tactics and suggestions that we have heard from police officers since kindergarten will change the outcome of many of these tragedies just waiting to happen. Common sense should be so easy for us to use, but in most cases it seems to be a plan of last resort. Gut instincts have proved to be right time and time again, but many of us still dismiss these warning signs as nothing more than acid reflux, and these dismissals have led to some very tragic and undeserved results.

Implementing common sense and crime preventative measures will go far in keeping many of us from being victimized. Whether it be walking or jogging with a friend, parking in a well-lit and populated area, or not walking with accessories hanging from our shoulders like the proverbial fruit from the vine may be considered inconvenient or unfair, but also may prove to be life-saving.

While a great many of today's criminals are less than planners, it is inherent that we plan more than ever before as to how we can avoid being put in a compromising position. In keeping with the survival of the fittest mantra, those who plan best usually win. Going out without a plan and making one's self an inviting target is a recipe for disaster.

And if the balance of power is going to be determined by who has the gun, who is to say that we cannot be a part of that calibration? Keep in mind, of course, that using those things that are granted to us constitutionally does not release us from using the same common sense in which those rights were intended. Anything less might place you in a legal quandary that really will seem like a jungle.

As with actual jungles, and in this instance, the world that we find ourselves in today, can still be a beautiful and rewarding place to be. The rules of the jungle have been tested over the years time and time again. Those who are prepared and knowledgeable of the journey, utilizing a full slate of common sense along the way, will typically come out on the other side with wonderful stories to tell. Those who go in naively or with little consideration of the threats that might be encountered may not emerge at all. Lions, tigers and a host of quicksand pits are as real on the streets as they are in any jungle.

They may look different, but the results are exactly the same.

Stan Hall is director of Gwinnett County's victim's witness program.