Target Hardening

Target hardening, also referred to simply as hardening when made clear by the context, is a term used by police officers, those working in security, and the military referring to the strengthening of the security of a building or installation in order to protect it in the event of attack or reduce the risk of theft. It can also apply, for example in this instance, to people.

In the martial arts or combat sports (often mistakenly taught and trained for self defence) target hardening is an area of training which is nearly always overlooked.

This article will discuss target hardening both for the individual as well as for personal belongings as these areas both often overlap when, for example, a person is robbed or threatened for their personal possessions.

Target hardening in self-defense terms refers to the process of making a potential target or victim more difficult to attack or harm. It involves taking proactive measures to increase the security and safety of individuals, buildings, or property, to deter or prevent potential attackers.

In the context of self-defense, target hardening can involve several measures such as:

1. Physical barriers: This involves installing physical barriers like gates, fences, or locks to prevent unauthorized entry or to create an obstacle that makes it more difficult for an attacker to reach their target.

2. Surveillance systems: Installing security cameras or other surveillance systems in strategic locations can help identify potential threats and deter attackers.

3. Self-defense training: Taking self-defense classes can increase one’s ability to defend oneself, make quick decisions, and avoid potentially dangerous situations.

4. Personal safety devices: Carrying personal safety devices like whistles or rape alarms in the UK.

5. Situational awareness: Being aware of one’s surroundings and avoiding dangerous situations can prevent becoming a target in the first place.

By taking proactive measures to target harden, individuals can significantly reduce their chances of becoming a victim of a violent attack. Target hardening is an essential aspect of self-defense, and it empowers individuals to take control of their safety and security.

Target Hardening for Personal Security

Training in a reality based self defence or hand to hand combat system you would look at someones overall security as a whole picture. That person would want :

  • the physical skills to defend themselves
  • the experience necessary to override the freeze factor (fight, flight or freeze)
  • the physical strength and endurance to perform in the fight
  • an approach to personal security eg target hardening
  • street tactics on avoidance

Target Selection

Criminals choose their victims. And they’re very good at it. In the very same sense that a burglar will choose which house to rob – open windows, valuable contents, no cctv or witnesses etc they will also perform the same selection when choosing someone to attack whether that be a physical attack, a sexually motivated attack or some form of robbery.

Attackers will often look for “soft” targets. Most attackers will look for physical weakness, the people who are most at risk are:

  • Children
  • Women
  • Elderly
  • Anyone who is physically small or who seems unable to act in self defence
  • Anyone who is encumbered (eg with children, bags etc) *note: I have personally found myself in this situation when I had my 1 year old son with me, thankfully training provided me with the tools to acquire a good result.

Understanding the attacker

There are several common traits shown by the attacker.

  • An attacker isn’t looking for a fight, he is looking for a victim
  • He doesn’t want consequences or comebacks
  • If an attack looks like it will be hard work, he won’t bother and will choose another easier target
  • People on their own are more likely to be attacked than people in groups
  • Stay alert at all times
  • If you are suspicious of someone or something, don’t be embarrassed to take defensive measures

At the most basic level a hard target is one that means:

  • An attack will have legal consequences eg Police are hard targets as criminals know that if they attack a Policeman he a) has backup and b) you will be caught and punished. Similarly CCTV can act as an effective deterrent in the same manner.
  • An attack has physical consequences eg if you have a dog with you, if you are big and tough looking, maybe carrying some sort of improvised weapon such as a walking stick
  • An attack will present problems of another kind – someone who is observant, scans their surroundings.

Target Hardening Tactics for the Individual 
How to make yourself a harder target:

  • Hide the gain: take measures not to display your wealth, clothing, watch, car etc
  • Stay with people that you trust
  • Book taxis at night rather than walking on your own in areas you don’t know
  • Walk with confidence
  • Be alert – don’t be so consumed by the task in hand that you are not aware of your surroundings
  • Don’t wander around drunk
  • Carry yourself with good posture (exercise helps facilitate this)
  • Scan for threats, and be prepared to act should you see one

Target Hardening Measures for the Home

Active steps that you can take to make your home or business more resistant to an attack.

  • Fit better doors, windows and shutters
  • Window and door locks
  • Alarms
  • CCTV
  • Outdoor lights
  • Fencing system
  • Removing or reducing the visibility of valuables
  • Making areas harder to access