Oakland police tell folks to use air horns amid crime surge

Sargon and Air Horn" by rileyroxx is marked with CC BY 2.0 DEED.

There are a lot of times when the police issue advice and people would do well to listen. For example, once upon a time, people didn’t lock their doors, but they started to in part because the police advised it. We still do this and consider it pretty smart.


But the police in Oakland have kind of a bizarre suggestion.

As the city sees more and more crime, law enforcement there recognizes they can’t be everywhere, so the department offered some tips meant to help keep people safe.

One was to put bars on your window to deter would-be home invaders. This isn’t a happy suggestion, but it’s still a solid one.

Yet that wasn’t it. They also said people should get air horns, of all things.

After 60-year-old retiree David Schneider was shot and killed here while trimming a tree in his yard, his neighbor, Toni Bird, said she retreated indoors.

“People aren’t feeling safe out of their house,” she said. “It makes sense that you would want to protect your house then, right? You would barricade it.”

Amid a surge in crime in Oakland, California, police have advised residents to use air horns to alert neighbors to intruders and add security bars to their doors and windows.

Bird, who moved to Oakland 2 1/2 years ago, said she took their advice to heart. She now has three air horns and five security cameras around her home.

Yes, very good. That way the police can identify her murderer by the hearing loss.

That’s because that’s exactly what you’re looking at here.

An air horn is very loud and all that, but it’s not a terrible deterrent. I get the idea is that the blast of an air horn might cause the intruder to run away out of fear the police will soon be there, but that’s the best-case scenario. The worst case is that the air horn pisses the bad guy off and they brutally murder the resident, particularly in neighborhoods not known for calling the police.


The irony is that there is something residents could get that would actually keep them safe. It’s even louder than an air horn, generally speaking, and while it might anger the bad guy, it’ll also either stop them dead in their tracks or scare them enough that they’ll actually run away.

I’m talking, of course, about a firearm.

A gun is a more proactive tool. It doesn’t just assume someone will come in to rescue you but is a tool that allows you to handle the situation yourself. As such, it’s far more immediate than a neighbor calling the police.

An air horn is little more than a rape whistle for a home invasion. Here’s what AWARE.org has to say on the subject of personal alarms like this:

Believing that someone will come to your rescue when you blow a whistle or set off a siren is a wonderful fairy tale. Don’t fall for it. Not only are noise-makers and rape whistles ineffective at deterring crime, they are likely to do more harm than good, for several reasons.

Counting on an alarm to summon aid means that you are depending on someone else to come forth to rescue you. That is, you are betting your life on the hope that someone will hear the alarm, and will respond, and will be capable of stopping the attack. That’s a lot of ‘ifs’ that are out of your control.

The act of activating the alarm or blowing a whistle can take anywhere from 2 to 20 seconds, but the outcome of an attack is usually decided within the first 8 to 10 seconds. So, if the noise doesn’t work, you may be out of time, the loser, before you can try other options.


And yes, all of that applies to using an air horn as well.

The difference is that an air horn blasting in a confined space is kind of painful, which means it may well rile up a potential attacker even more, making a violent assault even more likely.

A gun, on the other hand, may cause discomfort too, but since it can be used to kill the bad guy, it’s much more effective than something that might make it harder to hear the TV.

Oakland police, however, can’t make that suggestion because of the politics there. It’s a damn shame, too, because a gun is really the best option in cases like this.

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