What sets me apart from the run-of-the-mill crime prevention experts is a lifetime of experience starting as a child victim of domestic violence, an adolescent target of pedophiles, a juvenile delinquent criminal, eventually a crime prevention advocate, and finally a faculty member of police training centers teaching crime prevention strategies to veteran law enforcement officers. My bio is my C.V.
I’ve enriched the conventional wisdom of crime prevention with my personal insights borne of unique life experiences and lessons from living in Detroit for my first 22 years. These pages are not the typical, simplistic, no-brainer, cookie-cutter lists of safety clichés produced by folks who’ve never themselves been a victim of violence, been a juvenile delinquent who prowled with future career-criminal predators, and ultimately, personally taught face-to-face, hands-on self-defense as well as crime avoidance/prevention to thousands of women, children, and men.
Experts lacking that experiential triad inevitably ring resoundingly hollow to me – no matter how impressive their professional credentials as cops, FBI agents, or whatever. I know the prey deserves far more.
Almost my only memories from early childhood are of me hugging my mother’s legs to shield her from my violently alcoholic father’s attacks. Luckily for me, I was his youngest of five, his “little tyke,” the apple of his eye – so he'd merely backhand me out of the way to get at her. He seemed like a ferocious giant; all I could do was run for help.
If my adult brother was nearby he'd beat my father unconscious in a furious fistfight, spattering blood on my toys; other times cops would drag him off in handcuffs or a straitjacket for another over-nighter in jail.
The next day he was always kind and gentle as we'd walk to the store for my Three Musketeers candy bar and his morning pint of whiskey. Halfway home, he'd toss his empty bottle into an alley, I'd toss my empty candy bar wrapper and we'd laugh. It was our little ritual. By my fifth birthday he was gone.
searching for my long-lost father, I found him covered with wine-sores, sleeping in a flophouse on Detroit’s skid row. I whispered, "Dad, Dad" and gently shook him awake, but he startled and yanked a wine bottle from under his pillow, furiously trying to bash me with it.
I held down his feeble arms while trying in vain to explain I was his son. Soon exhausted, he gave up and offered me a swig from his half-empty wine bottle. I declined. He chugged the rest and passed out.
I left to get him a hamburger and nagged him awake to take a bite as I held it to his mouth. He’d barely chewed it when he passed out again. The next day the hamburger minus the one bite sat on his nightstand as he snored, clutching still another half-empty wine bottle.
I saw to it he spent the rest of his days dried out in a loony bin, eating three proper meals a day. Maybe he was better off. I wonder if he ever knew his reluctant visitor was his little tyke now grown up, and wonder if he hid behind a kind and gentle yet vacant mask.
My only heirloom from my father, a wooden chest-of-drawers in my home office, has a bullet hole from when he shot at his brother Tom, and missed. A second bullet went into Tom's knee and he limped with a cane for the rest of his life.
Uncle Tom always greeted me by angrily pointing his cane at me and snarling, “Your father shot me!” – though it'd happened long before I was born.
I was always mystified why my mother, a gentle farm girl who’d become a schoolteacher and moved to Detroit, married into such a violent, drunken family after seeing many of their countless brawls firsthand.
She said that he, his father, and eight brothers often played cards and every hour or so a knockdown, drag-out brawl erupted between all ten – father, sons, brothers. Then, as though nothing had happened, they'd play cards again until the next fight – violence as natural as breathing. What was she thinking?
She was blind to an enormous red flag (as many battered women tend to be), somehow believing or hoping that a good, kind woman can tame a violent man. The odds on that are slim to none – most likely none.
Never mentioned by his fractured and dysfunctional family, he’d squandered his life, but in the debris I found precious lessons about victims, violence, terror, and survival. Some examples, for instance, are in stress control overview.
Of course many other kids and their mothers have had, are having, or will have it far worse. Find the light at the end of the tunnel at domestic violence.
As a 10-year-old I first saw my childhood hero one night when screaming sirens drew me to a scene outside Jo-Jo’s Bar where eight frenzied Detroit cops clubbed and kicked Lucky Barton, the neighborhood legend, into a straightjacket while he bellowed, “More! MORE!”
I longed to be even half as tough – to overcome my fear of violence that my father had instilled in me. I became addicted to testing my bravery – sometimes unable to stop laughing uproariously while in danger despite making matters worse; other times being stupidly hostile. Many years later, to defeat Lucky Barton in a brawl, a motorcycle gang shot his legs out before they slowly circled him as he sat upright, taunting him in front while stabbing his back as, no surprise, he fought to the end.
As far as I know, he lost only his final battle. Though I never got anywhere near the heights of my childhood hero’s bravado, I finally realized that fine lines separate bravery, madness, and stupidity – and fear paralysis comes from not knowing just where those lines are.
Lucky Barton, whether hero, madman, or merely a spectacular fool, spurred my search for courage which now – bolstered by today’s foremost academic and military research – helps me teach innocent prey to reach the mad-dog mindset needed to fight for their very lives if ever set upon by an evil predator – as shown throughout fighting options overview.
I began fighting at a housing project boxing gym. Over time, it helped me outgrow the street gang I'd co-founded at age nine and the fast track to a life of crime, early death, or prison that too many of my childhood friends had chosen.
As our crimes escalated from stealing cars to burgling stores and drug dealing, our paths began diverging as differences in our innate characters began emerging. Some of my friends didn’t care who they harmed – mugging drunken family men, burgling people’s homes. Two eventually became hit men. They'd always clung to warped values, sneering at contrary views.
Still others of us, myself included, burgled only businesses (assuming they were insured) and trapped and mugged only the loathsome pedophiles who offered us – mere kids – money for sex. I fancied myself a sort of Robin Hood to justify my behavior
Ultimately, I learned firsthand the twisted morality of a criminal's mind that now – along with today's science – illuminates my lessons for innocent prey, as shown throughout criminal minds overview.
becoming world heavyweight champion, I fought for nine years overall – the last three-and-a-half at Detroit’s legendary Kronk Gym where I forced myself daily to appear nonchalant while enduring the dread of battling world-class professional boxers as their spar-mate (or human punching-bag).
I was the only white there. Our father-figure was the top boxing coach in Detroit back then, the quietly dignified, wise, and truly caring John Brown. Race was irrelevent – all that really mattered was your heart – your desire to fight.
With chronic shoulder impingement syndrome, boxer’s neck from too many blows to the head, and a debilitating, permanently broken L-5 vertebra (from a foolish accident) taking their toll on me as well as my quixotic dream, I quit fighting at age 22. I took my annual August rest, and somehow just never went back. I still don't know why. Maybe deep inside I knew it was time to move on – while I still had a few brain cells left.
Though I never came anywhere near my ambition of becoming a world champion, boxing’s grueling training regimen taught me self-discipline and a thing or two about fighting, fear control, a survival attitude, and – above all else – led me away from a wayward life and eventually to my calling.
had put me in hospital emergency rooms forty or fifty times altogether [sprains, stitches, 26 broken bones (not counting my nose), receiving Last Rites, etc.]. My long-suffering mother, my saving grace, had to fetch me from police stations or hospitals countless times.
My myriad injuries eventually drove me to a school affiliated with New York's Albany Medical College to become a therapist for muscular pain and dysfunction – to rehab myself from various chronic pains as well as to make a living. In the late 1980s, expecting to live a quiet life, I began working in New England clinics treating a wide variety of patients – mostly for low back or neck pain.
I pursued my own rehab exercise program at a nearby gym where I soon started a boxing program in the basement. Some students were raw beginners, some were black belt martial artists from various disciplines, and some were National Guard reservists and ex-Army Rangers.
As I taught them boxing – the king of hand strikes – I learned the basics of their arts: grappling, joint locks, knee/foot strikes, and weapons defense. Though formally a boxing program, none of my students truly planned on fighting in sanctioned boxing bouts and instead blended it all into their own eclectic street-fighting survival styles for self-defense (similar to today's Mixed Martial Arts competitions).
A pain therapist teaching ways of inflicting pain really isn’t quite the paradox it may seem; defending yourself honors life – your life. It’s a matter of good versus evil – protecting innocent prey from criminal predators.
in New England soon began to change when several nurses at the troubled local hospital asked me to teach a self-defense class for them and their kids. They had little time to spare yet wanted to be safe and secure. They wanted a woman-and-kid-friendly, one-time, rape and kidnap prevention class at the hospital. Gee, is that all?
At the time, back in 1990, I’d assumed something was already being done to protect women and children but found only a hodge-podge of woefully deficient programs and books. I vowed to fill that gap – a vast chasm, actually. I had no idea it would become my lifelong task.
Modeling my program on military express training, I began teaching fighting and escape strategies for a child or small woman, and sent them home with my booklet on avoiding danger in the first place. But through time and endless research, my little booklet grew into an exhaustively thorough book manuscript, and strategies for avoiding danger became my primary focus.
to learn safekeeping strategies and, as it turned out, so were plenty of other women. I began teaching classes within an 80-mile radius of my western Massachusetts town: from many hospitals, Girl Scout and Campfire Girl troops, colleges, and senior citizen centers, to corporations and rape crisis centers (for their more severely traumatized rape survivors).
After saturating western New England and eastern upstate New York with hundreds of classes, I moved to New York City in 1995. The new direction of my life was exhausting, but what I was learning was priceless. The hopes and fears, strengths and weaknesses of an endless stream of thousands of women and children were molding my classes as well as the material that grew into my book (now here in full on this web site).
Their constant feedback made their needs stark and obvious in a direct, visceral way not found in any books or research. My students taught me how to teach them.
I’ve benefited enormously from the wisdom of the experts who’ve pioneered the frontiers of our knowledge on crime prevention strategies, insights into crazed and heartless predators' minds, and therapeutic strategies to soothe crime survivors’ haunting, crippling memories.
Throughout that time, hoping to spare myself the ordeal of researching and writing my own teaching materials, I kept searching for a good safety manual for my students. But time and again, the books, programs, and websites I found were too narrowly focused and, worse, were obvious that the authors or teachers themselves had no firsthand experience of being a victim of violence, no firsthand experience of prowling with future career criminals, and little experience learning from thousands of students.
the director of Michigan’s premiere Wayne County Regional Police Training Center in metro Detroit, hired me in summer 2001 to train veteran police officers on how to teach crime prevention to the general public.
The first time a uniformed cop with badge and gun formally asked me, a former street punk arrested many times, for permission to leave my 40-hour class awhile to testify in a court case, I thought, “Huh? He’s asking me? That moment really made me realize how far I’d come.
During a break in a police academy class, one student told me of his second day as a rookie deputy sheriff in Traverse City, Michigan, fifteen years earlier:
“My sergeant drove me to a house and told me to go tell the homeowner that her son had been murdered. I said, ‘I can’t do that! You’re the sergeant, you do it!’ He said, ‘That’s right, I’m the sergeant and I’m ordering you to go tell that woman her son is dead.’ I did my duty. I stood on the porch with my hat in hand and my voice cracking as I broke the news to the woman who’d answered the door. She stared at me for the longest moment as though I were the grim reaper himself, and then collapsed, sobbing, into my arms. We cried together until a neighbor came over and I could compose myself enough to return to my sergeant waiting in the car. I couldn’t finish my shift and went home to cry all night in my wife’s arms. I almost quit the force the next day.”
As class resumed, I mentioned it to the other students and was flooded by the emotion they let loose, often talking over each other. It’s the one thing all cops hate doing, and yes, some cops do indeed quit the force after delivering their first death notification.
Sometimes partners argue – some have actually gotten into fistfights – over whose turn it is to be the grim reaper. One cop said he’d rather be in a gunfight than deliver another one.
Bottom Line: cops really do care – very much. The cops who've attended my police academy programs hope to prevent the anguish of even one more death notification – or the shattering injuries of crime survivors.
of the 9-11 terrorist attacks, I helped the Michigan State Police teach access control to security personnel for hospitals, casinos, shopping malls, government agencies, and Ford Motor's executive bodyguards (former CIA, FBI, and Secret Service agents).
Once again, as in my public classes, my students helped shape my book – now here in full on Crime-Safety-Security.com (see why I'm putting it all online for free).
my tumultuous early years started me on a roundabout path to gather the best anti-crime advice to counter a predator’s biggest advantage: the naïveté of the prey.
Yet after 27 years I still see the endless flood of more than 10,000 victims daily in the U.S. alone – and in most cases, the crime could’ve been easily prevented. Just the littlest of tips would’ve spared the victim.
Here’s my summary – how to tilt the odds more in your favor:
You don’t need a bulletproof vest, a bodyguard, or to sleep with one eye open. Just learn how to be SAFE – Skeptical, Aware, Flexible, Explosive:
In a nutshell, that is the essence of my decades searching for how to help the prey stay out of harm's way.
Michael Edward Loftus, Sr.
P.S. Some biographical anecdotes:
• Posturing > “Subway Encounter” & “Not All Threats…”
• Surviving the Worst > “Gang Attack”
• Outsmarting > “No-No's”
• Punched - absorbing and overcoming pain.
• Crime Survivors Overview > "Victim's Family and Loved Ones"
P.P.S. My thanks to...