The Security Sherlock

               The pipe. The funny ‘deerstalker’ cap. The puzzled sidekick. The famous Baker Street address. Hopefully, you’ve deduced the common thread – Sherlock Holmes. Elementary, right? Sherlock has endured since the 1800’s and has seen a resurgence in popularity.

               I have to confess that my daughter convinced me to watch the latest rendition on TV. The BBC’s show, Sherlock, is a modern version of the famous detective. For the most part, I’ve enjoyed this version and the fast-talking Sherlock and friend, Dr. Watson. In fact, it prompted me to dig up an old copy of the original Sir Author Conan Doyle stories in a book I got years ago.

               Reading the stories, I was struck by some of the techniques and logic of the detective. He truly was the beginning of the CSI with his scientific approach to a crime scene. Sherlock was described as something of a walking encyclopedia of criminal knowledge, as well as various other topics that could be useful in a crime scene investigation. For example, Sherlock studied over 140 varieties of tobacco and could identify the brand smoked by a suspect from a few ashes collected at the scene. He also was an expert on the soils to be found in the area around London and could deduce where a person had been by the mud left from boots or mingled with footprints.
BBC Photo

               One other area of study for Sherlock was past crimes. He was very familiar with a history of criminal cases and past events. His logic was that there was nothing truly new and that any crime would fit a profile of one committed in the past. There is definitely a certain logic in that approach. It has gotten me to think about the approach used by modern security and law enforcement professionals. I have always believed that we can learn a great deal from past crimes and have written a number of articles about lessons learned.
               For anyone interested in self-defense, it makes sense to review stories about street crimes and attacks and give some thought to how the situation might have been avoided or what steps could have been taken to reduce the threat. For example, there was recent news about a couple that went to buy a car advertised on Craigslist who then went missing. Per news stories, the seller has been caught in lies to the police and is certainly a likely suspect in the disappearance. Without even knowing the details yet, this should create some thought to steps someone could take if meeting someone after an online connection to buy or sell something. Where will the meeting take place? Somewhere public? Who else knows about it? What other information can be gathered ahead of time to check into the buyer or seller? Certainly, there are many possible ideas that could help protect someone following up on an online deal.
               Security professionals often focus attention on the latest technology, such as digital video systems or high-tech access control systems. Still the old-fashioned idea of studying past crimes or recent events is a great way to enhance any security program. It is a great exercise in comparing your organization’s security or even your personal protection against some real life criminal. You’ll also learn from the crimes that hit other companies and adjust your security program based on those lessons learned.

               This understanding of the criminal mind, and how people act, is still a valuable tool to the modern security professional or street-smart individual. It is, after all, elementary.

Combining his law enforcement and corporate security experiences plus a love of martial arts, Eric Smith created Business Karate, LLC, a Colorado-based security consulting firm. His new book, Workplace Security Essentials, outlines how any business, school, hospital or organization can master the art of self-defense, reduce losses, avoid liability and build a safer workplace. Visit for more. Follow on Twitter @businesskarate