April 08, 2021

J.J. Bittenbinder and Street Smart Safety

I mentioned J.J. Bittenbinder in a comment on someone's site recently, though I can't remember where. I haven't thought about him in years. Decades really. But a lot of what he had to say still makes sense. With a bit of searching I found this old story from the Chicago Tribune. Dealing with insomnia, since I am recovering from the COVID, means that I am spending even more time on the internet than usual. The Chicago Tribune: THE J.J. BITTENBINDER SHOW

J.J. Bittenbinder was a Chicago cop for about 21 years, and homicide/violent crime detective for 16 of those years. He dealt with all the ways that the people of Chicago found to hurt one another. In the last few years of his career with Chicago PD, he started giving safety speaches to neighborhood groups and churches. That resulted, eventually, in his launching a more nationwide career into teaching people how to improve their safety. One of the things he always said, is "There are no absolutes." There are no guarantees, but you can change the odds in your favor.

It is nightfall on a Wednesday, and several hundred Chicagoans are in a hotel ballroom thinking about something that is never far from most Chicagoans' minds at any given moment: getting stabbed, shot, raped, strangled, kidnapped, tortured or beaten.

Their squadron leader for these flights of morbid fancy is Det. J.J. Bittenbinder, a pretty intimidating guy himself-tough-talking, armoire-sized, a listen-up-chum homicide dick with a handlebar mustache and bedside manner worthy of the Great John L. and a message that says, "You better learn how to protect yourself from crime or I'm gonna be in your face."

You may have seen his special on Public Television back in the 1990s. He recorded his special, for the first time in 1991, and it was used, for a few years, as part of their pledge drive. I don't know if that was the case nationwide, but it certainly held true in Chicago.

You can find J.J. Bittenbinder's teachings at Defense 4U: Street Smart Guide to Staying Safe. He apparently also wrote a book, which I have not read. See the image above.

The seminar, at least as presented on PBS, was Street Smarts: How to Avoid Being a Victim. I have tried to find the video, but it seems to have been scrubbed from the internet. Well, maybe not quite scrubbed.

A version of the 1995 PBS special is on YouTube, in chunks. It sees to have been uploaded from well-used VHS tapes. There is an annoying hiss on at least one of the segments, and some level of hiss on all of them, but even given that, the information provided is worth it. The rules of predator versus prey haven't changed that much in 25 years.

And finally here is an excerpt that deals with what parents should tell kids. It is taken from Part 3 above.

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