Friday, October 11, 2013

Absorbed Device Users Oblivious to Danger

Brandon Long (right) is among the many commuters using smartphones on the way to work on a Muni train stopping at San Francisco's Powell Street Station on Friday. Photo: Liz Hafalia, The Chronicle
Brandon Long (right) is among the many commuters using smartphones on the way to work on a Muni train stopping at San Francisco's Powell Street Station on Friday. Photo: Liz Hafalia, The Chronicle

SF Gate

A man standing on a crowded Muni train pulls out a .45-caliber pistol.
He raises the gun, pointing it across the aisle, before tucking it back against his side. He draws it out several more times, once using the hand holding the gun to wipe his nose. Dozens of passengers stand and sit just feet away - but none reacts.
Their eyes, focused on smartphones and tablets, don't lift until the gunman fires a bullet into the back of a San Francisco State student getting off the train.
Investigators say this scene was captured by a Muni camera on Sept. 23, the night Nikhom Thephakaysone, 30, allegedly killed 20-year-old Justin Valdez in an apparently random encounter.
For police and prosecutors, the details of the case were troubling - they believe the suspect had been out "hunting" for a stranger to kill - but so too was the train passengers' collective inattention to imminent danger.
"These weren't concealed movements - the gun is very clear," said District Attorney George Gascón. "These people are in very close proximity with him, and nobody sees this. They're just so engrossed, texting and reading and whatnot. They're completely oblivious of their surroundings."
The story goes on to mention that although cell-phone use can be such a distraction as to make people unsafe, there is another side of the coin.  Often crime is detected with the help of photos taken by smart phones and certainly many crimes are reported in a timely manner now that almost everyone has a device in their pocket.
What's your opinion? Does the new technology make us safer or more unsafe by often being oblivious to our surroundings.
How about gun owners?  How can they maintain their famous situational awareness while talking or texting on their phones?
Please leave a comment.


  1. They can do it the same way everyone else can--self discipline and training oneself to pay attention to one's surroundings.

    This technology, just like any other, is just a tool. It can be used for good to help report or solve a crime, or for ill by organizing criminal activity. It is more distracting with the sounds and all the pretty lights, but that just means that we need to put extra effort into not developing tunnel vision. Hopefully stories like this will shake folks up enough to put forth the effort.

    1. I don't know, T. You think gun carriers can safely use these devices in public as long as they're careful. I don't think so. I may have to start pushing for the proper legislation to protect us all for you guys with guns zonking out on your devices and becoming a liability instead of the asset you claim to be.

    2. Mikeb, typically, you take one type of behavior and generalize it to all people. If you look at the training for concealed carry, part of it includes the idea of not being oblivious to your surroundings.

      See, I could make an argument here that it's your side that creates this tunnel vision. You want people to be disarmed. Youspew vitriol against anyone who acts in self-defense. So why should anyone pay attention when there's nothing the person can do, anyway?

      But more than that, and here I'm speculating on the basis of people I've known and those whose writings I've read, those of us who carry know that we have to pay attention to what's going on around us. That comes from the training that I mentioned and also from the awareness that having a weapon with us demands. You live in a fantasy world in which we're all idiots, but that's simply not the case.

      As I said below, I don't bury myself in gadgets when I'm out in public. Part of that is because I just don't like the dinguses, but part comes from recognizing that it's best to be aware.

  2. 1. San Fransisco is one of the primary centers of gun control in this nation. This is an example of gun control failure.

    2. I do not wear earphones when I'm out in public, and I only use my phone if I'm in a situation where it's safe to do so and I just have to communicate with someone. Perhaps it's because I grew up before cell phones and i-Pods, but I don't feel the need to be in a virtual world when I'm out in the real world.

  3. This reminds you that if you see a gunsuck with a weapon you should immediately hit them with a large blunt object if they touch their weapon. Every gunsuck is a moment away from going berserk and killing people.

  4. Mike, we've talked before about how in some jurisdictions, its well nigh impossible to get a carry permit, and SF is one of those places.

    "San Francisco has long been stingy with the permits. The sheriff's office has awarded just one in the past 30 years - and it expired in 2008. Two residents have permits obtained through the Police Department, according to city records."

    1. I wasn't limiting my inquiries to San Francisco.