Tony Thurman, owner and lead salesman at Shield Security Systems of Kansas City, has seen an increase in sales ever since the pandemic hit and the attitude of the public shifted. While the technology has become cheaper, Thurman is troubled by what he senses is driving much of the demand: Americans’ growing preoccupation with the specter of deadly threats, reports the Washington Post. They fear burglars, gangs, and child predators. They believe crime is rising, even in places where it’s dropping, which tracks with what surveys have found nationwide. Over the last three years, the number of people who reported deteriorating safety in their area has spiked, especially among Republicans, though crime is well below the bloodier levels of the 1990s. Gun purchases soared to record peaks and the home security industry boomed. What Thurman fears: paranoia that encourages snap violence. A paranoia that, when he approaches a home for the first time, has him scanning where to “duck and dive” in case someone opens fire.
“People with their fingers already on the trigger,” Thurman said, like the 84-year-old white man who shot a Black teenager one April evening in Kansas City after the boy rang his doorbell by mistake. Four “wrong turn” shootings made national headlines that month, and Thurman, who is Black, understood that in too many neighborhoods, especially the safest-ever ones, minorities were more likely to be perceived as suspects. Suspicion of others seemed to skyrocket. A New York woman was shot dead when she pulled into the wrong driveway. Two Texas cheerleaders were shot after one got into the wrong car in a supermarket parking lot. The Kansas City teen was shot after mixing up NE 115th Street and NE 115th Terrace. Homeowner Andrew Lester told police he’d been “scared to death” despite having surveillance cameras. Thurrman doesn’t blame people for being scared. Their fears, he noticed, are often influenced by the news they watch, the social media they consume, and the politicians they support. Citing mass shootings and the rhetoric about cities burning, he said that when imaginations run wild, at least he can sell a dose of reality: A live stream of what’s actually happening in your yard.