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"The only purpose of a government is to protect a man’s rights, which means: To protect him from physical violence. A proper government is only a policeman, an agent of man’s self defense, and, as such, may resort to force only against those who start the use of force. The only proper function s of a government are: The police, to protect you from criminals; the army, to protect you from foreign invaders; and the courts, to protect your property and contracts from breach or fraud from others, to settle disputes by rational rules, according to objective laws."
~ John Galt in Ayn Rand’s novel Atlas Shrugged
Houston, Texas – October, the First Year
Growing up on the streets of Houston had made Ignacio Garcia both wary and smart. He never used any drugs other than some occasional marijuana. And he never sold drugs. He realized that was sure to get him arrested, eventually, because customers always talked. His only contacts with heavy drug users were some that he hired, to work his burglaries. Garcia developed a reputation as a clever burglar who never got caught. His modus operandi was exacting: Hit between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. on weekdays, when nobody was home. Avoid lower class neighborhoods, where the pickings weren’t worth bothering, and avoid the wealthy neighborhoods where they all had burglar alarms. Instead, he hit middle class neighborhoods, where there were still things worth stealing, but where they didn’t have their guard up.
Garcia started out by doing burglaries himself, but soon moved on to organizing and equipping teams to do the work for him. To approach middle class houses surreptitiously, he outfitted his teams to look like plumbers, carpet cleaners, or gardeners. Their vehicles looked very convincing. Garcia then fenced his goods though a network of pawn shops, flea market dealers, and coin dealers who could keep their mouths shut. He had his teams concentrate on jewelry, guns, coin collections, cash, and high-end digital cameras. He made a point of never keeping any stolen merchandise at home. He paid several little old ladies to rent storage spaces for him. Eventually, he had almost a dozen places to hide his stolen goods.
Garcia was never associated with any of the big gangs, although he did recruit a few members of MS-13. He kept his own gang – “the gang with no name” as quiet as possible, and discouraged them from antagonizing any other gangs. Garcia often said, “Let them bicker and kill each other, while we hang back and just make lots of money.”
The stoners that worked for Garcia sometimes did stupid crack head stuff. Even though he gave them explicit directions, they’d ignore him and bring back things like big screen HD televisions, bottles of various prescription medicines, and kitchen appliances. One time, one of his men brought back plastic bags of live koi carp that they had stolen from a pond. This pond was in the backyard of a house that they had trouble entering. Some of the items had to be discarded, or took weeks to fence.
Three years before the Crunch, Ignacio realized that some upper-middle class people rarely let their guard down. For these targets, Garcia started to train and equip his home invasion team. He selected his most ruthless yet most level-headed men. He gave them some of his best guns, and carefully selected targets –mostly ones that he’d previously had to pass up. He called this team “La Fuerza” – The Force. Most of their home invasions took place at mid-day, when there would likely be just one adult at home.
The home invasions went remarkably well. Because Garcia insisted on a strict six minute time limit inside a target house, La Fuerza never met the police face to face. Eventually, he split La Fuerza into two teams of six men each. Their take was so lucrative that he eventually stopped using his traditional burglary teams altogether. He gave control and ownership of that whole operation to his cousin Simon.
Garcia grew up in Houston’s Second Ward, but after he built up capital from his burglaries, he bought a house in Greenspoint, on the north side. This was a nice suburban neighborhood that was roughly half Hispanic. He did his best to blend in. Ignacio told his neighbors that he was in the import/export business. In a way, he was right. He just exported things from people’s houses, and imported them into his own.
When the Crunch started, there were 16 full members of Garcia’s gang. As the economy cratered, Garcia realized that he had to switch gears quickly. Previously, his goal had been converting stolen goods into cash. But now cash was perishable and even undesirable. The goods themselves were more valuable. He also realized that once Houston became the target of rioting, that the whole city would be locked down, and he’d be just as at risk from burglary or robbery as anyone else.
James Wesley, Rawles is a former U.S. Army Intelligence officer and a noted author and lecturer on survival and preparedness topics. He is the author of Patriots: A Novel of Survival in the Coming Collapse and is the editor of SurvivalBlog.com – the popular daily web journal for prepared individuals living in uncertain times.