Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The Anatomy of a Looting Horde

I've actually been meaning to do a post about this for some time now but never actually got around to it because crunching the numbers is kinda a pain in the ass to be honest. That and actually finding some of the statistics for percentages is really not as easy as you might think. They are often buried so deep in other data you have to read the entire boring thing to find the one stat you are looking for. Yet I love numbers, they don't lie and they can give you a clear picture if you can see through the mist enough to make em out. Of course they can also be presented in ways that make em seem something they aren't at times too.

There are of course a couple figures that are open to interpretation, which is usually where the real problems start. For one thing in a grid down/no more just in time re-supply situation just what percentage of the population is going to be an active looter, what percentage will be a looter of opportunity and what percentage would rather die themselves than kill or steal? Good questions. You may think all people will fight to survive when confronted with a life or death situation but then there are more than a few genocides, holocausts and such out there that do not lend weight to that belief. There really is no hard data at all to back up just how many people would willingly become a part of a looting horde so I have run the numbers without taking attitude or personality into account. From that perspective everyone is a potential looter.

What I have taken into account are things like : Gender. Oh I know a few people will argue and say Women will loot just as well as the Men. OK no way we are going to get past that discussion if we take it up no matter how wrong you equal opportunity looters might be, you will never admit it. So here's what I have done. I figure there are going to be far more panzy assed girly Men out there than there are butch Female raider types. That should make the Feminist and Manginas happy as I am bashing on Men a bit. So I took out the Female population percentage but not a girly-man percentage. I figure that balances it out to a looter numerical advantage. This removed 49% of the population.

Obesity ; With roughly 35.7% of the population being considered obese this figure has to have some bearing on the subject. While there will be some exceptions one way or the other I finally decided to just take this entire number out because it will help to balance out the figure against the ones who would be lead to slaughter I didn't count earlier. Seems logical to me anyway.

The next couple of percentages are pretty straight forward.

Age - I eliminated all persons above age 62 and below age 15. Yes there will be some grey area and overlap but I thought these were good numbers. I know I have seen some mature 15 year olds and some good shape 70 year old guys as well but they are an anomaly. According to the census data about 22% of the population are under age 15 and 14.7% above age 62. I checked those figures in a few places as they didn't seem right but what do I know? Comes to a total of 36.7% either too old or too young for active looting.

Handicapped, Mentally unstable, medically unsound : I eventually rounded this figure out at 4%. Handicapped numbers were easy to find, the others not so much. I got a number of 1.5% for handicapped in a few places (Which certainly wasn't by DMV tags on windows or it would have been 15% or more). Whatever 4% sounded good.

What I have not taken into account at all are things like the willingness of different races to work together or become hostile with each other. Whether remnants of the government would attempt to slow down or stop a horde ahead of time or even taken into account any type of attrition as the numbers move outward.

Now I needed a test area for base population and square miles available. I chose the greater St. Louis Metro area. I included the entire Metro area, Illinois side and Missouri, but then I limited the land area numbers to a specific compass destination inside Missouri. At almost 3 million the St. Louis Metro area is within the top 20 metro areas by population in the US.

My starting population total is 2.9 million but I rounded up to 3 million potential looters. This is over half the entire population of Missouri I might add. Considering their starting location I then assigned a direction randomly and figured more or less they would target that area out to about 200 miles more or less which is close to the middle line of the state running North - South.

So 3 million people. Of which 49.1% are She-Men or Women, that's 1,527,000 of them

35.7% are Obese that's 1,071,000 of the whole halved to 535,500

36.7% are too young or too old that's 1,101,000 of whole halved is 550,500

4% are handicapped or mentally/medically unsound that's 120,000 of the whole I will quarter this number since we are looking for men of prime looting age here so the percentage should be less for a total of 30,000.

3 million - 1,527,000 - 535,500 - 550,500 - 30,000 = 357,000

As you can see we are now left with 357K willing, able and ready looters out of the entire population of the St. Louis metro area. I should have done a firearms check of the Metro St. Louis area and adjusted this number even further but I don't think it is needed to get my point across. I halved the percentages for age and obesity figuring the girly-men section should get their share and only decreased the handicapped percentage by one quarter.

Assigning 8 points to the compass then further dividing the potential looting horde by 8 we come up with  44,625 looters heading toward any given compass heading. This would roughly fan out to slightly under 1/6 of the state of Missouri before reaching the midway point which I will reserve all land West of that middle line for the Kansas City looters.

This gives us a land mass of 69,709 sq. miles divided by 6 =  11,618 square miles per 44,625 looters or stated another way roughly 4 looters per square mile. A square mile equals 640 acres so that is about 1 man per 160 acres total.

These 4 guys are gonna be awfully lonely out there so they will need to team up. By the time you get up to a team of 20 looters you are looking at a coverage area of five square miles or 3200 acres. The averaged size farm in Missouri is roughly 250 acres so every 20 looters will be facing off against 12.8 family farms. That's a minimum of 12.8 individuals not counting wives, offspring, city relatives they took in etc. defending against every 20 looter/raiders.

This means at the very best calculations any group of 20 looters would be attacking with less than 2 to 1 odds. That's not very good.

Now all this is assuming no low or high density areas in farmers per looters per land. It will be much worse closer to the St. Louis metro area and lessen as you move further away. You can of course add looters that may join in from smaller communities and such into the mix but not many as we are already using over half the total population to start with and Kansas city hasn't even been heard from yet.

That's a lot of space and pretty good defensive numbers vs. attackers in the scheme of things if you ask me. As I have stated before land and distance are your allies and defending is far easier than attacking. Let's not forget the three to one rule here for attacking success. A rule which is impossible to achieve on average with Missouri's land mass v. farmer density if you take my population figures as realistic.

In short wide spread looting would be at a severe disadvantage whenever it reached out beyond 75 miles or so in my opinion. The land ratio to looters would begin to get so high it would create a huge obstacle. The more likely situation we would see are corridors of looting that would form along the interstates or other major highways and then fan outwards from this lifeline a few miles. This would help the looters to maintain a higher attacker per defender ratio but would also create choke points that are even easier to defend.

In short the life of a looter would not be easy nor would it be particularly long lasting and doubtful it would even really upset most of the countryside that remains 10 or more miles away from a major highway.

There just are not sufficient numbers of able city dwellers to pull off a "Golden Horde" West of I would estimate Ohio. Perhaps an East Coast study would be different.

Keep Prepping Everyone!!!


  1. That isn't even figuring casualties suffered during "successful looting", also the high probability of gangs that wait and then loot the tiered looters returning from the fields.

    1. Ody - I know. I was mostly just looking for raw, worst case scenarios of numbers overall. It has long been my theory (of which I know others have it as well) that there was no way the sheer vastness of the open countryside could be over run with looters. I just wanted to do the exercise to see what the maximum number of looters per square mile would work out to.

  2. They may be extremely limited on how many can be transported in a single vehicle as these clowns probably aren't motivated to walk too far. A truck load of city boys are easier to take out than a group of commandos crawling through the grass.

    1. Sf - Yes there are many factors involved that I didn't touch on. I really just wanted to see what the maximum saturation numbers would work out to. Honestly I think we could cut those numbers down by another 50% due to attrition, in fighting and just people who would not succumb to the looting life. Yet even at maximum numbers the spread would be pretty thin indeed.

  3. Interesting calculations Preppy. I would agree with your general logic. You would only end up with two kinds of looters in the end: the very large group, which will almost by default be constrained to easy corridors of conduct to move such a mass, and smaller groups which would be more mobile but potential less of a numerical threat.

    1. TB - I think large masses of looters would break apart of their own ill discipline. More than likely resort to preying on each other as soon as no easy pickings were available. Either way I believe there would end up being large more remote areas that would be spared most of the looting issues.

    2. If you think about it Preppy, history teaches us that more remote populations are only at significant risk in the event of a truly large scale invasion or groups with high mobility (think the Germanic invasions as the first and any of the nomadic groups - Huns, Magyars, Avars, Mongols, even the Vikings - as the second).

  4. A true food for thought posting. I have been reading the comments by both you & Harry in Harry's post. You could figure in many other factors, such as fuel and the availability of transportation IE large trucks, pick ups etc. Plus weather its a grid down or natural disaster.

    1. Rob - Certainly you could but all of those issues would lend themselves to even more looter attrition while those who are staying in place would not suffer nearly as much by them. I wanted to see what the maximum number of looters might be per square mile. This is also assuming that every able bodied man would turn looter which I am far from believing is possible. I honestly would predict less than 50% of the final number turning bandit even when starving.

  5. Nice job putting this information together. I'll be sharing with our group this weekend as it's been a point of discussion for us recently.

    1. Izzy - Like I said above the real factor that I did not attempt to find an answer to, is what percentage of the able bodied would actually turn to a life of looting and crime even when starving? We certainly know from historical events not everyone would but how many would today is anyone's guess. Still it would reduce even the relatively thin numbers I came up with even more.

      Looters would need to hit easy targets and hit them fast one after another. Any resistance or break would almost spell their doom and distance would be a real issue.

    2. Pioneer Preppy, One of the best examples is the Army. It takes 9-10 "support" personnel for every shooter just to keep the basic Infantryman going.
      Once you start figuring the total pounds that a group of 10 people would need to loot every 2-3 weeks figuring at least 2 pounds of food per day each person wound need to loot over 60 pounds of food just for them self to last till the next raid. A gallon of water a day is 8 pounds so min. of 15-30 gallons for each person on a raid = 120-240 pounds of water. Start adding the weight of fuel, sanitation, treating the wounded who would be a drain and the logistics just don't work out. Especially when most people in the USA have about 3 days worth of supplies.

    3. MASR - Yep, although my bet is looters would learn to operate without that much support staff and many of the population I ruled out as looters would act as virtual slaves for the able bodied and not be given the same amount of rations etc.

      The real numbers would tell in how many would be unable to live that kind of life and how many would fall prey to other looters before they got out of the cities. My bet is less than 10% would make it out alive to take up the looter life.

  6. I disagree with how you’ve done your calculations.
    We’re looking for how many people are in none of your groups.
    This is 3M * (100-49.1%) * (100-35.7%) * (100-36.7%) * (100-4%) ~600k
    However this calculation appears to only include ‘hard core’ raiders. Lots of the excluded people could still loot your vegetable garden or steal you chickens even if they don’t look for a violent confrontation.
    Also these people will not spread out and then hit the farms once and stop. Each raiding group will hit a single farm every few days and then move on. Your calculations assume that looters that hit in a square mile never move on to another square mile - Not so. Looters will not know how to farm so once they’ve sucked a farm dry they will move on to the next farm.
    Defending is not easier than attacking unless it’s a stand up fight. If you don’t know when and where they’re coming from attacking is much easier than defending. Think about the scenario where they move into position at some point during the night and lie prone with your door in the scope of their sights. The first you know about hostilities is when the first person to step outside the house gets shot. Or maybe they start hostilities at dawn by setting your house on fire. 3 vs 1 attack vs defence does not hold true for guerrilla warfare, not even close.
    Small groups of Vikings were *devastating* to the numerically superior coasts they raided.
    Unfortunately I think homesteads close to population centres will be overwhelmed by raiders / looters / dislocated citizens again and again. At 200 miles out it could be a long time before anyone comes calling.

    1. SS - While I do not disagree with the problems of homesteads close to urban centers I do not agree with the rest of your theories.

      For one the people who were excluded are so far down on the list to pose little threat especially if they must travel more than a few feet and secondly it takes into account no people who simply would not loot because it is wrong. I think more will refrain than doomers think.

      Secondly you are assuming no one on defense is even defending or psoting a lookout. Most homesteads have pretty obvious attack routs into them and will be keeping some kind of watch.

      Also the thing that works against looters is time. To have the numbers to succeed they will be forced to move from target to target quickly which will leave little time for laying up and scouting as you say. Each homestead will cost and few groups would be so large to withstand the casualties they will take.

  7. I hope you’re right, I really do however…
    Starving people will do just about anything for food. This has been shown by history over and over again. The average US citizen has very little moral character anymore. Most people believe they have a ‘right’ to things and that means you’re the reprobate for not giving them your food. They’ll take from you and not loose sleep over it because “it’s only fair”.
    Time and time again throughout history dislocated citizens have been seen walking *to the next country* during drought, famine or war. I agree many citizens in the US aren’t capable of walking long distances but a large proportion are, even if they move slowly.
    What sort of group do you have posting a defence? Even if you had two people observing /on defence (one at the North East corner covering North and East and one at the South West corner) and you had two 12 hour shifts a day with no days off you’d need 4 people just doing security and that still assumes perfect lines of sight. People are going to get onto your property. Will you shoot that juvenile you can’t clearly see at 300 yards? What it it’s your neighbours 12 year old? Even if *you* have a group large enough to mount round the clock security the vast majority of farms/homesteads won’t.
    Yes looters are going to die but so are homesteaders. The important question is which will die faster, i.e. will the ratio of surviving looters to surviving homesteaders go up or down?


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