Coordination vs. mindless vandalism
It is necessary to make the distinction between a eco-sabotage ‘hit’ and vandalism. A hit is aimed at a specific site, for a specific reason – sometimes you may only be hitting one part of a large site. Vandalism on the other hand is a frenzy of activity which gives no thought to the purpose for which it is being carried out.
The main factor in a ‘hit’ is the minimization of risk to yourselves, and other human beings/animals involved on that site. The hit should not leave traps or damage which might cause someone to be harmed. It should not cause uncontrolled pollution of the environment. Note here the use of the word uncontrolled, since a hit may involve small amounts of pollution through the spilling of fuel, hydraulic fluid, and the generation of large quantities of waste equipment. You must be aware of this fact and plan to minimize pollution – for example, the uncontrolled release of oil or fuel may mean that fuel enters storm drains, or is washed by the rain, ultimately ending up as a huge slick in the local river.
A good hit does not happen out of the blue (or, at least, rarely). Planning is essential for three reasons…
It means you know the site, know what is involved, and you can get in and out with as little trouble as possible;
You know what equipment to take with you – an essential consideration since the lots of the wrong equipment will not get you very far, whereas a little of the right equipment can enable you to cause havoc;
It stops you getting caught! As well as planning on site to avoid security/staff, you should plan your entry, getaway and alibis to ensure that you will never be associated with the incident.
Selecting a site
Primarily, you should always have a justifiable reason for what you are doing. In practice, an earth mover working to build a children’s playground does not pose a problem, but an earth mover working on a road project that destroys the countryside does.
You must consider, add appropriate weight to the material considerations, and then ultimately justify any act you propose to carry out.
You must select the target, taking into account the threat it poses. The response should then be in proportion to this threat. If a farmer is deliberately destroying a wildlife site then the proportionate action would be to take out those pieces of equipment that the work is being done with – what would not be justifiable would be burning down the whole barn with the equipment in.
There is also the idea of ‘escalation’. The harder you hit a site, the more action the operator is going to take to protect the equipment. This means that it is more difficult to do a properly directed hit and you may have to resort to indiscriminate means of action such as fire, taking out power supplies, etc. Always have a thought out plan for what will happen if you do not succeed in stopping the action first time – do not needlessly escalate the conflict.
Finally, the hit should be justifiable to the public at large – as ultimately they are the people who will pass judgment. It does not matter what the police or the site owner think – if somebody is doing something perceived by the public as ‘bad’, then your taking action will secure public support. Indiscriminate action that causes pollution, harm to people, animals or the wider countryside will not receive general acceptance.
Collective or individual operations
Next you must decide how you plan to hit the site. Can it be done by yourself alone (my preference – I don’t like incriminating others), or will you need help?
If you decide that others will be involved this sets up certain problems. For example, who makes decisions? Who takes on what task? If one person is caught, what do the others do? All these matters need to be resolved before you hit the site.
One-off or attrition hits
Finally, you must decide what your hit is designed to achieve, and what will happen in the future. There are three key considerations…
How many chances will you get to hit the site? If there is little security you will be able to take out equipment with few considerations about getting caught. However, you will probably not get the same chance again.
Next, are you trying to close the place down, or just remove the offending problem? This will determine the weight of your response.
Finally, is the objective best achieved by a one-off super destructive hit where you take out the entire site, or would nibbling away here and there over a period of time achieve a better result?
Having decided what the priority is, you should plan accordingly.
Reconnaissance is essential. It is what enables you to get into, move around, and get out of a site without getting lost, hurt or caught. It also enables you to assess the needs of the hit in terms of equipment.
Maps are important – mainly in getting on and off the site. As well as having one way in, it is a good idea to have more than one way out. For example, where a site is close to a river, a railway line and a main road, which is the safest means of access? These factors can be assessed from the map, and then tested/observed on the ground before the hit.
The maps I use most are the 1:25,000 scale ‘Pathfinder’ Ordnance Survey maps. These provide details of the land in the area, field boundaries, roads, footpaths, and any nearby buildings.
There are two ways to get a map of the site:
1) Ordnance Survey, at a HMSO and specialist map shops around the country, print up to date digital maps at 1:10,000 or 1:1,000 scale, showing the most recent information on a site. These maps cost around £40. The 1:10,000 maps, and sometimes the 1:1,000 maps can also be found in many local libraries, but they tend to be a few years out of date.
2) At some point someone must have applied for planning permission for the site. The planning permission, together with detailed site maps, building drawings and details of any plant on site are kept on ‘public registers’ with the local planning authority – normally the District council. However, care must be exercised or someone may connect a hippy inspecting the planning file one week, with the destruction of that site the next.
If few details are available about the site from maps or planning permissions, the next best option is to get some photographs. One warning about this – never get the photographs developed by a postal service, and if you take them to a shop, never take them to a shop near the site you intend to hit.
Also, once you have planned the hit, get rid of the photos the day before you carry the hit out. Never dump the photos in the rubbish – either dispose of them elsewhere or keep them in your stash (if you keep them in the stash, wipe off any finger prints first).
Where the site is part of a business, or someone lives there, you should watch the place for a week or two to get an idea of when people come and go. Even on a site which is continually occupied, there may be a window of opportunity when you can get in, carry out the hit, and get out again.
Also, if the hit is dependent upon the presence of particular equipment or goods, keeping a watch will allow you to plan the hit for when the target is there.
When carrying out reconnaissance, never barge up to the perimeter fence and start taking photos! Approach any site with caution. Check for the presence of alarm systems, closed circuit TV (CCTV) cameras, security patrols, guard dogs, or even infrared/microwave motion detectors mounted in the open ground or inside buildings. If you discover any security precautions, you will have to find a way to bypass these systems.
You should also be aware that there is increasing use of CCTV in towns across the UK. If you have to drive or walk through an area with CCTV to reach the target, then they only have to check the tapes to get your mugshot/car registration.
Also, because of the threat of sabotage, it is possible that equipment may be alarmed – equipment similar to car alarms is relatively simple to fit to earth movers, and fitting building security systems to a barn or equipment compound is not that difficult. As a general precaution the first thing I do when confronted with an earth mover is check for alarms. I disconnect any horns or sirens first before doing anything else. Even then, use caution when working. Things which have easy external access are unlikely to be alarmed – but lift the bonnet and all hell could break loose. Even when things have been alarmed there are ways around the problem – filling the alarm siren full of mastic for example.
If anything goes wrong – if security guards or the police turn up, if you set off all the alarm systems, or if you hurt yourself and need the quickest route out – it is planning the hit that will save you from ultimate imprisonment and the curtailing of your sabotage career. The planning process can be broken down into a number of simple topics or stages. In effect this section reproduces what goes through my mind when I plan any hit.
Selecting your means of access and exit is as important as the sabotage itself. You may need to get into somewhere avoiding security cameras or floodlighting. To get out you may need to chop through fences.
If possible I prefer to have different routes of access and exit – this is sensible because if your means of access is discovered, a hole in the fence for example, then it does not preclude your planned means of escape.
Don’t just plan the access and exit to the site itself either – plan the whole route from the point where you leave your transport through to where you are picked up again. Sometimes it is better to walk three miles across country rather than have to drive a car down the road running to the site.
As well as your means of access and escape, if anything goes wrong you will need to ensure an alternative route. For example, one site I hit had a railway on one side and a river down the other, but only one road running to the site itself. Had the road been blocked it would have been easy to just run down the railway track, or even just jump in the river and float away.
If you can get someone to drop you off, it is always better if you can be picked up somewhere else so as not to attract attention. If you have to rely on yourself for transport you will need to ensure that your car/bike is not visible – it may even be worth investing in some camouflage netting from your local army surplus store if there is a lack of natural cover.
If there are staff on site you will have problems. If the guards just sit in their hut, never walk around and do not have CCTV, you can get in, do the biz and get out fairly easily – you will just have to adapt your methods to be silent.
The problem normally arises when you are not aware that people are there, until you are confronted by them. You should have picked up the likelihood of staff being on site when you carried out your initial reconnaissance – but sometimes things happen as you expect them to.
If confronted by someone – just leg it. Don’t provoke a confrontation. Any sensible person would not chase someone who was carrying a hammer or crowbar. If you are cornered, just give up – resistance will count against you in court.
It is possible to plan alternatives where staff are on site. You can arrange a distraction – though this will not give you very long to work. Alternately you could use the ‘cry wolf’ approach. You keep cutting holes in the fence and setting off alarms for a few weeks, but not actually entering the site. Over this time the staff will become tired of the incidents, and will not treat it seriously. Then, one night, you actually do do something.
If all else fails, and you are sure that you must carry out the hit, you can passively neutralize the staff. This approach only really works with trailers, booths, and guard shacks. While the staff are inside, block the doors and cut the phone/electricity cables. Then, while confusion reigns in the cabin and they haven’t sussed that breaking the windows is the only way out, do the hit. If you block someone inside where there is no possible means of escape, always phone the police straight away to release them when you’ve got out.
As part of your reconnaissance you should get as much detail as possible of the equipment on site, and its design and construction, in order to assess your tooling needs. You could turn up with the standard kit, outlined earlier, but if you can tailor your tooling resources to the equipment concerned, you will get a better result.
Getting into the site is very important – particularly if there are people around. You may need to devise a way of getting in which does not attract attention – particularly if you want to use the same route out again.
When scoping a site for entry I have a few basic tactics:
Fences: Go through them, not over them – if you have bolt cutters it won’t take any longer, and there is less risk of being spotted. (Tip – with chain link fences, just cut the same thread of wire in the fence top, bottom, and three or four places in between, then pull out the wire with your pliers. The fence will then just fall into two.)
Roads: Try and keep off them. If there are hedges or walls, travel behind them until you get to the site.
Walls: Not much option but to go over – in which case you may need extra equipment. I would not rely on exiting over a wall, just in case someone takes your ladder away.
Ditches/rivers: These can provide good cover, so long as they have a dry bank. If you can, cross the water coming in – it’s always better to work dry. If you have to you can always splash through on your way out.
Gates: If the gate is not locked – fine. If it is, you’ll need bolt cutters to get the padlock off. If possible try and get a padlock which looks the same so that you can remove it on your way out without problems. Never leave a cut padlock in view – it’s a sure sign to a passing policeman that someone’s inside.
Doors: Doors are problematic. They are very easy things to alarm, either with mechanical micro-switches or magnetic reed switches. If in doubt, you may always try going through the door itself, but the cutting operations will be noisy.
Open concrete yards/grass: I avoid any open area, especially around factories/offices. Open areas are perfect for using CCTV to pick people up. Another example of open areas to avoid are power stations. Most power stations have clear paths cut through the undergrowth around them. This is because specialised microwave beams run down the avenues, and will sound an alarm when broken by anything more than 2 feet tall.
You will have to consider the options for your own site and work accordingly.
Workplan and timing
I always stick to a work plan. I calculate how long it will take to travel to the point of access; enter the site; travel within the site; sabotage each piece of equipment; exit the site; and travel back to my transport. I also work an order in which to hit each thing, taking into account problems such as being seen, setting off alarms, accommodating staff movements. This may seem unduly rigid, but it is a very effective way of disciplining yourself to do what you came to do, and get out. Also, where considerations such as police patrols, staff change-overs, or covering yourself with an alibi are concerned, timing is essential.
After some practice you will be able to look at the equipment you want to take out and for each one estimate the time to complete the work. Alternatively, if all the equipment is the same (e.g., all the hits are on earth movers), think of a reasonable time and multiply it by the number of hits. Work out the whole programme of events in your mind, and rehearse it in your head for a few days before the event. Then, when you get inside, you won’t have to waste time thinking about what to do.
A key consideration in the workplan, if not working alone, is when you are due to be picked up by your transport. When working with others, if I give a precise time to be picked up, and I will ensure that, to the second, I am there. If, for example, travelling into the site takes longer than you anticipate, you should assume your trip out takes long too, and deduct time from your work allocation. Never let your transport sit around, or endlessly circle past waiting for you – it attracts attention. If possible, always arrange a place where you can wait for your transport without being seen, then you will not have to worry if you arrive early.
“The best laid plans of mice and men….” – there is always something you didn’t think of. You have to take this into account. Give thought to what happens if you lose a screwdriver, or what happens if the thing you want to hit is not there.
In terms of planning, the biggest consideration must be how you use the time – and how the availability of it affects your use of tools. If you were planting incendiary devices, you want them all to go off at the same time. Likewise, if you are relying on staff using the equipment as normal in the morning to give your work, e.g. abrasives in the sump, time to work, then you will need to cover your work. This all takes extra time.
Consider also situations which may assist/prevent the hit. For example noise may be a prime consideration, but if you hit in the middle of a heavy rain storm, the noise of the wind and falling rain may cover the noise you make. Likewise, the hit may require travelling long distances cross-country to reach the site, which is best done under a full moon. But if it is cloudy that night, you may have to abort – perhaps until the next full moon. The best way to take problems and setbacks into consideration is to allocate extra time in your workplan.
Execution – an example
The plan on the following page shows an area of quarries near the Peak District. Let’s assume for the moment that the site needs to be hit because of the damage that it causes to a nearby wildlife site. How do we go about making a detailed work plan of how to carry out the hit?
The following sections take you through the process of planning, in essence, “the perfect crime”. It may sound an elaborate, or excessive procedure to follow but unless you consider all the options, at some time, you are more likely to get caught.
Conceptualization is all about visualizing the task in your head, and finding ways to solve it. The best place to start is to actually visit the site, or check it out on a map, and then check your solutions later when you recon the site.
The map above of the site to be hit presents a number of problems and opportunities…
1. Access is not easy because all roads to the site pass the village (marked ‘V’);
2. There is, because of the quarry faces, restricted access to the inside of the quarry;
3. The best drop-off and pick-up points are half a mile away, with a cross-country route in between;
4. Reconnaissance will be easy because of the presence of many rights of way, the best of which runs from point ‘X’ to point ‘Y’ and ‘Z’, giving views over the quarry;
5. In an emergency, assuming that the police or public are alerted, it may not be possible to get back to the pick-up point;
6. The quarry equipment is based at two areas within the quarry (marked H1 and H2).
In considering the problem, we must characterize all these key features of the hit, and produce appropriate responses to each.
In considering if the hit is feasible, I would consider matters such as ‘will the hit achieve the required result?’, as well as the more conventional ‘can I do it?’ questions.
If you can justify the action, and if, when considering the key problems/opportunities the site presents you can come up with realistic solutions to the problem, then you can carry on to the next stage.
Having considered the problems, and thought up solutions, reconnaissance will tell you if your solutions will work. It will also give you essential information as to the layout of the facilities you want to hit, what tooling will be required, and an idea of the timings involved for the workplan.
For me, a proper recon. consists of the following things…
Checking access/exit routes: You must check that what you planned on the map can be achieved on the ground. The best way to do this is to walk the route – if this can be done without arousing suspicion. It will also enable you to familiarize yourself with the route if you have to do it in the dark. On the plan, the proposed access/exit routes from A1/A2, and to E and EE, should be checked. You can then select the best way in, and the options to get out.
Mapping the site: You must familiarise yourself with the layout of the site. Sketch plans, take photos, and memorise a picture of the site in your head. There are also other sources of information you can access. 1:10,000 scale maps will give you detail about the position of buildings, and the planning permission or waste licenses held by your local authority will contain plans detailing not only the location of buildings, but also the layout of rooms inside the building, the location of drainage pipes, services, and perhaps even an identification of what each building is for. Use of council documents is especially useful when you have no way of directly scoping the site. Considering the plan, you should identify the locations, H1 and H2, and the ways to travel between these points and the access/entry.
Target identification: List all the equipment on the site relevant to the issue you are disagreeing with. Note its position, what it is, any key features such as the position of power supplies, generators, motors, engines, cooling water supplies, fuel tanks, etc. Mobile equipment such as earth movers are more simple to deal with than fixed plant because they are generally built to similar standards.
Considering the plan, the easiest thing would be to take photos of the equipment at H1 and H2 for close study later.
Identification of routes around the site: Having identified access, exit, and position of the hit(s), find easy routes between these points within the site, avoiding any problems such as holes, floodlights, CCTV poles, etc.
Identification of potential hazards: In practice, this means identifying the things that will get you caught. You will need to confirm the hours of operation so that no one will be there when you turn up. If there are people there, you will need to observe their movements to find out if there is the opportunity to carry out the hit.
Finally, you will have to consider other human related problems such as the view from nearby properties, the presence of police patrols, and the likelihood of meeting someone on your way to or from the site. You should also conduct a thorough check for CCTV systems, security systems, and any indication that the equipment you want to hit is alarmed. Considering the plan, you should check the ease of access/exit, particularly on the route to EE. You would also need to assess the problems posed by the proximity to the village, V, and nearby residences.
Commitment/Abort Procedure: What are you going to do if you can’t carry out the hit? You will need to plan a route to the pick-up point, and you may have to find somewhere to hide while you are waiting. Considering the plan, the simplest thing would be to give up at the boundary of the site, follow the road to point X, and then head for E to wait for pick-up, or to EE via Y to the alternate pick-up.
Bringing all this data together will give you your working plan.
Mapping out your workplan
When you have the results of your recon, start mapping out your workplan. First, work out how much time you need to do the hit on each piece of equipment, and what tooling you will need. Then, taking into account travel times, work out how long you will be inside the site. Finally, work out how long it will take to get to and from your transport. This will give you the total time the hit will take, and you will be able to plan schedules with your associates and your alibis accordingly.
Just in case of incident, you should also plan an alternative route out. Always assume when planning this route that someone is after you, or that you have injured yourself. If you are relying on someone else for transport, you will also need to arrange another pick-up point, and a time to be there. Realistically the pick up will need to be some distance from the site, or you will have to consider finding your own way home cross-country.
As noted above, you must access the site in a way which does not attract attention – especially if you intend to exit the same way.
If you are using your own transport, it will need to be stored while you are away. This relies on two principles – camouflage, or putting it where no one will think it out of place. For example, a single car in a lay-by on the side of the road attracts attention. A car in a pub car park, where there are many others parked, does not.
If you are being dropped off, don’t waste time, Have all your plans clear before you get there, arrive, gloves on, and quickly exit the vehicle with your tools.
On the plan, there is a pub in the village. If you were sure of getting back to the pub before closing time you could leave you transport at the pub, and access via A2 – although you might arouse interest if you returned covered in grease and hydraulic fluid. Alternatively, you could be dropped off at A1, getting there without traveling through the village, and return to E (my preference).
Do not proceed with the hit if it is obvious that it cannot be achieved – this is usually when someone is present on the site when you didn’t expect it, or the conditions on the site have changed, for example the weather, meaning that the hit cannot take place. In these situations it is essential that you have a way of traveling to the pick-up point, and that you can wait there for your transport. Going back to the plan, you will actually have more than one commitment point. There will be the point at the site boundary, traveling from A1. If problems arose, you simply go down the road to point ‘X’ and head for point ‘E’ or ‘EE’. However, because there are two hit points, ‘H1’ and ‘H2’, separated by a great distance, you should assess each one independently and act accordingly.
The benefit of having a plan of work is that you don’t waste time on site. You know where to go, you know what to hit and what tools you have to do the job. If there is more than one of you, you should also work out specific responsibilities for working. If you must abandon the workplan, then by necessity, this should entail aborting the whole hit.
When things go wrong
If your planning work was conducted well, things should not go wrong. Things only go wrong because you did not consider them during the planning stage, or they were not anticipated. If things go wrong, don’t hang around, make for the exit. If necessary, because the exit route is not available, use your alternative. If you are injured, there are various options. If alone, you should try and make it out straight away, but if this is not possible, accept defeat, and raise the alarm/find help. If there is more than one of you then there is always the possibility of help. If you are cornered, or caught, give in – they probably have a reasonable identification for you by then anyway.
Leave as planned. If you have to use another route out, use your alternative. If you abandon your plan you risk getting lost, trapped, or seen by people/guards/police/CCTV. The only time to abandon your exit route is when there is no alternative because you are being pursued. Under normal circumstances, return to your transport. If you have planned accordingly, you should turn up a few minutes early and have somewhere to wait out of view. It is also a good idea to have some soap and water so that you can wash off any identifying dirt and grease. It is also a good idea to change your footwear before getting your pick-up, or if there is no time, put some plastic carrier bags around your feet to prevent incriminating dirt/soil getting inside the vehicle.
If possible, do not go home immediately. Go to your stash and dump your tools. You should also consider changing clothes and footwear and leaving it there too. You should also wash off if you haven’t done so already. If you have any containers or rubbish, try and get rid of them, or leave them in your stash – don’t take anything home. Then, go home, relax, or better still, party!
The prime motive in planning a hit is to avoid detection and capture, and having done that, hiding all the incriminating evidence which may associate you with the incident. This will often be enough since if the hit was small, the site operator may not report it (in fact, it may be in their interest not to regularly report things because it gives them adverse publicity, and may increase their insurance premiums).
However, in cases where you can expect lots of trouble afterward, you should consider arranging an alibi. There are a number of options…
Get a friend to stay in your home and make a long phone call (so that it is logged on your billing record) to another friend – the other friend then states that the call was from you, and the phone company record of calls kept at the exchange confirms the date and time of the call;
If you have an account with a computer bulletin board system, get a friend to stay in your house, give them your password, and let them use it for a couple of hours. Then you will have a log with phone company and the BBS system of your line usage, and because the password is private, it is a good excuse that no one else used it;
Arrange a party with your friends – all of whom must agree to state you were at the party the whole time;
Record the evening’s TV on video, or radio on a tape – then memorize it all the instant you get home. When questioned about what you did on your evening in you can quote your evening TV/radio usage accurately.
NB: It is also not a good idea to keep this book in your house for a few weeks after a hit – in itself it could be incriminating!!
From experience, you will have an irresistible urge to go back and view your damage the next day when it has been discovered – try and avoid doing this. Unless you hit on a main road or the side of a railway line (so you can view as you travel by), or within view of a well used public building which you have legitimate business being in, going back to the site will only draw attention to yourself.
The same goes for a ‘return hit’. Let the heat die down – for a week at least. Unless it is absolutely necessary I would not return to hit the site again until one or two months later, or I had evidence from other sources, unconnected with the original hit, that things had calmed down.
Even then, be cautious. You should also recon. the site before hitting again to be certain that no new security systems have been established, and that work patterns have not changed.