Saturday, September 10, 2011

The Cautionary Instruction: How much would you pay for...

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette/Ipso Facto
September 9, 2011

There has not been a significant terrorist attack in the United States since 9/11. There have been a number of terrorist acts thwarted by intelligence agencies, law enforcement efforts and probably a little luck -- like the shoe bomber, Richard Reid in 2002; the 2006 liquid explosives plot targeting airliners, which resulted in a boon for the travel size shampoo manufacturers; the 2009 Detroit bound airliner plot; and last year’s car bomb in Times Square.

A decade after the horrendous September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the Los Angeles Times reported that federal and state governments are spending about $75 billion a year on domestic security, setting up sophisticated radio networks, upgrading emergency medical response equipment, installing surveillance cameras and bombproof walls, and outfitting airport screeners to detect an ever-evolving list of mobile explosives.

“The number of people worldwide who are killed by Muslim-type terrorists, al Qaeda wannabes, is maybe a few hundred outside of war zones. It's basically the same number of people who die drowning in the bathtub each year," said John Mueller, an Ohio State University professor.

Professor Mueller asks, "So if your chance of being killed by a terrorist in the United States is 1 in 3.5 million, the question is, how much do you want to spend to get that down to 1 in 4.5 million?"

Your chance of being killed by a run-of-the-mill domestic murderer is at least 175 times greater than being killed by a terrorist. In 2009, there were 15,214 murders in the U.S., about 5.4 murders for every 100,000 people. The number of murders per capita is down considerably from the mid-1990s, but substantially higher than the death by terrorism threat.

Knowing that, how much would you pay for more police protection?

Congress doesn’t believe you’d pay anything more for police protection -- in fact congress is paying less. The Justice Department’s 2011 budget was slashed by nearly $1 billion -- a 2.9 percent decrease from last year. Local police departments, many of which are already reeling from the economic downturn, are going to feel the pinch.

The cuts represent about a 17 percent across the board reduction for a variety of law enforcement grant programs, and about $296 million less for the Community Oriented Policing Services program that covers the salaries and benefits of newly hired police officers for three years.

Pennsylvania U.S. Senator Bob Casey said cuts to state and local law enforcement and the COPS program, “will negatively impact the safety of my constituents and citizens across the country.”

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