Are Police the Best Response?

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A few weeks ago, it came out that the MTA wasn’t spending their security budget:

In December 2002, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority announced it had completed a lengthy assessment of potential threats to the city’s transportation infrastructure, from subway lines to major bridges. The authority, which had begun the study in the weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks, said it was committing nearly $600 million to improve the security of the sprawling transportation network.

But to date, two and a half years after that announcement and nearly four years after Sept. 11, only a small fraction – about $30 million as of March – has been spent, and nearly all of that on consultants and additional study.

Slate has some commentary as well, in “Planning Gridlock.”

My take is that the number one way they should be spending the money is real training for the real first responders: the people of New York. Teach them how to spot a bomber. Teach them what to do. Teach them first aid and CPR. Because the people of New York will always be the first ones present at a terrorist attack in New York, and their response will make a difference.

5 thoughts on “Are Police the Best Response?

  1. Since the supposedly well trained British police cannot distinguish between a fare beater and a terrorist, why would you want the people of New York to be spotting terrorists? Vigilantes are usually a bad idea, especially since it would certainly result in the kind of racial profiling that we want to avoid.

  2. I think Beri has a good point: even if trying to teaching 6 million people how to spot a bomber doesn’t increase vigilantism, it will almost certainly increase false positives to a dramatic–possibly crippling–degree. I think training for basic emergency care is a great idea. But you have to admire administrators who would rather not spend money than spend it poorly. Let Niskanen stick that in his pipe and smoke it.

  3. Let Niskanen stick that in his pipe and smoke it.
    1) Who?
    2) This is a non-smoking blog, he’ll have to go outside.

  4. I think helping people work out how to minimize the damage done by an attack, route around it, survive it, and help the survivors is all obviously useful. Helping people identify bombers seems awfully hard, both because of the false positive rate and because bombers can adapt to the description to avoid detection. This is like a human-mediated biometric for group membership, and it seems hard to get right. Maybe this is easier in Israel, I don’t know.
    –John

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