Tightening Security Without Any Discussion

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Security camera at the corner of Exeter St. and Commonwealth Ave., Back Bay, Boston

Walking around the neighborhood, I noticed that in the last couple of weeks, the city (I’m guessing here; maybe it’s the state?) installed a surveillance camera at the corner of Exeter St. and Comm. Ave. in Back Bay (shown above). I can’t fathom why: this is arguably the safest street corner in all of Boston. There haven’t been a spate of car crashes, and the only time anything remotely resembling drug dealing happens is when someone on his cell phone tells his broker to dump some Pfizer stock. It’s pretty safe (maybe it’s to make sure no one steals the elm bark beetle trap?).

Item 2, from the Boston Globe (boldface mine):

Boston’s annual India Day celebration will not return to the Charles River Esplanade this Saturday after the higher cost of increased security imposed since the Marathon bombings forced organizers to cancel the event.

The event appears to be the highest-profile Esplanade gathering to be canceled as a result of the additional, costly security required by the Department of Conservation and Recreation and Massachusetts State Police following the Boston Marathon bombings. India Day has been held for some 20 years, organizers say, and more than 10,000 people have attended in years past….

The new security measures include bag checks at all entrances and increased police presence.

“It’s not lost on us the Esplanade was the stated original target of the Marathon bombers,” said State Police spokesman David Procopio. State Police, he said, aim to take reasonable, balanced measures to ensure safety on the Esplanade without affecting the events. “Our goal is preserve the flavor of these events. We don’t want to create an armed camp.”

Procopio said India Day’s security plan called for 27 troopers, including members of the bomb squad, K-9, and marine units, paid for 7½ hours. Because those are specialized units, troopers assigned to work the shift are paid an overtime rate of $73 an hour, rather than the $40 per hour paid for a detail assignment. Increased costs are passed on to event organizers…

Organizers would have had to hire a security vendor to perform bag checks at all entrances, a measure not required for past India Day celebrations. State Police estimated the cost to be $15,330….

“But the reality is, given local and global events this year, this is the new normal for securing large outdoor events, and it will be for the foreseeable future.

Does anyone remember when we had this debate about the “new normal”? Was it ever put to a vote or public examination by our elected officials? (If so, it certainly wasn’t reported). Maybe most of my fellow citizens of the Commonwealth and the City of Boston want this stuff. But increasing surveillance and security should not be done by unreviewed executive fiat, especially when it conflicts with our basic constitutional freedoms (i.e., freedom of assembly). I’ll posit that the MA State Police is well-intentioned, but they don’t get to erect barriers (literally and figuratively) unilaterally to our freedom of assembly (and expression). We must have a say in the “new normal”, because I have no idea when this new normal ends. Do we require five years without a bombing? Fifty? One? (In reality, it will probably cease once it gets too damn expensive).

While I’m not particularly optimistic about the public’s ability to overcome its fear (though maybe the slow passing of Generation Lead will help), this is something that needs to be decided by the people, not security agencies.

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2 Responses to Tightening Security Without Any Discussion

  1. Frank Carpenter says:

    This stuff breaks my heart. I was at the Lowell Folk festival this year and while security was present, it was a very light touch. A big street party, fun had by all.
    No fear, much joy.
    Can the security state destroy the community of Boston? You bet it can.

  2. dabbe says:

    My provincial dutch town has been flooded with those things for years, and we haven’t seen a bombing since the second world war.

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