It’s always dangerous to make judgments while something like the marathon bombing/murder of MIT policeman/shootout in Watertown/search is underway. But recognizing that there is much I don’t know yet, my tentative judgment is that the leadership of my former city has kind of lost it. As I understand it,
- A murderer, probably armed and dangerous, is on the loose.
- His appearance, identity, associates, history, family and more are well known and widely disseminated.
- He is 19 years old, not Carlos the Jackal with safe houses, a network, and years of experience being on the lam, and especially not [the fictional!]l Jason Bourne.
- His partner is already dead and not helping him.
The response of the city and nearby suburbs has been to essentially close down: taxis are on the street again, but no public transit, businesses closed, streets empty, Amtrak into the city stopped. [My daughter relays the delicious tidbit that Dunkin Donuts shops remain open at the specific request of the police!] A population of about three million people is doing nothing but hunkering down and being afraid: the back of my envelope says the price tag for this is 3 million x $56000 [median per capita income for Boston] x 1/200 [fraction of working year lost] = 840 million dollars, not to mention the enormous unpriced costs of anxiety and inconvenience. This response, it seems to me, is appropriate to learning that a dirty bomb or biological WMD or Oklahoma City-scale ANFO device has been set somewhere, not to a kid who might kill a few more people. Indeed, the conditions in my bullet list above exist quite commonly in every big city and I’ve never heard of a reaction like this.
Someone needs to get a grip. Leadership seems to be wallowing in a positive-feedback orgy of too much adrenaline and too much media attention.