Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Reality Check

By Chester Campbell

Reading Ben Small's border wars articles (see yesterday's blog) is enough to give you nightmares. Made me happy to know that I was safe here in Tennessee a thousand or so miles away. Then I signed up for the Metro Nashville Citizen Police Academy. Gives you a little different perspective on the situation.

The first session covered, guess what, homeland security. It wasn't just the border wars, though, but was titled Basic Terrorism Awareness. CBRN - chemical , biological, radiological, and nuclear are the basic threats that come under the heading of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), which terrorists could be expected to use. We think of that as something you might find in New York or LA, but our instructor pointed out that Nashville is definitely a terrorist target.

How so? To mention a few, we're home to a Kurdish relocation center (some folks aren't too happy with the Kurds); we were one of five Iraqi polling sites in the recent election; we have about 70,000 people wedged into the Titans' LP Field on fall game days; we have star power with all the music celebrities in town. And we have plenty of mass media coverage. These are all things that put us well up on the terrorist target list.

We normally think of Osama bin Laden and his ilk when it comes to terrorists, but the homegrown variety can be just as deadly. The Oklahoma City bombing is the prime example. There are plenty of domestic prospects around. Two men arrested in Tennessee were recently sentenced to prison for plotting a robbery and murder spree intended to culminate in the assassination of Barack Obama. Our instructor said one of the largest caches of explosives ever found was discovered in Tennessee.

And it isn't just terrorism threats that provide the scary picture around here. There's an active gang involved in human trafficking in Nashville, we were told. Colleague Jaden (Beth) Terrell is already onto that for a new novel.

My second week at the Academy brought unwelcome news about internet crimes against children. They're on the rise. We got some bad news for parents. Teens, particularly younger ones, do all sorts of wild things on the internet. They send nude pictures to their friends, who in turn get mad and threaten to plaster them all over the web (Facebook and Myspace in particular). We heard about cases where predators use threats to expose teens as a way to compromise them.

A survey showed 39 percent of teens sent sexually suggestive messages or photos on their cell phones. And virtually every teen has a cell phone. The messages are sent by what is call "sexting."

The class tonight is on traffic. I may quit driving after what I hear. Needless to say, it has been quite educational so far.


Mark W. Danielson said...

It's not a pretty picture, Chester. It's also a reason why people like to escape reality by reading novels.

Jean Henry Mead said...

My soon-to-be released novel, Murder on the Interstate, is about homegrown terrorists/anarchists and their plots to take down the country. My research turned up some pretty frightening facts, including Phoenix, the kidnap capital of the nation, where an average five murders are committed every week. I'm glad I'm living in the Laramie Mountains.

Jaden Terrell said...

Sounds like a great class, Chester. I may have to sign up again, since it sounds like there have been a lot of new developments since I took the course.

Ben Small said...

It's very scary, Chester. It's just a matter of time before some terrorist, ours or some other nutjob, takes out a major event or large hunks of a U.S. city. The city? Who knows. They may go for size or for cultural impact. If it's from within and not religious-oriented, I suspect federal government offices may be targeted, ala Oklahoma City. And sadly, whatever weapon they use -- reportedly Algeria's given Al Qaeda Surface to Air missiles, capable of targeting airlines -- it's probably been smuggled through our borders or in an uninspected shipping container. And even on the local level, we can't depend on the police to protect us. What's the police response time in your neighborhood?

Scary indeed, but also good fodder for novelists.