Lesson from Times Square: See Something, Say Something
He may have just saved hundreds of lives, and all he said when approached by reporters was “See something. Say Something.”
An SUV parked in Times Square, with a timer wired to a Wile E. Coyote homemade concoction of propane tanks, gasoline and gun powder, smoked and fizzled instead of exploding and it was an Average Joe who saw it first. He saw something and said something to police, who evacuated Times Square and called in the bomb squad. [SIGNUP]
Who knows if it ever would have gone off. But on a beautiful Sunday evening, right before show time in the theatre district, it is unfathomable to imagine the death, injury and terror that would have followed if it did.
The worst didn’t happen because it was top of mind for the T-shirt vendor to “See something. Say something.” It was so top of mind that he repeated the mantra hours later.
In New York, you see and hear the phrase constantly; at Penn Station, Grand Central Station, the Staten Island Ferry, the subways, trains and buses. New York’s Metropolitan Transit Authority came up with the phrase in 2003 to recruit riders to help police the subways. I have been taking the train to New York for the last two months and I have heard or seen the phrase at least four times a day.
It is simple, catchy and necessary, especially in New York City post 9/11. It reminds us all that we are the last line of defense in the fight against terrorism.
Passengers caught the Christmas underwear bomber on a flight to Detroit last year. In 2001, it was a passenger who pointed out the shoe bomber, Richard Reid, to a flight attendant over the Atlantic. And there are dozens of less dramatic examples of neighbors, motorists and pedestrians helping authorities to stop disaster before it happens.
It is because we must all take part in our homeland security that I believe Philadelphia should adopt the “See Something. Say something.” campaign. We should make the announcements, runs videos and put up signs at tourist attractions, City Hall, Philly International, the sports arenas and 30th Street station. It is an easy but important way to encourage us all to keep our eyes open.
Chicago, Boston, Washington and even Sydney, Australia have all adopted the campaign to great success. Why not Philadelphia?
In fact, I believe it is so effective that the U.S. government should adopt the campaign and make it mandatory across the country. Knowing how slow the Feds are at these kinds of things, I think we could kick it off in Philadelphia right away. Since it qualifies under police protection and homeland security, the money in the budget should be there for the signs, training, video spots and audio announcements.
As they like to say in the television ad: Signs – $50,000. Video and Audio – $75,000. Increased Security – Priceless.
In 2010, we could all use the constant reminder that we are the guardian of our own freedom. “See Something. Say Something.” For Philadelphia, For America; it works — just ask the people in Times Square.