Archive for February 6th, 2013

Safety First

Safest and Most Dangerous States, 2012

The second annual edition of the United States Peace Index, produced by Institute for Economics and Peace, measures peacefulness according to five indicators: the number of homicides, number of violent crimes, the incarceration rate, number of police employees and the availability of small arms.

Rank State
1. Maine
2. Vermont
3. New Hampshire
4. Minnesota
5. Utah
6. North Dakota
7. Washington
8. Hawaii, c
9. Rhode Island
10. Iowa
11. Nebraska
12. Massachusetts
13. Oregon
14. Connecticut
15. West Virginia
16. Idaho
17. Wyoming
18. Montana
19. Wisconsin
20. South Dakota
21. Kentucky
22. Ohio
23. Indiana
24. Pennsylvania
25. Virginia
26. Colorado
27. Kansas
28. New Jersey
29. Michigan
30. North Carolina
31. New York
32. California
33. Alaska
34. New Mexico
35. Illinois
36. Georgia
37. Oklahoma
38. Maryland
39. Delaware
40. Mississippi
41. Alabama
42. South Carolina
43. Arkansas
44. Texas
45. Missouri
46. Arizona
47. Florida
48. Nevada
49. Tennessee
50. Louisiana
Source: 2012 United States Peace Index.

Read more: Safest and Most Dangerous States, 2012 —

Here’s what I find interesting about the above list:  Vermont, which is the second safest state in the country, has the United States’ most liberal gun laws, summarized here by Wikipedia:

Vermont has very few gun control laws. Gun dealers are required to keep a record of all handgun sales. It is illegal to carry a gun on school property or in a courthouse. State law preempts local governments from regulating the possession, ownership, transfer, carrying, registration or licensing of firearms.[1]

The term “Vermont Carry” is widely used by gun rights advocates to refer to allowing citizens to carry a firearm concealed or openly without any sort of permit requirement, however this term is being replaced by the term “Constitutional Carry”. Vermont law does not distinguish between residents and non-residents of the state; both have the same right to carry while in Vermont.

The Vermont Constitution of 1777, dating well before the Bill of Rights to a time when Vermont was an independent republic, guarantees certain freedoms and rights to the citizens: “That the people have a right to bear arms for the defence of themselves and the State – and as standing armies in time of peace are dangerous to liberty, they ought not to be kept up; and that the military should be kept under strict subordination to and governed by the civil power.”[2]

In Maine (we’re #1!) and New Hampshire, the other safest states, access to firearms and getting a concealed carry permit is pretty straightforward.  So, you might surmise, perhaps the answer to controlling violence and crime is more liberal gun laws?  Well, not so fast.  As you see on the list, states like Texas (#44), Arizona (#46) and Florida (#47) are among the most dangerous of States, yet they have similarly liberal gun control laws and “shall issue” CCW (concealed carry) gun permits.  Could it be that gun laws (restrictive OR liberal) have NOTHING TO DO with cause-and-effect in determining a State’s level of safety and violence?

If guns – their prevalence, accessibility, or lack thereof – – are not a catalyst for the number of homicides, number of violent crimes, the incarceration rate, etc., what other factors might be more reliable in determining the positive reason for an individual State’s safety and quality of life?  Is it not interesting that the 10 most dangerous States are Southern and/or are on the Mexican border?  Could specific regional, cultural, economic, racial, religious, health care (i.e. how a State addresses and guides treatment for mental illness), education level, substance abuse levels, or population density factors be primarily responsible?  I don’t have the answers, but I do think problems and rates of violence may be about a lot more than guns . . . and worth studying.


Although terrorist threats directed at Maine seem absurd, who can forget that 11 years ago, the ringleader of the 9/11 attacks waltzed through security at Maine’s Portland International Jetport to start a day that ended in death and destruction?  Also, in recent years Maine has absorbed tens of thousands of Muslim refugees from places like Somalia and Sudan . . .

from the Bangor Daily News . . .

Maine State Police chief travels to Israel for anti-terrorism training

Maine State Police Col. Robert Williams, left, went to Israel for a week, returning on Feb. 4, 2012, to learn counter-terrorism tactics. He is pictured with Chief Superintendent Binyamin Herness, who is commander of the Kfar Saba Police Station.

Courtesy photo
Maine State Police Col. Robert Williams, left, went to Israel for a week, returning on Feb. 4, 2012, to learn counter-terrorism tactics. He is pictured with Chief Superintendent Binyamin Herness, who is commander of the Kfar Saba Police Station.
By Nok-Noi Ricker, BDN Staff
Posted Feb. 05, 2013, at 6:23 p.m.

AUGUSTA, Maine — The way law enforcement agencies in Israel work together to deal with threats is a model the United States can learn from, the chief of the Maine State Police said after returning from a weeklong training trip to the Middle East nation.

“They have a very high level of cooperation between agencies,” Col. Robert Williams, chief of the Maine State Police, said Tuesday, the day after he returned from the anti-terrorism session in Israel. “Granted, there are only three — the military, the Israeli National Police and the intelligence agency — but if they have information that a suicide bomber is coming into the country, they let everybody know.”

Every police officer, airport or border security member, and even mall guards, are informed.

“They want everybody looking for it,” Williams said. “That [line of thinking] is kind of foreign to us.”

The state police colonel was one of 15 high-ranking law enforcement officials from all over the northeastern United States who traveled to Israel for the counterterrorism training and education, sponsored by the Anti-Defamation League, a national organization that fights anti-Semitism and all forms of bigotry in the U.S. and abroad, the group’s website states.

The group had a grueling six-day schedule filled with 12- to 16-hour days designed to educate them about basically two things, Williams said.

“One was how do they secure their country and the other one was how they police their country, which is two different things,” he said.

In one 24-hour period, “you were able to attend mass beside the stone where Jesus was crucified, meet with a woman who survived a suicide bombing on a bus and someone who survived the Holocaust,” the state police chief said. “It helps bring everything into perspective.”

Each of the six days in Israel was just as hectic, Williams said.

ADL uses information sharing, education, legislation and advocacy to fight hate, bigotry and extremism, their website states. They invited Williams to attend the counterterrorism seminar and paid for everything except for a flight from Maine to New York City, he said.

“Israel, regrettably, has had to deal with terrorist threats since its founding in 1948,” Robert Trestan, an ADL member who led the group, said Monday.

The decades of unrest have provided law enforcement officials in the country with a vast amount of experience with identifying potential threats and neutralizing them, he said.

“They call it riots and we called it civil unrest,” said Williams, who, along with the group, stopped for lunch about 20 miles away from where an Israeli aircraft dropped bombs in Syria last week.

“It’s a country where literally all their neighbors hate them,” said Williams, describing Israel as about the size of Connecticut. “One missed word [could mean] Israel doesn’t exist tomorrow. It’s very complicated and that’s why they take security of their country and threats very seriously.”

The training session is an opportunity for U.S. law enforcement to learn about the latest strategies and techniques used in combating terror threats, while strengthening professional relationships, Williams said.

The group went to Jerusalem and saw the massive video surveillance system used by local police to keep the peace. They went to a border crossing used by 80,000 people a day, to airports, and to the country’s biggest shopping mall, where everyone who enters goes through a metal detector.

In the Jerusalem, “they have a system of 200 cameras,” Williams said, describing the surveillance system as high-tech. “In the old part of the city, they can follow you anywhere.”

He later added, “it was like Star Wars compared to what we do.”

At the border, “they use biometrics to check people,” the state police colonel said.

“After presenting your paperwork, officials can verify it with your fingerprint,” he said. “If you’re a suspect in something, they can pull you out.”

At the mall, “Everybody gets checked. They go through a metal detector and profiling is not a dirty word,” Williams said. “As odd as it is to us, it’s just a way of life for them.”

The sharing of information between the law enforcement professionals in the U.S. and Israel went both ways, he said.

“In some places they were ahead of us and in some places they were behind us,” said Williams, giving laptops as an example of one U.S. advantage. Pagers are what officers use in Israel to send and receive information, he said.

The sense of duty is another thing about the Israelis that really impressed him, Williams said. All are required to serve in the military and afterward many volunteer to work for the police department.

“There are 26,000 police officers and 118,000 volunteers,” he said. “People feel it’s a sense of their duty to help protect their country.”

The volunteers investigate accidents and crimes and those who earn certifications get a uniform and are armed, the state police chief said.

ADL, which turns 100 this year, started the National Counterterrorism Seminars in 2004 and has offered the northeastern program for four years running. It gives U.S. law enforcement a firsthand understanding of the psychological impact of terrorism on civil society and allows them to interact directly with their Israeli police peers, an ADL press release states.

“Some of the issues are different but the techniques [to deal with them] are the same,” Trestan said.

It is too early to say exactly what information he learned in Israel will be implemented in Maine, Williams said.

After spending a week in a foreign country on the other side of the globe learning all he could about counterterrorism, Williams said he came away with one underlying thought: “We all have more in common than we realize.”