Upon entering the Harvard Square MBTA (i.e. subway) station in Cambridge, MA one sees this:
A box. A really big box you can’t miss. So now that you see something, who do you say something to?
Oh. Well there you go. A phone number. Perfect. Though I have the suspicion that even if I called that box isn’t going anywhere.
It is part of an advertising campaign run by the MBTA (the local transportation authority) and funded by a $1 million homeland security grant to promote the “see something, say something” message. Eye catching and direct, I find this and other variations in the campaign innovative and perhaps worth emulating elsewhere (as the slogan itself was, having originally been designed for use by New York City’s MTA).
However, it also raises several questions for me. Is the campaign truly effective, and how could that be measured? True, if explosives are discovered on a subway car by someone who followed the instructions it would be hailed as a victory. But what if the terrorists are of the suicide varietal and don’t arouse suspicion before detonating their explosives?
How long will the message “stick” with the intended audience? Once the campaign ends, will people forget or does it implant lasting behaviors?
Could the money be better spent on other homeland security-related areas? Perhaps instead of this particular public information campaign the money could be used to bolster the area’s public health system?
I am not arguing against the campaign or questioning decision makers who felt this was a good way to spend federal funds. In fact, I support it and feel that is important authorities interact with the public and include them in homeland security activities before something happens.
Yet I am left with these nagging questions and no answers that also seem to apply on a larger scale to pretty much the majority of homeland security issues.