Take Care of the Little Things - And the Big Things Take Care of Themselves. It's a philosophy of mine. I'm not saying I'm good at it, but I certainly believe it, and I see evidence everywhere that failing to follow it causes big problems. Take, for example, the small Georgia town where I lived a few years ago. The mayor's office and the police force were focused on the big issues - so much so that small things, like enforcing stop signs and speed limits in residential neighborhoods, were considered too insignificant to worry about. As a result, what should have been a nice place to live was a nightmare. People regularly sped through the blind stop sign by my house because they knew the police were busy with bigger issues. Neighborhood leaders complained, but nothing was done. I told the mayor it was only a matter of time until someone was killed. I wish I could have been wrong.
The way I see it, if the police had concerned themselves with little things, like enforcing the most basic laws that protect society, the bigger issues, like drugs and gangs, are less likely to be a problem. After all, haven't we all heard about serious crime busts that ocurred because the criminal couldn't be bothered to stop at a stop sign, or conform to the speed limit? Won't criminals naturally avoid a town that has a reputation for not putting up with recklessness?
Instead, law enforcement these days seems to be captivated by the idea of the big bust. No, I don't mean Jane Russell, may she rest in peace, I mean the big take-down - the capture of Public Enemy Number One, whoever that might be at the moment. So intent are they on the big score (and maybe the political advantages that would be associated with it?) that they divert resources from the mundane, low-glamour tasks like enforcing the basic laws that keep us safe.
Case in point; CBS News reports that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms was not content with its mundane responsibilities of just keeping US guns from entering Mexico illegally. Stopping a gun here or a gun there - or a truckload of assault rifles or Barrett .50 caliber sniper rifles, apparently - from reaching the hands of bloodthirsty drug cartel members was just not sexy enough for senior members of the ATF and the Justice Department. Instead, some jackass decided that it would make a much bigger splash to allow large numbers of these weapons to cross the border in the hopes that they would lead to bigger, more exciting criminals than the low-level dealers who were making illegal sales and the mules who were carrying them into Mexico.
They were right. The bigger splash was the death of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry, who was shot to death by a gunman using one of the weapons allowed across the border by the ATF.
Here's a note to the Justice Department, the ATF, and the 1001 law enforcement agencies we've seen fit to surround ourselves with as crime grows in numbers of incidents and levels of violence - Take care of the little things - enforce the laws we've empowered you to enforce - and the big things will take care of themselves. Fewer laws, fewer enforcement agencies, and a renewed focus on the basics are what we need. Stop facilitating crime in order to catch the big criminals, and content yourself with doing what you were hired to do, otherwise we have no use for you. You are part of the problem, not part of the solution.
UPDATE: According to the Daley Gator Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry and his colleagues, when taken under automatic weapons fire by Mexican drug runners, were initially supposed to return fire with nonlethal beanbag projectiles. So if all this is true, the US government first aids and abets the sale of lethal weapons to Mexican criminals. Then, when those weapons are used to fire live rounds at the brave agents sent to protect our border, those agents are supposed to respond with nonlethal rounds. Bottom line: the blood of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry is on the hands of ATF and Justice Department officials, every bit as much as it is on the hands of those bandits.