Your Tax Dollars Hard At Work!
In comments last night Hannitized suggested that "the government" had our security well in hand and how dare I question the all knowing, all powerful gub'mint?
Ahem, if you're done laughing? Thank you....
Pens, yo-yo's, a change purse and a chip-clip. They all read, "Help secure our homeland." The merchandise even tells you how to help, by calling a number listed on all the items. That's where 2 On Your Side’s Josh Boose began the investigation.I'm strangely comforted! Your tax dollar hard at work folks, hard at work!
It's a voicemail. No live operator, no federal agents. The recording told us to leave a message about any suspicious activity, criminal actions we’re aware of or information we feel needs to be looked into.
Boose called the Immigration and Customs Enforcement press office. He was told any budget questions had to be addressed to Homeland Security. So he contacted them. But they directed Josh back to the Immigrations and Customs Enforcement press office.
A Washington spokeswoman for the agency explained the process to 2 On Your Side over the phone. We told her we needed to talk to someone in a phone interview or in person. She told Boose a phone interview wasn't possible, but that she would get back to him. 2 On Your Side was about to get our questions answered.
But before we get there, here's some background. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security was established after September 11. 2001. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is an arm of the overall department. It's responsible for; among other things, border protection, drug seizures, human trafficking and tracking down child predators.
But how would a yo-yo help them track down sexual predators?
In the end, Boose requested nothing less than an on-camera interview. Only after he told the press office he was sitting down with New York Senator Chuck Schumer to discuss what he found did the northeast division call Channel 2 to set up an on-camera interview with Special Agent In Charge Peter Smith from the Buffalo office.
"We have a product line here with various levels of products that we are giving away at different sites when we're out doing our public work, our public outreach programs," said Smith.
When 2 On Your Side arrived for the interview, Immigration and Customs didn't hide the fact they bought these things. They even showed us more items. There's a piggy bank, a stuffed monkey, a mirror, a sunglasses holder, a Frisbee, a teddy bear, a stress relieving toy, a stress ball, a letter opener, a cd-dvd case, a travel mug, highlighter, notebook, travel bag, lunch pail, calculator, a wallet, toy plane, crayons, a water bottle, an orange water bottle, change purse, keychain, a flip-up mirror, a pad of paper, a light-up yo-yo, a bottle opener, a clip with two highlighters on it, a lanyard, an ice scraper, a mechanical pencil, another change purse, another key chain, a presidential ruler and a bottle of chap stick.
It's intended for teachers, students and moms and dads. It's a way to get the word about what the agency does. But the big question still, who paid for it?
Josh Boose asked Smith, "Let's talk about cost. How much does all this cost here?" "This is all coming from the treasury forfeiture fund," said Smith.
Here's how it works; the homes, cars and drug money of criminals are seized by the feds, and then sold. That money goes into a fund.
According to Smith, Immigration and Customs Enforcement received $85 million from the fund last year. When we asked how much money was spent on the trinkets, the closest number he would say is less than five percent of that $85 million. In Buffalo alone, Smith says $15-hundred was spent on things like yo-yo's and chapstick.
New York Senator Chuck Schumer agreed to sit down with 2 On Your Side's Josh Boose to talk this through. "When drug dealers and others have all the wealth, we want this money to go to fight drug crimes, not for things like this", explained Schumer.
Boose asked, "Senator, when people see these, they say, oh, it's got the number on it and people can call and report something. Is this really going to help?" "Give me a break," said Schumer. "You can find a lot better ways than yo-yo's for people to report information."
According to Agent Smith, products like this do work. These products have only been out for six month and since then; Smith says the agency has already received 119-thousand referrals.
"Is it really worth it, do you think, the cost of the teddy bear, the piggy bank, the yo-yo? Do you think it's worth it," asked Boose. "Definitely," Smith replied. "Why?" Boose asked. "All we need is one phone call from a teacher that says, hey, a student came to me and has this problem at home,: said Smith. "It could be a student as the subject of a trafficking investigation. Human trafficking!"
Boose asked Smith. "What would you say to the people who look at this, the average Joe on the street who look at this and say, are you kidding me! Look at the cd case, the pens, the calculators, the crayons. Do you really stand by this?"
"I do," replied Smith. "I've been in the business 25 years and the results are unbelieveable. $500-thousand is a cheap investment with the amount of calls we're going to get for Immigration and Customs and identifying subjects that should be investigated."
H/T Debbie Schussel
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