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Jewish World Review Oct. 25, 2002 / 19 Mar-Cheshvan, 5763

Roger Simon

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Consumer Reports

Times change: At least the cops got somebody! | WASHINGTON, D.C. People here are giddy with delight. They have caught two guys in the sniper shootings.

We don't even care that much if they are exactly the right guys. At this point, any guys will do.

It seemed for a while that we couldn't catch anybody.

People were going around asking: In the old days, didn't we use to catch bad people? Didn't we use to lock them up or shoot them down or something like that?

I seem to remember that we did. They would get put in handcuffs and led away as flashbulbs popped in their faces, or else they would get laid out on slab somewhere.

I am talking about people like Al Capone, John Dillinger, John Wayne Gacy, Ted Bundy.

Even world leaders could not escape our wrath. Manuel Noriega used to be hot stuff down in Panama. But for the last 10 years, he has been locked up in a federal prison in Miami.

Today, we have trouble catching people.

Take Osama bin Laden. Please. He was, according to our president, evil personified.

And we were not going to rest -- not for one minute! -- until we had him dead or alive.

How much do you hear the president talking about him today?

Not much. Not at all, in fact. Today, we are talking about getting Saddam Hussein because at least we know where he lives. (Though it must be pointed out that when we had a chance to get him in 1991, we didn't take it.)

And what about the anthrax killer? Remember him? Killed five people, injured 18, caused 35,000 to get inoculated and screwed up the Postal Service for months.

Where is he? Hasn't been arrested yet.

Or how about that guy who we think is the Olympic bomber, Eric Robert Rudolph? We have been hunting him for more than four years -- he is on the FBI's Most Wanted List -- and have spent nearly $30 million on his manhunt.

But we haven't got him.

I mention all this not because I think law enforcement can be perfect, but because on TV it is better than perfect. Turn on any of the cop shows.

First there are the "evidence" shows. These feature people who work for the police or coroner's office, every one of whom is a genius.

They can take a look at a bloodstain and say, "Caucasian female, age 27, size 6 triple A shoe, liked romance novels and quiet walks by the beach."

Or they dig a bullet out of a wall and say, "This was fired at 5 p.m. Friday from a passing car, probably a late model BMW or Lexus, driven by a left-handed man wearing Old Spice."

The other police shows are the "law and order" shows, where one thing happens over and over again each week without fail: A prosecutor or police captain will turn to the cops in front of him and say: "Pick up the boyfriend. I think he knows more than he is saying."

And the cops go out ... and find him! Just like that! He is either at work or at home. And the cops just ride out and pick the guy up.

In real life, we seem to have a "finding him" problem.

In real life, it seems that criminals don't want to be found.

But in the Washington area, they now have grabbed two guys. And everybody here feels the same way:

I don't care what they did, just hold onto them! town.

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© 2002, Creators Syndicate