Musings from a Member 

of the Criminal Class

November 18, 2001

Trevor Matich


I am a target of criminal profiling.  

Little me, who doesn't drink, smoke, or swear.  

Little me, who kisses his mother good night when visiting and supports the Boy Scouts.

Little me, who hasn't had a speeding ticket for the better part of a decade.

I am a member of the Criminal Class.  Look, here's my card.

I learned this at the airport--make that, at many airports--over the last several weeks.  It seemed that every time I flew, the airline's computer "randomly" selected me for a manual baggage search--both at the main counter for checked luggage and at the gate for carry-ons.  

After the sixth time, I mentioned to the ticket counter agent that if this is random, I should go to Las Vegas and make a fortune.

She then said the magic words:  It wasn't random at all; as a young male traveling alone, I am flagged in their system for extra evaluation.

After that, I paid attention to who was being searched.  Sure enough, it was primarily young males of all ethnic backgrounds who were traveling alone, and males who appeared to be Middle-Eastern, even if they were traveling with a woman.

In the news recently was the story of a young, male student from Nepal who was traveling alone and was flagged for search at the boarding gate.  He was found to have somehow passed through the initial security checkpoint with over a dozen knives and box cutters in his carry-on.

Maybe he was a terrorist, or maybe he was just a moron.  (Of course, he could have been both.)  Either way, he shouldn't be on that plane with those knives

There has been a great deal of debate during the last few years about criminal profiling as a means of more effective deployment of law enforcement resources.  

A lot of people have found a way to be offended by this, saying that even if they fit a profile that many criminals do, it is unfair to single them out for more attention.  To that I say:  Nonsense.

And I can say it as a "victim" of profiling myself.

Each and every one of the hijackers of September 11th were young males checking in separately.  Each and every one of the suspects in the actual physical process of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing was a young male.  Each of the criminals convicted in the Oklahoma City bombing was a young male.

They weren't young women.  They weren't old women.  They were young males.

Yet there are those who would say that it is unfair to direct security resources disproportionately towards a particular group.  They prefer that we dilute resources across the entire population in order to be "fair."

You know, I wouldn't feel safer if they diverted limited security resources away from young males traveling alone to more old women traveling with their grandchildren. 

Would you?

Here's to hoping that common sense still has a foothold somewhere in the Land of the Free.

So as I journey to the far corners of this great land of ours, I expect to be singled out, searched, checked, delayed, and annoyed.  And I am angry about it. 

But my anger is not focused on the security apparatus; it is directed toward those young males who have behaved in such a way as to make such a process necessary.

So I, a member of the Criminal Class, agree that they ought to search me in airports.  

Does that make me insensitive?


P.S.  Oh, and by the way, if you're a young male traveling alone, I suggest that the advice your mother gave you years ago applies here too.

Remember when she said to always wear clean underwear, in case you were injured and had to go to the emergency room?

Well, mom was right in more ways than one.  Criminal Class Members, make sure that there is nothing in your luggage that you don't want the pretty girl searching it to see...





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