Overkill: Did costly Boston lockdown backfire, delaying bomber's capture?

Overkill: Did costly Boston lockdown backfire, delaying bomber's capture?

Statue of libertyBusiness Week says it cost the economy around $333 million to shut down the Boston region in the manhunt for alleged terrorist bomber Dzhokar Tsarnaev. When the lockdown was finally lifted, a resident was able to leave his house, which led to him finding Tsarnaev hiding in his boat.

The shutdown was sweeping, noted the Washington Post:

By order of the state, a public transit system that serves more than 1.3 million riders a day was padlocked. Amtrak trains were suspended between Boston and New York. Businesses, offices and some of the world’s greatest universities were shut. Taxis were ordered off the streets for part of the day. Residents were instructed to stay inside.

At a news conference shortly after 6 p.m., Gov. Deval L. Patrick (D) lifted the lockdown.” Only after the lockdown ended was Tsarnaev finally captured.

As Bloomberg News reported, “David Henneberry, who lives on the street in a white, three-story Victorian home, heard Patrick’s message [ending the lockdown] and stepped outside for fresh air. [After he did so, he realized that] Something wasn’t right. Henneberry’s boat, covered for the winter on a trailer in the backyard, looked different . . .Henneberry retrieved a ladder from his garage and started to open the cover . . .There was blood. And he saw a person. He quickly backed away and called police,” who came and captured Tsarnaev after exchanging fire.

In short, it looks like the total shutdown of Boston may have actually delayed Tsarnaev’s capture. Even if it did not, it is questionable whether the putative safety benefits from the lockdown were worth its massive $333 million cost to the economy. If a terrorist bomber can make a society incur $333 million in costs just by setting off a bomb, that may provide him with an additional incentive to commit acts of terror — in order to undermine his host country’s economy.


Hans Bader

Hans Bader

Hans Bader practices law in Washington, D.C. After studying economics and history at the University of Virginia and law at Harvard, he practiced civil-rights, international-trade, and constitutional law. Hans also writes for CNS News and has appeared on C-SPAN’s “Washington Journal.”

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