In Plain Sight (Almost)
Many of you have seen the TV series “In Plain Sight.” For the rest of us untelevised, the show depicts persons in the Witness Protection Program who are living in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Wit Sec, as the show calls it, affords security provided by the US Marshall Service for federal witnesses. The protected folks range from criminals who have “turned state’s evidence” against their fellow felons to innocent bystanders who are hapless eye witnesses to some crime. They all have reason to fear for their safety from forces wanting to stop their testimony in court.
Recently a formerly secret government report was released under the Freedom of Information Act. Much of the material was redacted (see Exhibit A). However, forensic document experts have managed to obtain some fascinating statistics. In the United States, there are, as of this writing, 627,862 persons in the Witness Protection Program. 262,583 have already testified and will re- main in the Program for life. Most of these people are located in 28 urban communities around the country.
There are a significant number of protected witnesses (11,162) who are tucked away in New Mexico similar to the TV show. More to our interest are the number located in Catron County. In the last 15 years, over 5,700 witnesses have lived in the county. Currently around 1,150 are in residence according to the report. Some of the
reasons given for the disproportionate number of protected witnesses here in Catron County are: the rural area, large distances between residences, diverse population, tolerance for the unorthodox, general mind your own business attitude, uniform dress code (the author assumes the plaid flannel shirts, cowboy hats, blue jeans and boots and/or camouflage were considered a dress code in the report).
However, the major reason for the selection of the County was a welcoming and helpful demeanor to strangers who want to be part of the local community. There was also a footnote that Catron County’s location of 50 miles from nowhere was ideal for the program.
Although it is unclear whether those in the Witness Protection Program are included in the census figures, the published population of Catron County is around 3,500.
Given these facts, if you live in Catron County with three persons in your household and you yourself are not in the Witness Protection Pro- gram there is a good chance that one of the other two is… protected (see Exhibit B).