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Cops in the Sky

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Here's a brand new crime fighting idea that's either crazy or some kind of brilliant. It's the brainchild of a 63-year-old disabled inventor named Bill Tomsick of Cape Coral, Florida.

Bill worked as a newspaper pressman for the Cleveland Press for many years. In 1980, after a round of downsizing at the paper, he moved on to open a popular and highly successful Cleveland nightclub called The Band Box. Life dealt Bill a raw deal eleven years later when a routine chore at the club caused a back injury that left him paralyzed from the waist down. That's when Bill moved to Florida and started inventing things: A foot care item for the disabled and a safety device for pontoon boats, among other things. And, that's when his creative mind began to formulate what today has become a highly intriguing idea about how to fight crime. It dovetails nicely with President Obama's recent declaration that the U.S. combat operations in Iraq are officially over.

Tomsick's proposal is to get some of those highly sophisticated U.S. military (and NASA) satellites re-positioned so instead of finding enemy combatants in Iraq they can be put to use finding criminals here at home.

Bill describes himself as a product of the space age, he grew up in the heady atmosphere of President Kennedy's challenge to NASA to put a man on the moon -- and he watched like so many of the rest of us as the nation achieved that goal. "Since the 1960's NASA and our military have developed and perfected technology to take real time, high resolution, low-light, bad weather photographs from satellites and send them back to earth within minutes," Tomsick says. These images -- powerful enough to capture the detail on an enemy soldier's clothing or the numbers on a car license plate -- help our military to react within mere minutes to eradicate threats.

Why then, Bill Tomsick asks, can't we lasso that technology to help stop criminals dead in their tracks? "Using this technology it would allow police to zoom in on any crime scene and follow the perpetrators to where ever they are in real time. They could rescue the victim and solve the crime ... within minutes!" All it would take is close cooperation between our military and law enforcement agencies.

For fifty years our government has been working to advance this satellite technology and Tomsick believes it has developed to the point that with a quick response from police the NASA or military satellite operators could simply punch in GPS coordinates, roll back the videotape from the crime scene and obtain a bird's eye view as a kidnapper abducts a child, a robber flees from a bank or a car thief drives away from the scene.

Need I add what a bonus such precise satellite surveillance would be along our porous borders? "The hardware is already up there, the cost would be minimal," Bill says. In fact, by his accounting if America could begin to think outside the crime fighting box and adopted this eye-in-the-sky idea we could realize an annual, collective saving of multiple billions of dollars in search costs, police investigation and overtime and court costs for lengthy trials.

"That search for that missing (California) woman, Lacy Peterson, cost multiple millions of dollars ... and the trial for her husband Scott cost millions more. If he'd been tracked by a satellite dumping her body we could have saved all that money," Tomsick concludes. And think of all the years of pain her family would have been spared as well.

The possibility of turning instruments of international war into tools for our domestic war on crime sounds like a great proposal to explore. His following on his Facebook site (2findthemissing) and his rudimentary web site continue to pick up followers. But Tomsick says his yearlong letter writing effort to get members of Congress and President Obama interested had netted exactly no response. He says he's written to nearly every single member of the United States Senate and House. He even wrote an impassioned letter to First Lady Michelle Obama. Not one representative of our government has bothered to answer. Bill tells me he longs for the day when a president boldly dares Americans to face a problem and band together to solve it much like JFK did back in the '60s.

"The politicians are probably worried about the privacy thing," Bill told me when we spoke on the phone the other day. And sure as you are reading this there would likely be legal challenges to the idea from those like the American Civil Liberties Union that would see satellite surveillance as an intrusion. I'm hard pressed to see what privacy we'd lose given that surveillance is already so widespread.

"I don't get that," Bill said. "Privacy matters will have to be addressed. But we already have cameras on many street corners and in most stores. Wouldn't you give up some privacy to insure you're safer?" he asked me.

Yeah, Bill, I think I would. If it would catch a murderer or a child's kidnapper -- yeah, I would.

Diane Dimond can be reached through her web site at: www.DianeDimond.com