Hey Bob, I recently heard a weird thing about Northern New Mexico. Someone told me our area has a lot of folks in the Federal Witness Protection Program. Could that be true?
Absolutely. According to official statistics, 86.4 percent of all residents in our area were relocated here by the feds. There was even a USA Network television show about the Witness Protection Program, In Plain Sight, that was set in Albuquerque.
Stunned? Didn’t you ever wonder why there are 240 pages of people named Smith in the Albuquerque phone book? Or why every house on Santa Fe’s historic east side is surrounded by a high wall? Or why most of the “art” on Canyon Road obviously was not created by real artists?
Well, now that you mention it, I do have quite a few friends here called “Smitty.” Why do you know so much about this?
Because I do publicity and event planning for the Witness Protection Program.
OK, wait. The Federal Witness Protection Program wants publicity?
Sure. I do press releases on the Witness of the Month, I write a chatty little blog on who’s testifying against whom, stuff like that. I’m a pretty good photographer, so I take the annual group photo and then I Photoshop little black bars over everybody’s eyes.
You mentioned that you also plan events?
Yeah, I do the annual Halloween Masked Witness Ball, the Witness Christmas Party….
The witnesses have a Christmas Party?
Yep. “He sees you when you’re sleeping, he knows when you’re awake…” Funny story. The guy who plays Santa for us was the dude who testified against…Oh well, never mind…
What else do you do?
I don’t like to boast, but I designed that new logo they use. The one with the cute rat on it, and the slogan, “You Squeal, We’ll Conceal!”
That’s quite catchy! Where do they use that?
It’s on their t-shirts, baseball caps, coffee mugs. It replaced that old logo, the one with the other slogan, “Hey, get away from that window!”
I guess I expected there would be more in the way of secrecy.
Let’s face it. Once they started having trolley tours past the homes of the most famous witnesses, well, the whole secrecy thing pretty much went down the toilet.
But they do protect these people, right?
Of course. The heavily armed US Marshalls’ section is the second biggest department at the program’s glitzy Albuquerque headquarters —that building with that flashing neon “Witness Protection” sign.
Second biggest? What’s the biggest department?
The folks who send out the change-of-name and change-of-address cards for the witnesses. Now that’s a huge operation!
Change of address cards? But… But… That makes no sense!
Say, why are you asking me all these questions anyhow?
Because I recently witnessed a quadruple mob homicide, and I know I can identify the shooter. I want to do the right thing, but I already live in Albuquerque, so how would that work? I mean, they can’t really change my name and hide me in my own hometown, can they?
No. You’ll be relocated to Muncie, Indiana.
Muncie? Is that right? Well, maybe I’ll just keep my cake hole shut, then.…
Robert Basler’s humor column runs twice monthly in SFR. Email the author: firstname.lastname@example.org