After weeks of searching, Barnes’ family made public pleas for any information regarding his whereabouts. Finally, on July 23rd, a Freelancer crew on a supply run to Cellin, one of Crusader’s moons, discovered a debris field. A black box was retrieved among the wreckage and delivered to Crusader Industries’ security forces. Careful examination has since revealed that the destroyed ship belonged to Barnes.
News quickly spread about Barnes’ death and suddenly Crusader was inundated with requests from news outlets to provide further details. Despite public pressure, they refused to release any additional information to the public. According to sources close to the investigation, the reason for the silence is simple — Crusader Security’s investigative team has no idea what happened. The black box logs were corrupted and completely useless beyond identifying the ship’s owner.
Yu Sorenson, who’s a security expert at TPQ Consulting, is not surprised by the state of the investigation.
“Look, this is far from an Advocacy-caliber investigation,” Sorenson explained. “Whoever they’ve got working the Barnes case probably isn’t being paid particularly well and doesn’t have a lot of resources at their disposal. To be honest, it’s entirely possible that they’ve never worked a homicide before.”
Sorenson was quick to point out that the peculiarities of the Stanton System have created a unique situation within the UEE, one where corporate interests can effectively take precedence over all else, even the public’s security. Some, like Sorenson, see this as a foundational policy flaw in the Stanton System.
“From the deplorable working conditions on Hurston to Crusader’s apparent ineffectiveness to police the area around their planet, it’s become quite clear that each company’s ultimate allegiance is to their bottom line,” argues Sorensen. “It’s insane. Security decisions are being made on what is the most cost-effective for that company, not what’s best for the public.”
The tragic death of Jett Barnes is just the latest event to highlight the growing security issue in the Stanton System. Multiple independent watchdog groups have released reports that crime is on the rise within the system, but those numbers appear to be in stark contrast with official crime stats for the system.
According to Morgan Becker, a fellow at the Terra Center for Justice and co-author of one of the reports, “Having these companies in charge of their own security has proven to be a double-edged sword. It saves the Empire credits, but it also makes the tracking of accurate crime statistics almost impossible.”
Becker explains that when the UEE sold the stewardship of the system’s four planets to the mega-corps of Hurston, Crusader, ArcCorp and microTech, a condition of that sale stipulated that each company would be solely responsible for protecting their planet and surrounding sectors of space. Not only was each planet required to uphold the UEE’s Common Laws and standard penal code that all unrecognized systems must adhere to, they would need to provide regular, accurate crime statistics that detail activity under their jurisdiction. At the time, this agreement was seen as a cost-saving alternative to deploying Advocacy and/or Navy resources to the system. However, a clause in the agreement also specified that if criminal activity within the system surpassed an “acceptable level,” then UEE law enforcement officials could reassert its authority over the system.
For decades, Stanton’s unique status seemed to work to the benefit of both sides: crime rates remained low and the UEE saved credits. The reality was that the lack of an Imperial law enforcement presence in the system means that we are reliant on the four companies for security, yet there is no credible way to assess how each is performing in that role. The statistics we do have are compiled by the companies themselves, and there’s no government oversight to ensure their accuracy. In fact, it’s in their best interest to keep their crime stats low. Instead, oversight has been relegated to independent watchdog groups, like the Terra Center for Justice, who lack the resources to fully do the job themselves.
Last year, numerous analysts noticed an uptick in criminal activity based on their independent surveys. That spike was not reflected in the numbers submitted by the governing companies who, when presented with this discrepancy, stood by their data.
“They basically dared us to prove it,” said Becker. “We knew we couldn’t keep an eye on the entire system, so we focused our limited resources on tracking criminal activity around Crusader, where outlaw packs seemed to be on the rise. After several months of logging incidents, we recently presented our findings to Crusader, and placed them between a rock and hard place.”
After being confronted with the Center’s numbers, Crusader has today released adjusted crime statistics that bring them closer in line with what the Terra Center for Justice had recorded. Company executives acknowledged that policing the vast expanses of space around their planet has proven to be a much more difficult and costly task than expected, but they have pledged to invest more efforts and resources to improving safety in the area.
However, the question remains if any such efforts will be enough to make up for the lack of UEE authority in the system. How many more innocent people, like Jett Barnes and countless others, must die before crime in the system has surpassed an ‘acceptable level’ and the UEE is forced to take direct action?
It is rumored that security will be the main topic at this year’s Stanton System Conference, the annual meeting where the corporate-planet leadership discuss system-wide issues. Some have already begun to petition for the creation of a joint Stanton Militia, but it remains to be seen whether such a far-reaching change will be considered by the planets.
For now, all that can be done is to let people know that when they enter the Stanton System, they do so at their own risk. The UEE will not be there to protect you, and there’s no guarantee that security services provided by one of these planet-owning mega-corps will be there when you need it most.