Austin on homeland security diet


by ANDY PIERROTTI / KVUE News and photojournalist DEREK RASOR

Bio | Email | Follow: @AndyP_KVUE

Posted on May 21, 2013 at 6:29 PM

Updated Tuesday, May 21 at 6:41 PM

AUSTIN -- Austin is on a Homeland Security diet.

After digging through city records, the KVUE Defenders discovered a 90 percent drop in Homeland Security grants given to the city during the past four years. Grants dropped from $2.4 million in 2009, to $218,000 in 2012.

After 9/11, Washington D.C. considered Austin an at-risk city, and put the state capital in the Urban Area Security Initiative program. That means Austin qualified for federal dollars to prepare for any threat.

During that time, grants helped fund training and tools, like an armored response vehicle for its SWAT team in 2005. It’s called the Bearcat. Without it, “it would be very difficult to do our job. It would be unsafe to do our job,” said Rafael Rosalas, a member of the department’s SWAT team.

“Let me tell you everything that APD got was an absolutely must have," said Asst. Chief David Carter of the Austin Police Department. 

In 2011, the federal government scrapped Austin from the Urban Area Security program, cutting it off from millions of Homeland Security dollars. The agency cited across the board cuts and providing more funds to cities considered more at-risk for the decreasing funds.

Chief Carter says that could compromise safety.

“It could, it certainly could depending on if there is not something to pick it up," Carter said.

In addition to the Bearcat, Carter says grants funded, terrorism training and technology allowing Central Texas law enforcement agencies to quickly share vital information with one another in the event of an attack.

“Using these tax dollars was a wise investment if you look at the fact of what happened in Boston last week," Carter said.

Funding security programs may now have to come from the city’s tax base. Carter says funds from the city are more difficult to secure.

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