Atlanta area getting less money to protect against terror attacks

by: Scott MacFarlane Updated:


WASHINGTON - Atlanta is getting less federal grant money to protect against a terror attack like last week's in Boston.

Despite a series of high-profile events, including last month's Final Four, Channel 2's Scott MacFarlane found Washington has put Atlanta on a homeland security diet.

Federal records reviewed by MacFarlane show the amount of so-called "urban area security" grants Atlanta receives has been shrinking, especially in recent years, from $13 million in 2010 to $5 million in 2012.

Meantime, the Georgia Emergency Management Agency's homeland security grant money shrunk from $20 million in 2010, to just $5 million last year.

MacFarlane found that, in the meantime, federal security grant money has remained steady for New York and Washington, D.C.

"This is an era of tougher budgets. Some people have said we can't continue at the same level. Hopefully we've built capabilities that won't vanish the next day," said Stewart Verdery, former U.S. Homeland Security Department Administrator.

In recent years, the federal funds have allowed the Atlanta Police Department to purchase a dual-wheel truck that cost $30,000.

The funds were also used to purchase a SWAT team command vehicle, computers, radio systems for so-called foul weather gear, and a $181,000 robot to detect threats, bombs, similar to the robot used in Boston last week amid fears of more explosives.

GEMA told MacFarlane with its grant money cut it has only the capabilities to maintain its current equipment and cannot make new investments.

"Does the money Atlanta gets reflect the threat in Atlanta?," MacFarlane asked Rep. David Scott, D-Atlanta.

"I think it needs to be more. Atlanta is an international city. (Terrorists) are looking for an international hit. They're looking to send a message worldwide," Scott answered.

The U.S. Homeland Security Department wants to get rid of the urban area security grants all together.

Homeland security said a new grant program would be created in 2014, but so far, there's no guarantee Atlanta would see any funds from that program.

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