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Report: Homeland security needed at local level

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U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights) unveiled a report on the city’s homeland security requirements this week which calls on President Bush to award more funding at a local level to put protecting the city in the hands of local authorities.

“Federal funds must be provided directly to the local officials who best understand their communities’ needs,” the report declares. “Give local authorities what they need. If the hometown is safe, the homeland is safe.”

Crowley released the 100-page report, “Securing New York: A Blueprint for Meeting New York City’s Homeland Security Requirements,” on the steps of City Hall Sunday. The congressman also has hosted a series of town meetings on homeland security in recent months, inviting bioterrorism experts and law enforcement authorities to forums at venues such as the Juniper Park Civic Association or Maspeth Town Hall.

“The federal government must make New York City a top priority when it allocates funds for homeland security initiatives,” Crowley said. “New Yorkers have already suffered greatly as a result of the Sept. 11 attacks, and New York — as the country’s largest city and economic hub — is a likely target for future terrorist attacks. We must do everything possible to ensure that terrorists do not strike New York again.”

Crowley’s congressional district, which includes parts of Queens and the Bronx, lost 105 residents in the World Trade Center attacks, and his cousin was among 343 firefighters who died there.

The report, which is meant to improve the way the Bush administra­tion’s $37.7 billion homeland defense budget is allocated, issues three sweeping policy recommendations: that more resources be allocated to homeland defense; that government agencies improve their ability to work together; and that shortcomings in all critical infrastructure, such as power plants, nuclear facilities and transit hubs, be examined and addressed.

The focus of his recommendations is decidedly local, stressing the “critical role” played by the city’s law enforcement officials and first responders in the event of an attack, a lesson rapidly learned after Sept. 11.

“They are the ones who will manage the initial fallout from an attack, and they must be trained and equipped to meet the challenge,” the report said.

Crowley calls on the federal government to provide funding for two programs that would increase the number of cops on the beat: the NYPD’s $63 million plan to immediately recruit and train an additional 1,500 officers, and its $12.8 million plan to hire 800 civilians to free up cops tied to desk jobs.

He also wants first responders to get better equipment and training for dealing with potential disasters.

The report demands better security at all levels of transportation from conducting background investigations on airport employees to screening vehicles at bridges and tunnels as well as improved protection in critical infrastructure, such as pipelines and drinking water sources.

Reach reporter Dustin Brown by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 154.

Posted 7:07 pm, October 10, 2011
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