New Haven moved one step closer this week to receiving $9.5 million from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security — money that, according to one report, means that the Elm City receives more federal homeland security funding per capita than any other U.S. city.
While the city was declared eligible for the funding last fall, the federal government approved its strategy for securing the city this week, giving New Haven 60 days to determine how it will allocate the money. The money will primarily be directed towards securing potential terrorist targets in New Haven and upgrading the city’s ability to respond to an attack, said Karen Dubois-Walton ’89 the city’s chief administrative officer.
But Dubois-Walton also cautioned that the money would not help direct funding towards the salaries of policemen, fire fighters or emergency medical technicians.
“I think it certainly moves us well ahead in a number of areas,” said Dubois-Walton, who oversees New Haven’s police and fire departments. “[But] there are still some significiant areas where homeland security calls for an intense deployment of personnel, where this doesn’t help.”
The approval comes the same week as a report by Jack Newfield in the liberal magazine The Nation, which claimed New Haven received more federal resources than cities like New York and Washington, D.C.
“What’s the biggest recipient of any U.S. city, at $77.92 per person? New Haven, Connecticut. Is Yale a high-priority target because both Bushes are alumni?” Newfield wrote.
But New Haven Mayor John DeStefano Jr. said the city has identified 13 possible targets for a terrorist attack — including the Buckeye Pipeline and the city’s port, as well as Yale. DeStefano also said the city’s geographical location between New York and Boston makes it a more attractive target for terrorists.
“We’re in a high-density area on a coastline in the Northeast,” DeStefano said.
About half the money will be directed towards improving New Haven’s ability to respond to an attack, especially by upgrading the city’s communications equipment, officials said. In addition, the grants — which will be spent in both New Haven and surrounding towns — will go toward purchasing rescue equipment, training first responders and strengthening security for at-risk areas of the city.
Yet while New Haven officials said they still needed additional federal money to pay first responders — who cannot be hired or given overtime pay through the grants — others have argued the Elm City is already receiving a disproportionate level of funding.
Jordan Barowitz, a spokesman for New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s office, said the federal government uses a formula for allocating funds that works against the largest cities with the greatest possibility of facing an attack.
“Do we need money in New Haven? Probably a little bit,” Barowitz said. “But as a symbol of the United States, unfortunately, New York is a much greater target.”
Still, Valerie Smith, a spokeswoman with the Department of Homeland Security, said per capita funding levels provide a misleading measure of security needs. Smith said while the federal government does not disclose its exact funding formulas, the presence of a university like Yale would likely be considered in the department’s assessments.
“Any educational institution would be considered part of a nation’s assets and therefore would be considered into these classified lists and allocations,” Smith said.
City officials said while they did not know the exact formulas used to provide the grants, they believed that the University’s location was one factor in earning a large grant for New Haven. Deputy University Secretary Martha Highsmith, who oversees police and security, said Yale will not receive any money directly from the grants but does cooperate with the city on securing its campus. Highsmith said the University has updated procedures and training, but did not need any additional security technology.
The New Haven Board of Aldermen will also need to pass a resolution accepting the grants, but city officials said the board’s approval was nearly certain. New Haven is the only city in Connecticut to receive grants under a special program for large cities considered to be at higher risks for attacks, but the state government was also allocated over $30 million.
“I was pleased to see that — the Department of Homeland Security awarded more than $32 million to the state’s first responders,” U.S. Representative Rosa DeLauro said through a spokeswoman. “However, we need to continue to fight for homeland security funding.”