Security costs soar, survey shows

Cities across the United States are expected to spend an additional $2.6 billion on security through the end of 2002, according to a survey released Jan. 23 by the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

According to projections based on the survey of nearly 200 cities, officials spent an additional $525 million on security costs from Sept. 11 through Dec. 31, 2001, and are expected to spend $2.1 billion more by the end of this year.

The survey found:

* Half of the additional security funds will be spent on equipment.

* 23 percent will be used for overtime costs, mostly for local police and firefighters.

* The remaining funds will be used to hire additional personnel and for training.

The costs are above and beyond planned security spending, according to the association (usmayors.org). Last October, the association estimated that cities would spend $1.5 billion through the end of this year, based on a survey with a smaller sampling of cities.

During the association's annual conference in Washington, D.C., Jan. 23, Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick asked Tom Ridge, head of the White House Office of Homeland Security, what kind of flexibility cities have in using federal funds. He said his city spent nearly $3 million in overtime costs and, if the trend holds, it may spend $11 million by the end of 2002.

Ridge said that Bush's yet-to-be released federal budget request would allow some flexibility for cities to use federal funds toward overtime costs. But he said a substantial part of funds would be earmarked for equipment and training.

Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley said his city has spent about $5 million to $6 million in police overtime, and he estimated that the city will spend an extra $24 million on various security matters.

Several mayors said they favored a homeland security block grant method. New York Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Charles Schumer introduced legislation (S. 1615) in November 2001 to provide $3 billion in funds, of which 70 percent would go directly to local governments, defined as cities with a population of 50,000 or more. The remaining 30 percent would go to states to distribute to smaller communities.

Cities would have to submit a plan demonstrating their use of the funds, but acceptable uses include overtime expenses and other resources for fire, emergency and law enforcement personnel; equipment including state-of-the art technology; improving cyber and infrastructure security; establishing timely notification systems; and improving communication systems.

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