Las Vegas will receive $1 million from the federal government to fight terrorism this year.
It doesn’t seem like much in a city that sees as many as 40 million visitors a year, but it’s plenty compared with what it received last year: nothing.
So city leaders, federal officials and top police officials called a news conference Tuesday to celebrate the announcement by the Department of Homeland Security. They said the money, which will be used to prevent terrorism, should serve as “a model of collaborative effort.”
It was a team effort on all levels, from the local to the state to the federal, they said.
Clark County Sheriff Doug Gillespie said that there was a good chance that Las Vegas never would have gotten the money had he not personally met with the Department of Homeland Security Deputy Alejandro Mayorkas to voice his frustrations.
And they all concurred that if U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., the Senate majority leader, hadn’t been watching Nevada’s back, there was even a better chance that this year could have turned out as fruitless as last year.
“There was some doubt that it could be done, but we did it,” said U.S. Rep. Steven Horsford, D-Nev.
But scars of having been ignored last year still remain.
Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman said she was surprised that the Department of Homeland Security failed to recognize Las Vegas as an urban area that is constantly beset with visitors and just as susceptible to a terrorist attack as any other major city. The city also has the sixth-busiest airport in the United States.
In fact, five of the terrorists who flew planes into the World Trade Center stayed in Las Vegas between May and August before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
“We are a target,” said Goodman. “Don’t let us ever forget that.”
For a moment there, the Department of Homeland Security had forgotten it, Goodman said.
Each year, Homeland Security distributes the money to the Federal Emergency Management Administration, and it’s parceled out as Urban Area Security Initiative funds. Cities across the nation are ranked according to their perceived danger, with the larger cities invariably leading the pack: New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Houston and now Boston, which was struck with a bombing that killed three people and injured nearly 300 others at its marathon April 15.
This year Las Vegas was ranked 29 out of 39 cities to share $578 million in funding, a 5 percent increase over 2013’s allocations.
Last year, Las Vegas was ranked 33rd but didn’t receive anything because only 25 cities qualified. But this year, that 25-city cap was removed, spreading out the funding to Las Vegas.
Horsford said another reason Las Vegas didn’t make the cut last year was that law enforcement here is doing such a good job at keeping terrorism at bay. It didn’t hurt that Reid added a clause in the federal spending bill that gave Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson “flexibility” in restoring funds to Southern Nevada.
Gillespie welcomed the money with Clark County Senior Deputy Fire Chief Erik Newman.
“It might not seem like that much, but in my world that’s a lot of money that can be put to good use,” the sheriff said, noting that the funds will not go toward salaries but instead will be invested in newer technologies.
In the world of fighting terrorism, all agreed that response time is important, but more important is preventing the attack from occurring in the first place, and the injection of a million bucks is a good start.
“We got together, we worked together, we collaborated,” Gillespie said. “And fortunately for us, Homeland Security heard our message loud and clear.”
And yet the reality is that the $1 million pales in comparison with the $8 million Las Vegas received in 2010, the $5.7 million in 2011, the $12.5 million in 2003 and the $7.75 million in 2007.
Review-Journal writer Ben Botkin and Stephens Washington Bureau Chief Steve Tetreault contributed to this report. Contact reporter Tom Ragan at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-224-5512.