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With millions of visitors annually cramming into a world-famous stretch of hotels and casinos, does Las Vegas present an appealing target for terrorists?
Not enough to persuade the federal government to continue to fund counter-terrorism efforts here.
According to the Las Vegas Sun the Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency announced Tuesday it was pulling the Las Vegas area’s funding for counterterrorism activities for FY2013. The $1.8 million Las Vegas received a year ago from Homeland Security was down significantly from years past — the federal grant reached a high of $9 million in 2008.
Funding is based on a formula that weighs the threat of an attack, a city’s vulnerability and the potential consequences of an attack. A month ago it was announced that Las Vegas fell three spots in this year’s national rankings, from 30 to 33. The drop prompted the federal government’s announcement Tuesday.
The news, though not unexpected, has area politicians crying foul.
“I think there’s no question that Clark County is just as worthy – in some cases, MORE worthy – of this funding as some of the other communities on this list,” Clark County Commission chairman Steve Sisolak said in a statement.
Congresswoman Dina Titus laid out Las Vegas’ case in a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano:
“…We expect that 40.1 million travelers will visit Las Vegas, representing an increase of 400,000 people over last year. An increased number of visitors to Las Vegas also represents and in increase in opportunities for potential terrorists. As we saw in the tragic attacks in Boston just a few weeks ago, terrorists continue to target high profile and high traffic areas. On any given day, tens of thousands of tourists walk along the 4.2 mile Las Vegas Strip, home to 62,000 hotel rooms and 15 of the world’s 25 largest hotels.”
Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman said she was “outraged” and “disappointed” upon hearing the news, and pointed out that in the nine years prior to this decision the funding for the area had dropped 82.5 percent.
“Yet nothing has changed,” the mayor said. “All of the risk factors that were there are as evident today as they were then. So it is a very disturbing time for us here. Everyone should be outraged by this.”
Metro Police had used the Homeland Security funding to operate the Southern Nevada Counter-Terrorism Center, also known as the Fusion Center. The center’s primary goal is to collect information, develop intelligence and disseminate it, officials said. In the process, that means analyzing reports of suspicious activity, thwarting school violence and protecting critical infrastructure, among other functions.