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County expects drop in antiterrorism money

July 18, 2007|Richard Winton and Andrew Blankstein | Times Staff Writers

Los Angeles County is expected to get about 10% less in federal antiterrorism grants than it did last year when the Department of Homeland Security announces funding today for the metropolitan areas most at risk for an attack.

Los Angeles Deputy Police Chief Michael Downing said Tuesday that the county -- home of the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports, the biggest port complex in the nation and a potential target -- will get $72.6 million in 2007, compared with $80.6 million in 2006.

Downing, who oversees the LAPD's counterterrorism bureau, warned that the decline would force the LAPD and other local agencies to cut back on homeland security efforts unless other funding was forthcoming.

"We are not happy about it," Downing said. "We are going to have to go back and do some real hard work."

The allocation of federal anti-terrorism dollars has long been controversial, with major cities often complaining that the Department of Homeland Security gives money to areas far less threatened.

"We're somewhat disappointed there wasn't more," Downing said. "We were hoping to get funding closer to the maximum of $120 million to complete projects that would shore up our efforts to prevent terrorism."

According to the Associated Press, some areas in California will get increased funding: Anaheim/Santa Ana will get $13.8 million in 2007, compared with $12 million in 2006. San Diego will see its grant double to $16 million; the San Francisco Bay Area will get $34 million this year, compared with $28.3 million in 2006.

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) said she was pleased with the San Diego and Bay Area increases but was disappointed by the cuts elsewhere.

Sacramento, like Los Angeles, will see a dip. It will get $4.17 million in 2007, compared with $7.4 million a year earlier.

"One minute we have the secretary of Homeland Security saying he has a gut feeling we'll be attacked this summer, and the next minute they are announcing homeland security funding cuts to cities like Los Angeles and Sacramento -- our state capital -- which are potential targets for terrorist attacks," Boxer told the Associated Press.

Los Angeles Police Chief William J. Bratton and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said Tuesday that antiterrorism remains as important as fighting street crime and that the threat of terrorism remains real.

"You've got to do both," the mayor said.

Villaraigosa said that the city needs to spend more on anti terrorism and that he wants the City Council to fund 44 officers for the antiterrorism unit -- bringing its permanent complement to 267 officers and detectives. Though acknowledging that New York's antiterrorism efforts far outweigh those in Los Angeles, Villaraigosa said he believed that Los Angeles was much safer today than five years ago.

Councilman Jack Weiss said that the effort to fund more anti-terrorism officers would come before the council public safety committee, which he chairs, next week.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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