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Homeland Security: All Day, Every Day--Grant Funding and Groundbreaking Legislation Help Secure One of the Nation's Busiest Seaports

NCJ Number
Law Enforcement Technology Volume: 34 Issue: 7 Dated: July 2007 Pages: 84,86-88,90,93
Linda Spagnoli
Date Published
8 pages
This article examines how Houston (Texas) is using Federal grant funds under the Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) in order to acquire technology that will improve security for one of the Nation's busiest seaports.
Houston has created an information "fusion center" that serves as a hub for intrastate or intraregional efforts to collect, analyze, disseminate, and use terrorism-related information. At the center, analysts review and record data as well as maintain records on suspicious activity daily. This information--along with maps, building configurations, and traffic movement--is made available to every city, State, and Federal agency responding to an incident. The Port of Houston has taken a three-step approach to enhance and maintain security at a higher level since the attacks of September 11. First, it hardened the perimeters; second, it increased intelligence and information sharing; and third, it strengthened relationships with law enforcement in the surrounding communities. Under enhanced security for the city, the major change for first responders has been improvement in emergency response efforts through better coordination, integration, and interoperability (improved communications across agencies and jurisdictions in joint operations during major emergencies). This has required specialized equipment. Using UASI grants, the Houston Police Department has purchased a helicopter and 8 bomb squad rapid response vehicles, along with mobile and portable computers and personal protective equipment for 5,000 officers. The remaining portion of the grants allocated for terrorism prevention was used to purchase a mobile command post, a mobile video camera surveillance truck, bomb squad and SWAT mobile command posts, waterway threat prevention (boats and diving equipment), crime scene recovery equipment, and SWAT team support. In addition, a new Automatic Vehicle Location system has been added to Houston's combined dispatch center. There is no limit to the number of vehicles it can manage.