International Threats Hit Home for Local Leaders
Ensuring the protection and safety of their citizens has always been a top priority for municipal officials, but the actions of international terrorist organizations over the past year have enlarged the boundary of their concerns, according to a new survey published by the Washington, D.C.-based National League of Cites (NLC). The survey of 725 cities, released approximately a year after the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, showed that biological attacks, chemical attacks and cyber-terrorism are the top three terrorism concerns for communities.
Biological terrorism heads the list of threats, mentioned by 82 percent of all respondents and 95 percent of surveyed cities with populations larger than 100,000. Chemical attacks followed closely, cited by 81 percent of all respondents and 92 percent of large cities responding to the survey, while cyber-terrorism was named by 80 percent of all respondents and 91 percent of large cities questioned by NLC. Larger cities that responded indicated a higher degree of concern for all forms of terrorism than did smaller cities.
While most respondents said they fear several types of terrorist attacks, many indicated they had not developed response plans. For example, although cyber-terrorism was cited frequently as a serious threat, only 26 percent of all respondents and 43 percent of large cities responding have addressed it in their plans. In addition, nearly two-thirds of all respondents reported they were worried about dirty bombs, but only 29 percent include that threat in their plans.
The survey notes at least one positive response from the terrorist attacks. All respondents said that, since September 2001, they have developed greater cooperation with counties, civic organizations, non-profits, other municipalities and even the media.
The respondents also noted their priorities for funding homeland security initiatives. Equipment headed the list (mentioned by 70 percent of all respondents and 78 percent of large cities answering the questionnaire), followed by training, threat prevention, personnel, infrastructure protection and regional cooperation. “We have immediate needs such as fixing radio interoperability problems, repayment of local police for guarding airports, firefighter grants and other homeland security needs that Congress and the president need to act on,” said Karen Anderson, mayor of Minnetonka, Minn., and NLC president in a statement released by NLC earlier this summer.
Despite the increased focus on terrorism, cities still cited more traditional issues as their top concerns. The need for traditional public safety and crime prevention, which was cited by 62 percent of all respondents and 69 percent of those representing large cities, ranked first. Economic conditions, cited by 55 percent of all respondents, and infrastructure investment, cited by 44 percent of respondents, ranked second and third, respectively. Among large cities, terrorism tied with economic conditions as the second most often cited concern.
Since the 107th Congress recessed without passing the Homeland Security Bill, municipalities will have to wait for federal funding to protect their communities. NLC says that billions of dollars collectively have been spent on security by the nation’s cities and towns since the attacks in New York and Washington, D.C. Citing a recent survey of city finance officers, who for the first time since 1993 report that their cities are less able to meet local financial demands, NLC says that, without federal money, the efforts to secure America city by city will affect other local services.
For more information about the survey, visit www.nlc.org/nlc_org/site/newsroom/press_releases/index.cfm. Search “Cities See Biological, Cyber-Terrorism as Top Threats, One Year After 9-11.”
|Top Terrorism Concerns for Cities||Percent of All Respondents||Percent of Cities 100,000+ pop.|
|“Dirty” nuclear/conventional bomb||67||86|
|Airplane used as weapon||60||76|
|Types of Terrorist Attacks Addressed in Plans||All Respondents||Cities 100,000+ pop.|
|Airplane used as weapon||50||73|
|“Dirty” nuclear/conventional bomb||29||54|
|Priorities for Federal or State Homeland Security Funds||All Respondents||Cities 100,000+ pop.|
|Facilities that Need to Be Secured in City||All Respondents||Cities 100,000+ pop.|
|Government buildings (local, state, federal)||77||92|
|Hospitals and medical facilities||62||88|
|Communications and technology infrastructure||61||88|
|Stadiums, arenas, convention centers||31||67|
|Ports of entry (airports, harbors)||29||55|
|Other large buildings (e.g. high-rises), landmarks||28||54|