Cities Ignoring More Federal Terror Alerts

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Phoenix sharply ramped up security last September under a federal Code Orange alert. USA Today reports that police chief Harold Hurtt has “concluded that absent a direct threat to Phoenix, his department couldn’t afford to jump every time officials in Washington, D.C., said to do so.”

The newspaper says that officials nationwide are cutting back their responses to federal terrorism alerts. “There is broad consensus that the (federal alert) system just isn’t effective,” Seattle Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske says. “It isn’t working”

The U.S. government has raised its terror alert level to Code Orange four times since the warning system was introduced last fall. Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge and other U.S. officials worry that national security will suffer if cities and states stop taking the alerts seriously.

Seattle has cut 25 officers and 50 support positions from its 1,900-member police force. Crime is creeping up from the record low levels of the 1990s, when the economy was rolling. Burglary, larceny and auto theft are up by 18 percent this year. Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske says he is no longer putting SWAT teams on overtime when the feds issue a Code Orange alert.

State and local officials who want specific information about any upcoming attacks are bound to be frustrated, says Chief Terrance Gainer of the U.S. Capitol police. “If chiefs are waiting for intelligence bulletins telling them where and when somebody is going to strike …it ain’t going to happen,” Gainer says. “If people are out there saying they aren’t going gear up when the next alert is issued, shame on them. Terrorists will strike wherever we are weak. If we have prepared the Capitol, terrorists will go find a weaker target, whether it’s a shopping mall in the Midwest or some other place. Terrorists have told us that.”


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