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Boston sees security funding increase from federal government

In order to support continual homeland security initiatives and ensure that the Boston area reaches its national preparedness goals, Boston will be receiving $18 million to further fund the Urban Area Security Initiative program.

Boston Mayor Martin Walsh announced Friday that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency awarded $18 million in funding to Boston, representing an increase of 2.47 percent from last year. Many of the investments will be made noticeable at the 118th Boston Marathon, with the addition of police equipment, bomb-detecting K-9s and command vehicles.

Steve MacDonald, spokesman for the Boston Fire Department, said the increase in funding is a result of the City’s commitment to security, nearing the one-year anniversary of the tragedy on April 15, 2013.

“As evidenced by our response last year in the Marathon, where we had many agencies coming together in response to the Marathon bombings,” he said. “The federal government recognizes that basically Boston has its act together and they train well, they work well with each other and [this] is a good use of the federal dollars to enhance the training we do.”

The funds will be channeled through the Urban Area Security Initiative grant program. These efforts will be coordinated and administered by the Mayor’s Office of Emergency Management, according to the Friday press release.

“The City of Boston has maintained a strong relationship with Homeland Security, and has historically used these vital grant funds to ensure that the people of Boston are safe, which is, in large part, why our coordinated response in the wake of last year’s Marathon was so professional and effective,” Walsh said in the release.

Boston was among the high-threat, high-density urban areas eligible for funding under the UASI program.

The security funding is designed for the Metro Boston Homeland Security Region, comprised of Boston and eight surrounding jurisdictions, which include Brookline, Cambridge and Somerville. A committee will decide how the additional funding will be spent, said Christine Maryland, director of communication at the OEM.

“The MBHSR is governed by a Jurisdictional Points of Contact committee, with one representative from each of the nine member communities,” she said. “These representatives participate in collectively making funding decisions based on recommendations from investment sub-committees.”

Public health and public safety agencies around the MBHSR are working together with the OEM to apply to receive part of this funding.

“All the public safety agencies in the city will be meeting on this and we have initiatives that we are proposing and we hope to see some of the funds [come to us],” MacDonald said.

Past funding has supported security initiatives such as Urban Shield: Boston, a continuous 24-hour exercise during which first responders are deployed to strategically and tactically respond to a real world scenario, the largest first responder exercise conducted in New England.

“They are worthwhile training exercises that involve many different agencies, not just from Boston but from other cities and towns, and it is a chance to work side by side with police, with BMS, and agencies like that,” McDonald said.

Several residents said the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings was an abnormality and funds should go toward issues like homelessness, but overall were happy to see an increase in security throughout the Boston area in case similar events transpire again.

Brian Szeto, 24, of Brighton, said the money could have been better used elsewhere.

“[This is] probably because of last year and what happened with the Marathon bombings,” he said. “But that incident last year was an anomaly … I would rather see it go toward education or with helping with unemployment or with healthcare, like cancer research.”

Paulinha Fonseca, 21, of Boston, said security in Boston is not equal throughout the area, so increasing the quality of security in some places could certainly be beneficial.

“Depending on the location because some of the locations are really violent some are not,” she said. “This way, people would be safer throughout the city.”

Luis Viana, 51, of Boston, said last year’s bombings are further proof that funding like this is valuable.

“Last year’s marathon was an event that nobody would’ve foreseen,” he said. “People would be wrong though to think that just because those kinds of things are rare, that they don’t need to have good security all the time, they do.”

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