Security Alert Level Costly for Nevada

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

Nevada's state and local agencies spent an estimated $700,000 to secure the safety of New Year's Eve celebrations, officials said Wednesday.

The price tag doesn't include costs to federal agencies, nor security changes before or after end-of-year festivities. For almost three weeks agencies around the state have been operating under Code Orange, the nation's second highest terror alert level, paying for more personnel and, in some cases, more equipment.

"The cost of freedom is significant," said Jerry Bussell, state homeland security adviser. "We've always heard freedom isn't free. No kidding."

Las Vegas police budgeted $675,000 for overtime and other expenses for the city's big New Year's Eve celebration, said Assistant Sheriff Ray Flynn. And that was before the alert level was raised on Dec. 21. Since then, the department has spent some $294,000 more, Flynn said Wednesday.

Agencies around the state and across the nation ramped up security after the alert level was raised to orange for the fifth time, a response to intelligence reports mentioning a possible attack during the holiday season.

Under heightened alert in Reno, police have implemented parking restrictions around the city, mostly surrounding government buildings, said Assistant Police Chief Jim Weston. The department also changed its pattern of monitoring buildings, though Weston said costs have been negligible.

The extra money spent in Las Vegas was mostly for additional personnel costs, including time spent investigating tips and preparing for one of the nation's biggest outdoor holiday gatherings amid fears of a possible terror attack, Flynn said.

Published reports citing Las Vegas as a possible target heightened fears, but New Year's Eve was devoid of problems, other than the usual alcohol-related arrests.

Still the 270,000 visitors to the Las Vegas Strip on New Year's Eve could see increased security, with the buzz of armed military helicopters overhead, the sight of sharpshooters atop hotel-casinos and some 2,000 police officers circulating in the crowd.

Some 600 jail officers were called in, the FBI added 25 agents to its force and authorities relied on help from about 4,000 hotel security guards to protect the crowd.

Bussell said it's difficult to measure all the costs associated with Code Orange.

"It's not $10,000 a day, and I know it's not a million," he said. "It's somewhere in between. It's significant."

The state is relying on federal funds to offset the financial burden, something Bussell said must be done quickly.

"It needs to be with great urgency because these local folks, these local agencies are spending their own money," he said. "They can't sit on paying these bills."

Flynn said the police department might have to scale back purchases if the federal government does not reimburse it fully, or until the next fiscal year.

The state received some $34 million last year in homeland security funds, most of it for populous Clark County, home of the Las Vegas Strip.

Bussell said the state moves to protect its "critical infrastructure" when the alert level is raised but he and other state officials declined to discuss specific changes.

Protected targets likely include airports, courthouses, government buildings and military bases.

At Hoover Dam, officials have increased random vehicle inspections and added personnel to each shift since the threat level was raised, said Bob Walsh, spokesman for the Bureau of Reclamation. But costs have been minimal, he said. Hoover Dam has a yearly security budget of $4 million.

Las Vegas police patrol McCarran International Airport, which has been operating under heightened security since the nation went to Code Orange. The cost of extra personnel has not yet been tallied and was not included in the $294,000 estimate by the police department.

Airport officials declined to detail what extra security measures were taken, saying only that the public will notice random vehicle inspections and increased law enforcement officers. On New Year's Eve armed National Guardsmen patrolled the terminal along with bomb-sniffing dogs.

Bussell, the state homeland security adviser, said the state is looking to the federal government for help.

"No one state, no one county would ever have the ability to protect like we're required to do," he said. "It's a necessity. We're at war, and there's no other way to put it.

"Terrorism is going to be with us," he said. "It's part of our lives, and it's going to be here for a long time."

Extended Web Coverage

Threat Conditions and Associated Protective Measures

The world has changed since September 11, 2001. We remain a Nation at risk to terrorist attacks and will remain at risk for the foreseeable future. At all Threat Conditions, we must remain vigilant, prepared, and ready to deter terrorist attacks. The following Threat Conditions each represent an increasing risk of terrorist attacks. Beneath each Threat Condition are some suggested Protective Measures, recognizing that the heads of Federal departments and agencies are responsible for developing and implementing appropriate agency-specific Protective Measures:

Low Condition (Green)
This condition is declared when there is a low risk of terrorist attacks. Federal departments and agencies should consider the following general measures in addition to the agency-specific Protective Measures they develop and implement:

  • Refining and exercising as appropriate preplanned Protective Measures;
  • Ensuring personnel receive proper training on the Homeland Security Advisory System and specific preplanned department or agency Protective Measures; and
  • Institutionalizing a process to assure that all facilities and regulated sectors are regularly assessed for vulnerabilities to terrorist attacks, and all reasonable measures are taken to mitigate these vulnerabilities.

    Guarded Condition (Blue)
    This condition is declared when there is a general risk of terrorist attacks. In addition to the Protective Measures taken in the previous Threat Condition, Federal departments and agencies should consider the following general measures in addition to the agency-specific Protective Measures that they will develop and implement:

  • Checking communications with designated emergency response or command locations;
  • Reviewing and updating emergency response procedures; and
  • Providing the public with any information that would strengthen its ability to act appropriately.

    Elevated Condition (Yellow)
    An Elevated Condition is declared when there is a significant risk of terrorist attacks. In addition to the Protective Measures taken in the previous Threat Conditions, Federal departments and agencies should consider the following general measures in addition to the Protective Measures that they will develop and implement:

  • Increasing surveillance of critical locations;
  • Coordinating emergency plans as appropriate with nearby jurisdictions;
  • Assessing whether the precise characteristics of the threat require the further refinement of preplanned Protective Measures; and
  • Implementing, as appropriate, contingency and emergency response plans.

    High Condition (Orange)
    A High Condition is declared when there is a high risk of terrorist attacks. In addition to the Protective Measures taken in the previous Threat Conditions, Federal departments and agencies should consider the following general measures in addition to the agency-specific Protective Measures that they will develop and implement:

  • Coordinating necessary security efforts with Federal, State, and local law enforcement agencies or any National Guard or other appropriate armed forces organizations;
  • Taking additional precautions at public events and possibly considering alternative venues or even cancellation;
  • Preparing to execute contingency procedures, such as moving to an alternate site or dispersing their workforce; and
  • Restricting threatened facility access to essential personnel only.

    Severe Condition (Red)
    A Severe Condition reflects a severe risk of terrorist attacks. Under most circumstances, the Protective Measures for a Severe Condition are not intended to be sustained for substantial periods of time. In addition to the Protective Measures in the previous Threat Conditions, Federal departments and agencies also should consider the following general measures in addition to the agency-specific Protective Measures that they will develop and implement:

  • Increasing or redirecting personnel to address critical emergency needs;
  • Assigning emergency response personnel and pre-positioning and mobilizing specially trained teams or resources;
  • Monitoring, redirecting, or constraining transportation systems; and
  • Closing public and government facilities.

    Source: www.whitehouse.gov (The White House Web site) contributed to this report.


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