Denver dropped from ninth to 39th in cities considered to be at
high risk for terrorist attacks, but security officials say the
city is not necessarily any safer.
As a result, Denver will receive less money from a federal
funding program that allocates money, often through grants, to
protect against an attack.
The funding is based on three main factors: population density,
the vulnerability of its infrastructure and perceived threats from
credible information in each considered city.
Specific reasons as to why Denver had such a significant change
have been kept confidential. Valerie Smith, spokeswoman for the
Homeland Security Department, said it might mean threats to other
cities have risen, making them a greater priority. She also said it
could mean Denver has a decreased risk of terrorism since last
“It is not particularly useful to look at allocations and guess
what’s going on,” Smith said.
State and city officials in Colorado have a similar assessment
of the federal grants’ meaning. While it might appear to be a
relief for the city, it does not change authorities’ outlook on
taking precautions in the event of an attack on the city.
Tracy Howard, deputy manager for the Denver Department of
Safety, said the city accepts the change in ranking as a fiscal
report only. It should not change how officials or citizens view
Denver’s risk of terrorism.
“This ranking is based on a grant program through the federal
government,” Howard said. “Particular concern (for citizens) into
these lists should be minimal, and it doesn’t necessarily mean
people should feel safer.”
In 2003, Denver was the ninth in an initial distribution of
funds allocated in the Urban Area Security Initiative. The city
received $15.6 million in federal grants to help aid Denver in
preparing for any potential terrorist attack.
This year, that figure dropped $7 million to $8.6 million. This
was the most significant change any city listed in the previous
Linda Rice, public information specialist for Department of
Local Affairs, said because the city dropped in the rankings,
citizens of Denver can feel safer. However, Rice does not believe
we have enough specific knowledge to draw any conclusions about the
risk of attacks on the city.
“Did they find (reason to suspect possible terrorism) more in
other cities than in Denver? We don’t know,” Rice said.
Rusty Enscore is an environmental health specialist at CSU and a
member of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention research
team in Fort Collins. He researches bioterrorism methods through
bacterial transmission and communicates these possibilities with
state and federal officials.
Enscore said little can be taken from a fiscal report to assess
how much more or less safe citizens of any city can feel.
“This is perceiving risks based upon a financial grant,” Enscore
said. “It is hard to draw any conclusions from something of that
Thirty U.S. cities were allocated funding in 2003 amounting to a
combined $700 million. The 2004 budget increased to $725 million
but was divided among 50 urban cities, according a press release on
the Department of Homeland Security Web site.
Howard said Denver plans to use funding for improved
communication through radio development. He also said a portion of
the funding is designated to train first responders in preparation
for a potential state emergency.
The Urban Area Security Initiative has been in existence for the
past two years to aid cities in terrorist attack preparation and
prevention. New York, Chicago and Washington D.C. have received the
highest funding of all U.S. cities each year. Increased preparation
and funding to protect the nation’s cities is something Smith
believes everyone can take as a positive change.
“A tremendous amount of money is being used for planning to
allow greater resources to equip state and local governments to
prevent terrorism,” Smith said. “Overall the news is good.”