The Oxnard-Thousand Oaks area saw a near-historic drop in crime in the past few years, but that didn't stop the region from seeking millions in anti-terrorism funds, according to a new report from Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla.
The report highlights several areas in the U.S. Coburn said have played up their threat levels to win lucrative grants.
"Two percent of the 3,143 counties in the U.S. were identified as hot spots for terror-related threats with only Manhattan and Los Angeles remaining as hot spots of activity across each decade," according to the report. Yet the Department of Homeland Security has identified 62 areas to receive grants through its Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI). Among them, Oxnard-Thousand Oaks, which has received over $5 million to fight local terrorism threats.
"In the years that followed, Oxnard-Thousand Oaks spent money it received on a variety of projects, but several of them raise questions about whether the money was truly needed for terrorism prevention," the report said.
Among the projects funded with anti-terror funds:
- A $25,000 fence for the Thousand Oaks Police Department, including reinforced jersey barriers;
- $75,000 for security upgrades such as alarms and closed-circuit TV for its Civic Arts Plaza. To justify the expense, city documents said that "minor security incidents have periodically occurred" in the area;
- Equipment for the police and fire dive teams including money for “fins, masks, snorkels, weight belts;”
Ballistic resistant windows and doors at the Camarillo and Thousand Oaks Police Departments;
- Around the country, localities have spent anti-terror funds on things like "a $24,000 latrine on wheels in Fort Worth," two 2011 Camaro's in Kleberg County, Texas, and a $256,643 armored truck with rotating gun in Fargo, North Dakota.
"Preparedness grants were intended to be an initial investment to help state and local governments enhance their emergency response and preparedness capability in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks," the report concludes. A decade later, "the purpose of many DHS grant programs has shifted to provide continuous funding for routine expenses."
The Los Angeles-Long Beach area, not a target of Coburn's report, has receieved $643,673,390 in UASI funds since 2003, second only to New York City, which received $1.4 billion.