New Haven, Conn., Steps Up Port Security with Cameras

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) -- This city is feeling popular but vulnerable, so officials will have a new set of eyes to check out the visitors.

Officials unveiled four new port security cameras Wednesday that will allow the police to monitor ships entering the harbor around the clock to detect potential threats. New Haven is home to Yale University, a series of federal buildings and one of New England's busiest ports.

"New Haven harbor is without question a vital asset to our region, but it is also a vulnerable target,'' said U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-New Haven.

The port supplies 81 percent of petroleum and byproducts to the Northeast and serves two military bases, including a transport center for cargo shipped to the Middle East, DeLauro said. The harbor also handles hundreds of ships annually from around the world and is home to the regional strategic petroleum reserve, said Mayor John DeStefano.

More than 90 percent of all goods moved internationally are carried in containers and about 8 million freight containers arrive at U.S. ports each year. In the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks, officials have increasingly worried that cargo containers could be used to smuggle terrorists or their weapons.

In March, two Palestinians from Gaza hid in a false compartment of a shipping container, made their way to Israel's Ashdod port and blew themselves up, killing 10 Israelis. Two months after the Sept. 11 attacks, an Egyptian man was arrested on terrorism charges after he was found in a shipping container in Italy carrying high-tech equipment.

While welcoming homeland security funding to pay for the cameras, DeLauro and DeStefano criticized the loss this year of a $10 million federal grant New Haven received last year for homeland security. The money would have paid for several initiatives, including a program by Yale to train first responders to deal with traumatized children subsequent to a terrorist attack, officials said.

New Haven hoped to make the Yale program a national model.

"I find the cuts unacceptable,'' DeLauro said. ``We expressed our disappointment with the decision.''

Officials are trying to get the funding restored.

That cut is on top of funding cuts for traditional police work, said DeStefano, a Democrat running for governor.

"It makes you really feel like you're getting a one-two punch,'' DeStefano said.

New Haven is one of seven smaller cities around the country not receiving the grants this year as the funding shifts to larger cities, officials said. The funding is based on population density, critical infrastructure and threat information from intelligence agencies, said Marc Short, a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.