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Patrick Administration Launches Effort to Centralize Homeland Security Responsibilities

The Patrick administration is launching a new effort to centralize homeland security responsibilities now scattered among dozens of groups that spend tens of millions of dollars a year, but receive little direction from the state.

A homeland security document released Tuesday calls for the creation of a central database to track the availability of emergency equipment to ensure that local and regional organizations are not spending tax dollars on equipment they could get one town over.

"For too long, the state has not provided guidance over homeland security (responsibilities),'' said state homeland security chief Juliette Kayyem. "A lot of money has been coming into the state -- and a lot of good work has been done on a regional level -- but we have to make sure there are linkages.''

The Herald reported yesterday that the administration is also seeking to increase the use of surveillance cameras to track activity around Boston Harbor, Logan International Airport and other transit facilities.

The plan seeks to end a lack of coordination between state and local agencies. Officials cited Boston's evacuation plan as an example of the problem.

While the plan establishes clear routes out of the city, it gives no direction to evacuees once they reach the border, largely because of the state's lack of involvement in the effort.

The administration's new security strategy -- set forth in the 31-page document -- also calls for the development of a tactical alert system to immediately notify first responders of disasters. It proposes the creation of a five-year plan to address the stunning lack of radio communications capability among key agencies.

"With a $27 billion annual budget, the state should be able to find a way for all its public safety departments to communicate,'' said state Sen. James Timilty (D-Walpole), co-chairman of the Legislature's homeland security committee. "It's disappointing that we're just discussing this now.''

- cross@bostonherald.com

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