CENTREVILLE — Recent federal preparedness grant funding announced by U.S. Senators Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen, both D-Md., included $54,747 for the Queen Anne’s County Sheriff’s Office through the Port Security Grant Program.
The Port Security Grant Program supports port authorities, facility operators and state and local government agencies providing security services for the nation’s ports. The grants are allocated by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Federal Emergency Management Agency.
The sheriff’s office, specifically its SWAT team, is part of the Maritime Tactical Operations Group coordinated by the U.S. Coast Guard to protect the Port of Baltimore and handle other maritime security concerns, said Cpl. Stephan Fraser, a SWAT team member and the deputy who wrote the grant.
“As a county with miles of coastline, Sheriff (Gary) Hofmann has taken a proactive approach by partnering with the United States Coast Guard and the Maryland Natural Resources Police in providing security and safe passage to one of our nation’s ports,” Fraser said. “We got involved because of the deep water anchorage for the Port (of Baltimore) that’s located at the limit of our jurisdiction.”
The grant will provide funds for equipment for the SWAT team, which is made up of 11 deputies and two tactical medics.
“Our SWAT team does not have a line item in the agency budget, so this is how supplement it, how we afford to operate in today’s policing world,” Fraser said.
The grant provides 75 percent of the funding for the project, requiring just a 25 percent agency match, Fraser said. So, for $18,249 in local funding, they are getting $72,996 worth of equipment.
“We are outfitting the SWAT team with new uniforms, purchasing two emergency rescue skids (litters), 10 inclement weather protective systems (gear), night vision accessories, observation systems (scopes), and body armor,” Fraser said.
He noted that previous Port Security Grant funding had gone to buy the department’s boat and to outfit it with a forward-looking infrared (FLIR) camera.
“The participation in the Port Security Grant has allowed the Sheriff’s Office to purchase tools and equipment, with minimal cost to county taxpayers, to assist in safeguarding the Chesapeake Bay,” Fraser said.
Also, being a part of the Maritime Tactical Operations Group “has opened many doors for training and networking for our agency,” he added.
“It definitely benefits our community with equipment and training,” the sheriff said.
In a community surrounded by water, the boat is often used locally to aid in search and rescue efforts, Hofmann said, noting it also has side-scan sonar, which was used during the search for Robin Pope of Stevensville and the search for the missing sailor after the log canoe capsized last summer.
As for missions with the maritime group, a lot of them are classified, Fraser said. Among the assignments he could talk about were helping provide security for D.C. waterways during President Donald Trump’s inauguration, when the SWAT team patrolled the Potomac and Anacostia, and providing security during such events as the Bay Swim and the 10K Across the Bay Run.
“It’s a good program, and the benefits have far exceeded the costs,” Hofmann said.
Other Port Security Grant Program funding announced in the most recent round of grants included: $270,546 for Baltimore County; $477,123 for Maryland Natural Resources Police; $419,371 for Maryland State Police; and $703,116 for the Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) – Maryland Port Administration.
“The safety of all families and everyone in our communities is a basic responsibility of the federal government,” said Cardin in a statement. “These federal funds will equip Maryland with the tools to address many different types of threats. Each of the grantees must work together effectively to improve protections for all of our communities.”
“Our communities are best served by being prepared for disasters, not just reacting to them — and the federal government plays a critical role in making sure that states are well-positioned to handle any crisis. This investment will allow Maryland to do just that, and I will keep fighting to ensure our state has the resources it needs to protect our families,” said Van Hollen, who is a member of the Budget and Appropriations Committee.
In 2018, a record 43 million tons of international cargo was handled by the combined state-owned public and private marine terminals at the Port of Baltimore. The value of the cargo in 2018 was a benchmark $59.7 billion.
Last year the state-owned public terminals handled a record 10.9 million tons of general cargo and 1,023,152 twenty-foot equivalent containers, the first year ever exceeding one million. The Port also handled a record 850,147 cars and light trucks in 2018, the most in the U.S. for the eighth consecutive year.
Among the nation’s ports, the Port of Baltimore ranks first for autos and light trucks, roll on/roll off heavy farm and construction machinery, imported sugar and imported gypsum. The Port ranks second in exported coal.