“The City of Corpus Christi hasn’t used the $188,000 video screen it bought with homeland security funding in 2008,” begins Texas Tribune reporter Brandi Grissom in a March 8 story about federal preparedness and anti-terrorism grants. “But when a hurricane strikes, city officials will be ready to watch footage from surveillance cameras around the area — if the storm doesn’t knock them out, of course.”

The Tribune examined thousands of transactions made with federal homeland security grants that were contained in a database turned over by the Texas Department of Public Safety. The Center for Investigative Reporting made the data available to the Tribune after obtaining the records through an open-government request.

Doing so is part of the center’s ongoing effort to collaborate with other investigative journalism organizations focused on the public interest. It’s also an essential component of our more than year-long push to report on post-Sept. 11 security spending in the United States. You can see the nationwide map we recently unveiled using similar records from around the country here. The Center for Public Integrity partnered with us in constructing the map.

The Texas Tribune and Grissom found among other things that the city of Houston purchased a $1.3 million five-man helicopter and paid $194,000 to a professional filmmaking company for a 22-minute movie on disaster preparedness. A small county 80 miles southwest of Dallas with fewer than 8,000 people acquired a $180,000 military-style armored truck.

Image: Texas Tribune

G.W. Schulz is a reporter for Reveal, covering security, privacy, technology and criminal justice. Since joining The Center for Investigative Reporting in 2008, he's reported stories for NPR, KQED, Wired.com, The Dallas Morning News, the Chicago Tribune, the San Francisco Chronicle, Mother Jones and more. Prior to that, he wrote for the San Francisco Bay Guardian and was an early contributor to The Chauncey Bailey Project, which won a Tom Renner Award from Investigative Reporters and Editors in 2008. Schulz also has won awards from the California Newspaper Publishers Association and the Society of Professional Journalists’ Northern California Chapter. He graduated from the University of Kansas and is based in Austin, Texas.