Joint Command Center to Track Terrorist Activity in So. California

LOS ANGELES_Hoping to better secure Southern California against attacks, federal and local law enforcement agencies have banded together to create a first-of-its-kind command center to improve intelligence sharing on terrorist threats.

The Joint Regional Intelligence Center will track terrorist activity with help from officials who specialize in fields such as epidemiology and chemical attacks, while analyzing real-time threat information.

Its opening was expected to be announced Thursday.

The goal, authorities said, is to reduce the time it takes agents from various agencies to share leads.

"It brought all of our capabilities and expertise together instead of doing it through telephone calls and e-mails," said Los Angeles Police Department Lt. Robert Fox.

The center's unified command includes the LAPD, the FBI, and the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.

There are other such "fusion centers" in California and around the country, according to sheriff's Lt. Robert Galarneau.

What's different about the new center is its responsibility and scale: 62 personnel from at least 15 agencies including the Department of Homeland Security watch over seven counties that are home to more than 18 million people.

By comparison, a center in New York is operated and staffed largely by police.

Based on the seventh floor of an office building in Norwalk, near Los Angeles, the center is divided into several groups that analyze information, correspond with outside agencies and manage emergency responses, among other tasks.

About $6 million (€4.8 million) has been spent so far on the facility.

<<Associated Press WorldStream -- 07/28/06>>