New Counterterrorism Center Opens in Phoenix

Law enforcement officials and Gov. Janet Napolitano on Tuesday formally opened a new state intelligence center aimed at preventing terrorism by coordinating local, state and federal agencies.

The Arizona Counter Terrorism Information Center, based in a northwest Phoenix business park, will remain open around the clock to allow agencies to gather and share information with each other and the public.

Within 30 days, the 61,000-square-foot building will house representatives from 22 federal agencies and 14 state law enforcement agencies. More than 200 people are expected to work regularly at the center.

``While there is no silver bullet to prevent an act of terrorism or act of a major crime, we can do better,'' Napolitano said.

Better, she said, in terms of having an intelligence-based effort that allows agencies to target and dispatch resources where an incident is most likely to happen.

The center is equipped with a central database that can be accessed by the agencies and a telephone number officials can call with information from the field.

The FBI operates one wing of the center along with agents from a terrorism task force, while the Arizona Department of Public Safety runs the other.

Authorities hope the Phoenix center will be the most fluid way to share information and will serve as a model for other states.

``I'm excited by the spirit of cooperation, collaboration and integration that has been the cornerstone for the creation of this center,'' said Louis Quijas, the FBI's assistant director of the Office of Law Enforcement Coordination.

``That same spirit is needed by all of us in law enforcement if we are going to be victorious in this war on terrorism,'' he added.

Norman Beasley, the assistant director for DPS's criminal investigations division, said the key to cooperation is to get everyone together in one place.

New York has a similar system, he said, but it is not as encompassing the one in Arizona.

``No one has the concept we have,'' Beasley said. ``We are focused on terrorism, but we're also an all-crimes center.''

While not all law enforcement agencies can send a representative, Beasley said each agency will have a liaison trained to access the database and to keep communication channels open.

Although the official ribbon-cutting took place Tuesday, the center has been up and running for a few weeks. Beasley said last week's presidential debate in Tempe served as one of the center's first large-scale tests.