To defend Southern California more effectively from terrorist attacks, federal, state and local law enforcement agencies on Thursday launched the area's first "fusion" command center.
The Los Angeles Joint Regional Intelligence Center (JRIC), based in Norwalk, Calif., is designed to provide a common information and intelligence-sharing network for local police and federal agents in seven counties working to infiltrate or expose terrorist operations. It will combine information from the Los Angeles Police Department, FBI and the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.
"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.
"It's really unique that we have so many players coming together," Willie T. Hulon, FBI executive assistant director, said at the center's opening Thursday. "This will be a model for the rest of the country."
Memex is the Virginia-based company that created the search software used by the new L.A. fusion center. It allows the JRIC to gather, collate, track, analyze and disseminate intelligence information in real time, including counterterrorism tips and leads.
"One of the primary things we’ve done with the multi-agency approach is collecting all tips and leads into a single center to provide searching and cross-referencing with other databases within the whole system," Mike Himley, western general manager of Memex, told FOXNews.com. "Instead of the old manual processes, everything's more automated."
Memex has been in business for 20 years. Scotland Yard has been using its technology for more than a decade, and some other U.S. agencies are also utilizing it. The company hopes to put its software to use in other cities' fusion centers in the future.
"We're enthusiastic to try to share information," Himley said.
The Memex system works to reduce search time by allowing investigators to research and locate an entity by clicking through one unifying intelligence system. Agencies can share leads and are able to conduct more efficient searches when trying to locate or apprehend a suspect.
Without this search capability, Himley said, the investigator may have to make phone calls to various other agencies or sift through mounds of paper documents. A search concerning a suspicious rental truck can be completed in seconds instead of hours, Himley continued.
"The mission here is to look at counter-terrorism operations. [The system] significantly speeds up intel reports, it helps them move faster," he said.
While similar centers exist in other areas around the country, the Los Angeles center is staffed by 62 personnel from more than 15 other agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security. The center will be responsible for a region spanning seven counties which is also home to some 18 million residents. Roughly $6 million has been invested in the operation.
"No place is going to be better prepared to defend against terrorism," Los Angeles police Chief William Bratton said.
In related news, DHS announced on Thursday that analysts from the Office of Intelligence Analysis will work with state and local authorities on fusion centers in New York City, Los Angeles, Reisterstown, Md., and Baton Rouge, La. to help facilitate the fast-flow of information and intelligence on all types of hazards.
"One of the the department's top priorities is to work with state and local authorities and share information that helps to connect the dots on emerging threats," Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said in a statement. "There is no more effective way to connect the dots than by having our personnel sitting in a chair next to their local counterparts, providing them with information they need to make timely and informed decisions on how best to protect their community."
Thirty-eight fusion centers can be found around the country. DHS has so far provided $380 million to state and local governments to support the facilities.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.