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Agencies work together to detect, prevent crime
STATE — Nearly all 50 states, including Maine, have established an information fusion center to better investigate, solve and prosecute crimes on the state and national level.
To Norway Police Detective Gary Hill, the Maine fusion center is a "one-stop shopping place" for information.
Fusion centers are a combined effort of law enforcement, public safety and private entities.
According to the Maine Information and Analysis Center (MIAC), Maine's designated center in Augusta, the mission is to collect, analyze and appropriately share intelligence between the federal government and the state, in order to prosecute crimes – including terrorist activity – more accurately.
"It's a clearinghouse for information," said Hill. "It's another investigative tool. I don't call them [MIAC] daily, but I have used them to gain information in different investigations."
According to Hill, the Norway Police Department relies on a number of sources of information for investigating crimes. "Even the newspaper, for instance, we rely on the information there," said Hill.
"There are different points of information that we are able to glean from, to get our cases brought forward," he said.
MIAC is a cooperative effort between Maine State Police and the Maine Emergency Management Agency (MEMA).
Recognizing the importance of information sharing – and following the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Centers – nearly all 50 states have created fusion centers for that purpose.
"It's a networking type thing," Hill explained. "From time to time, if we are looking for someone who's not particularly from the area, they [MIAC] do have contacts."
Hill recalls dealing with an individual from New Hampshire involving a bad check case – a time when the fusion center was particularly helpful.
"The individual was creating checks on his own using computers and copiers," said Hill. "He was negotiating them [checks]; he negotiated several of them in the Bethel area, as well as in Norway and Conway, N.H.
"We worked with the Maine fusion center, as well as the New Hampshire fusion center obtaining a photograph of this person, so ... we could put him in a photo line-up and show him to people here in Norway to identify him," he said.
"I was able to work with the other agencies to put this case together."
MIAC is a resource to help Maine citizens participate in keeping Maine safe. Thus, citizens are encouraged to contact MIAC and file a report when they observe or learn of suspicious persons, incidents or activity.
Citizens can remain anonymous if they choose to. Either way, a citizen's information will be taken seriously, analyzed and acted on as needed.
In 2006, President George W. Bush approved the establishment of a national integrated network of state and major urban area fusion centers.
One advantage of fusion centers are that they save on manpower and investigative steps. This is done through both sworn and civilian personnel – with certain knowledge and expertise – who are available at the center to assist law enforcement agencies around the clock.
Information reported to MIAC is evaluated and analyzed to determine whether there is a potential threat to homeland security or possible terrorist activity. Information is then promptly shared with the appropriate law enforcement, critical infrastructure or private sector organization, according to the MIAC website.
"It's just another key to the puzzle to as much information as we can find," said Hill, of the fusion centers. "Anytime we can get any information from any source, we glean it, and see if it's of any use."
"In a nutshell, I can contact the Maine fusion center, which has contacts with a lot of other partners, and they can gather that information and funnel it down to me," said Hill.