Updated: Tuesday, 30 Dec 2008, 11:02 PM CST
Published : Tuesday, 30 Dec 2008, 10:15 PM CST
AUSTIN (KXAN) - Homeland Security is giving the Travis County Sheriff's Office a $150,000 grant to create an Austin area fusion center which will allow local law enforcement agencies to share information about criminal suspects.
"The reason we have this operation in place is because we want to better the security of our community and whatever we need to do that, we're going to do," said Captain Art Cardenas of the Travis County Sheriff's Office. "The result will be that criminals will be taken off the street and our communities will be safer."
Fusion Centers began popping up across the country after 9-11. The idea is for law enforcement and intelligence agencies to better share information.
"People will say it's part of the Homeland Security initiative and it is but on a local level we're more concerned with gathering more information about the local criminals," said Captain Cardenas.
Federal guidelines for fusion centers allow investigators to track criminal suspects by obtaining financial records, credit reports, internet and email data and medical records. But specific information about exactly how they work is limited. The American Civil Liberties Union has been an outspoken critic.
"There's a lack of boundary setting. There's a lack of check and balances and we're very concerned that we don't even have enough knowledge about how they work to properly oversee these centers," said Debbie Russell of the ACLU of Texas.
The Austin Area Fusion Center will be up and running in the next 10 months. The Williamson and Hays County Sheriff's Departments, along with the Round Rock police department and the Texas Department of Public Safety will also be participating.