AUSTIN (KXAN) - Homeland Security is giving the Travis County Sheriff's Office a$150,000 grant to create an Austin area fusion center which willallow local law enforcement agencies to share information aboutcriminal suspects.
"The reason we have this operation in place is because we wantto better the security of our community and whatever we need to dothat, we're going to do," said Captain Art Cardenas of the TravisCounty Sheriff's Office. "The result will be that criminals will betaken 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 bettershare information.
"People will say it's part of the Homeland Security initiativeand it is but on a local level we're more concerned with gatheringmore information about the local criminals," said CaptainCardenas.
Federal guidelines for fusion centers allow investigators totrack criminal suspects by obtaining financial records, creditreports, internet and email data and medical records. But specificinformation about exactly how they work is limited. The AmericanCivil Liberties Union has been an outspoken critic.
"There's a lack of boundary setting. There's a lack of check andbalances and we're very concerned that we don't even have enoughknowledge 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 next10 months. The Williamson and Hays County Sheriff's Departments,along with the Round Rock police department and the TexasDepartment of Public Safety will also be participating.
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