Independent media needs you. Join the Tyee.

The Hook: Political news, freshly caught

US-style 'real time intelligence' policing centre coming to BC

An American-style "fusion centre" is set to open in May for Metro Vancouver police agencies and expand its coverage province-wide by 2017.

A report to Vancouver Police Board outlined the $5.8 million-a-year, so-called Real Time Intelligence Centre that will operate around-the-clock and replace the gang-focused Provincial Intelligence Centre, which runs 14 hours a day.

The report said the fusion centre, which was recommended by the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry, will focus on responding to crimes ranging from armed robberies to missing persons to hostage takings and terrorism. It will be located at the RCMP's $1-billion regional headquarters in Surrey.

A security analyst said the fusion centre is the latest step in the integration of policing resources and information sharing across jurisdictions.

"Increasingly these kinds of intelligence-specific partnerships are about preventing and detecting terrorism based on the idea that better integration will bring improved capacity for stopping attacks or crime before they happen," said Adam Molnar, a post-doctoral fellow at the Queen's University Surveillance Studies Centre.

"What that means is that the more that our police try to engage in predictive policing, they tend to focus on worst case scenarios, whether it's in terrorism, or criminal profiles, to shift the burden of proof onto citizens to prove that they're not terrorism risks or they're not criminals."

The VPD report said the first 48 hours is "the most critical period of any criminal investigation."

"Police frontload resources, so suspects can be identified at the earliest stages, before evidence is lost or destroyed. By mining intelligence resources through multiple databases, RTIC-BC will help frontline police officers quickly identify and locate dangerous criminals," said the report.

The 43-person facility will be funded 50 per cent by municipalities, 30 per cent by the province and 20 per cent by the federal government. City of Vancouver will be responsible for 12 per cent of the budget, or $700,000 a year, when it is fully operational.

The U.S. has 70 real time crime centres, commonly called fusion centres, because they combine multiple agencies. Planners for the B.C. fusion centre visited eight U.S. facilities.

The report claimed the Memphis Police Department reduced serious crime by 30 per cent and violent crime 20 per cent since 2006 because of its fusion centre. But a U.S. Senate committee's investigative report had a different take. It found that while fusion centres "may provide valuable services in fields other than terrorism," they were also wasteful and ineffective.

"It's troubling that the very 'fusion' centers that were designed to share information in a post 9-11 world have become part of the problem," said Sen. Ted Coburn, a Texas Republican, when the report was released. "Instead of strengthening our counterterrorism efforts, they have too often wasted money and stepped on Americans' civil liberties."

Department of Homeland Security estimates on spending were hard to pinpoint, ranging from $289 million to $1.4 billion since 2003. Officers produced intelligence reports of "uneven quality -- oftentimes shoddy, rarely timely, sometimes endangering citizens' civil liberties and Privacy Act protections, occasionally taken from already-published public sources, and more often than not unrelated to terrorism."

The Senate committee's review of five fusion centres found spending on dozens of flatscreen TVs, sport utility vehicles that were given away to other local agencies, hidden shirt button cameras, mobile phone tracking devices and "other surveillance equipment unrelated to the analytical mission of a fusion center."

Despite the existence of fusion centres, U.S. authorities were unable to prevent the Boston Marathon bombing last April.

"Robust integration had very little to do with the fact that American security officials couldn't identify the alleged attacker, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, as a threat despite the fact his name was in various counter-terrorism databases," Molnar said. "So there's some concern that even with having the information in the database, that there's some confusion about the direction of sharing information."

Vancouver journalist Bob Mackin is a frequent contributor to The Tyee.

Find more in:

What have we missed? What do you think? We want to know. Comment below. Keep in mind:


  • Verify facts, debunk rumours
  • Add context and background
  • Spot typos and logical fallacies
  • Highlight reporting blind spots
  • Ignore trolls
  • Treat all with respect and curiosity
  • Connect with each other

Do not:

  • Use sexist, classist, racist or homophobic language
  • Libel or defame
  • Bully or troll
  • Troll patrol. Instead, flag suspect activity.
comments powered by Disqus