Hundreds of California’s top criminal investigators gathered in Anaheim this week for a conference aimed at improving the fight against organized crime and international terrorism.
“We need to detect, deter and intervene in criminal activities whenever possible,” Police Chief John Welter said. “But now more than ever we need to reach out to our communities to help.”
Hosted by the Asian Gang Investigators Association of California, the conference – which started Monday and ends today at the Disneyland Hotel – featured seminars on topics such as “Women and Terrorism in Our Culture – Is it Possible?” and “The Active Shooter Paradigm.”
In his remarks, Welter cited recent research that showed the importance of following up on suspicious behavior to thwart terrorism.
He also highlighted APD’s efforts to integrate intelligence sharing from street cops to intelligence officers – inside and out of the police department.
The department employs 40 “Terrorism Liaison Officers” who are trained to catch criminals before they act. They also help potential victims harden targets. Across Orange County, more than 770 law enforcement, military, medical and fire officials have completed the training, he said.
Welter also shared the key role the private sector plays in securing potential targets such as fuel storage tanks, mass transit and entertainment venues.
“We also need to do more about helping our community members recognize criminal behavior and then report what they see,” he said. “The domestic terrorism threat is more complex than reporting a burglary in progress.”
In Anaheim, a new “Suspicious Activity Report” was developed to record any activity that may be tied to terrorism, he said. In 2009, APD received 100 such reports. More than 80 have been processed this year.
An example would be somebody buying supplies that could be used to make bombs.
But law enforcement must tread carefully in this area, he said.
“Civil rights issues are of great concern to all of us in the policing profession,” he said. “We realize the success of any suspicious activity reporting outreach depends on the ability to earn and maintain the public’s trust.
“We must be as transparent in our practices as possible without releasing sensitive or confidential investigative information.”