The Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office has a branch of the Southeast Florida Fusion Center (SEFFC) located inside it, and it is saving lives behind the scenes. Sheriff Ric Bradshaw, who is chairman of regional homeland security as far as the Florida Keys, recently gave Channel 5 News a tour of the Palm Beach Regional Fusion Center (PBRFC), which is the Northern Operational Office of the SEFFC.
So what is a Fusion Center? In simple terms, it helps stop threats of terrorism like the recent shooting in San Bernardino, CA. The center also aids in crime prevention and resolution, and helps responders during manmade and natural disasters.
“It gives us the advantage of having real time intelligence information,” Sheriff Bradshaw told Channel 5 News during the tour of the two rooms which hold a total of 12 video screens. There is a wall of eight video screens in the main room and a wall of four video screens in the next room. “We wanted to make sure all local law enforcement agencies in south Florida would have the necessary information.”
There is a national network of fusion Centers that began appearing in the United States after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. According to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) fact sheet, “A fusion center is a collaborative effort of two or more agencies that provide resources, expertise and information to the center with the goal of maximizing their ability to detect, prevent, investigate, and respond to criminal and terrorist activity.”
The PBRFC/SEFFC is a combination of the local agencies for Emergency Management, Fire and Rescue, Health Department, Department of Transportation, Law Enforcement and RDSTF. Their federal partners are DHS, TSA, FBI, DHS-HIS, Secret Service and ATF. This center is classified as an all-crimes, all-hazards fusion center, so it deals with intelligence analysis and investigation, as well as fusion.
The National Fusion Center Association lists 78 main centers across the country and in U.S. territories, such as Guam. The satellite or branch offices such as the PBRFC are not listed. This network of fusion centers works together to help protect the nation and their local respective areas by gathering, analyzing, and sharing information. Criminals crossing state lines, terrorists organizing threats, and potential catastrophes from weather hazards such as flash floods, earthquakes, and tornadoes all can be dealt with more efficiently through this network.
These centers provide a great service to the United States and their local communities, but Sheriff Ric Bradshaw wants people to realize that they only work if the residents in those communities are alert and willing to let the authorities know when they see something suspicious.
“Which brings me back to San Bernardino. A woman across the street had an idea something was not right. All these Middle Eastern men in and out. All the packages being delivered. People working in the garage till 2-3 in the morning,” Sheriff Bradshaw explained to Channel 5 News. He said the woman did not alert authorities for fear that it would look like she was biased. “We’ve got to get away from the political correctness that everybody wants everybody to adhere to and say what is at stake is our safety,” he said.
“See Something—Say Something,” Sheriff Bradshaw says that is the best approach. He stresses that he does not advocate people spying on their neighbors and calling about every little thing, but if they see something suspicious that does not feel right, they should alert the authorities and let them check it out. When law enforcement is alerted and can check things out, then the center can do the job it was meant to do and protect the public from situations like the one in San Bernardino.
A perfect example of the PBRFC being able to prevent terrorism happened last summer when a Florida Keys beach was the place of an alleged intended bombing. “We got information on a guy. Said we need to look on Facebook…he wants to be radicalized,” said Sheriff Bradshaw. Because the tip came into the Palm Beach County Regional Fusion Center first, the FBI was able to arrest the man named Harlem Suarez and stop him from carrying out the alleged bombing. Preventing the high number of casualties on a Florida beach in the summer from a bombing is exactly what this center was created to accomplish, and none of those people on that beach that summer day realized that they had been saved behind the scenes.
Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office
Anthony Rodriguez, Social Media Specialist
3228 Gun Club Rd
West Palm Beach, FL 33406