DPS runs center to thwart local terror attacks

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The ACTIC watch center is a room full of screens, computers, video feeds and live camera views, all of which are monitored 24/7 by the Arizona Department of Public Safety along with the FBI and other Valley agencies. (Source: KPHO/KTVK) The ACTIC watch center is a room full of screens, computers, video feeds and live camera views, all of which are monitored 24/7 by the Arizona Department of Public Safety along with the FBI and other Valley agencies. (Source: KPHO/KTVK)
iOS version of the new Arizona Department of Public Safety Mobile app (Source: iTunes) iOS version of the new Arizona Department of Public Safety Mobile app (Source: iTunes)
Android version of Arizona DPS Mobile app (Source: GooglePlay) Android version of Arizona DPS Mobile app (Source: GooglePlay)
PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -

Disrupting terrorist and criminal activity is the main objective of the Arizona Counter Terrorism Information Center.

The ACTIC watch center is a room full of screens, computers, video feeds and live camera views, all of which are monitored 24/7 by the Arizona Department of Public Safety along with the FBI and other Valley agencies.

"They're looking for trends and things that are going on in open-source media, whether it's things that come through the normal media channels, comes through tips and leads or it comes out of the social media realm," Col. Frank Milstead, the director of the Department of Public Safety said. 

Monitored by analysts and law officers, the watch center acts as a clearinghouse for tips on possible terrorist and criminal activity. When something does happen, like the tragedy in Orlando, the center provides intelligence, investigative and technical support to state and local agencies.

"Once we've been briefed by the FBI, we want to make sure that there's no connectivity, that there's nothing happening here in Arizona," Milstead said.

While no Arizona threats were uncovered after the Orlando incident, the center did monitor the vigils around the state put on by the LGBT community, the community targeted in the  Orlando attack.

"They track social media, they track open-source media, and they try to ensure that those events are going to be safe," Milstead explained.

According to Milstead, the center is already working on intelligence regarding the visit presidential candidate Donald Trump is making to the Valley this weekend.

"The political dialogue and rhetoric that is going on within that particular campaign is very inflammatory to a lot of groups," Milstead said. "So we start looking at those groups. We work with the Phoenix Police Department and their Community Response Squad to try to start looking at who's going to be there? Who's going to be protesting? What are they mad about? And how do we kind of diffuse that before it happens."

When a tip comes in about a possible threat, the information gathering begins. Who is behind the threat? What do they look like? Who are they tied to and where can they be found? That information is then given to the agents or officers on the streets.

One success story surrounds the Burton Bar Library in downtown Phoenix. In December 2015, the ACTIC watch center was made aware of a subject threatening to carry out a mass shooting at the library.

"Based on the information that they were able to come up with, they were able to get a photograph of who we thought was the caller and the person who was threatening to conduct this mass shooting," Milstead said. "And undercover officers, actually in the library, were able to identify the subject and take him into custody before anything happened."

In addition to an online reporting system, the ACTIC has a hotline for people to submit tips about suspicious activity. That phone number is 1-877-2-SAVEAZ (1-877-272-8329).

If you prefer you can text "ACT" plus your message to 274637 (CRIMES) or download the free iWatch Mobile app, which is available for both iOS and Android devices. 

The Arizona DPS just launched a new app for smartphones. (Get it for iOS hereGet it for Android devices here.) On that app, you can check for sex offenders in your area with one push of a button, and you can enter tips on crimes anonymously. If you choose the suspicious activity option, that tip goes directly to the ACTIC watch center.

Copyright 2016 KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.


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