Herb M. Brown, the region's top cop, has left the FBI to become the head of the area's anti-terrorism agency.
Brown led the FBI's counterintelligence operations in Iraq in 2005 and helped rescue American hostage Roy Hallums. He has been special agent in charge of the FBI's Sacramento division since January 2011. On April 30, he becomes the next executive director of the Central California Intelligence Center, devoted to the collection, analysis and response to potential terrorist threats and other criminal enterprises in the state.
What exactly is the Central California Intelligence Center?
It's an an analytical hub for receiving, gathering, analyzing and eventually disseminating critical intelligence information at all levels. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has allocated $2.5 million to the center and I have a staff of 100 analysts, contractors and law enforcement experts. We have analysts at our center 24/7 to take a look at intelligence on domestic and foreign terrorism, gangs, drugs and sex trafficking. They will immediately see if there are emerging threats, then put out a "suspicious activity report" to patrol officers in the field and detectives at various law enforcement agencies.
We have 84 law enforcement coordinators throughout the Eastern District (of California) and close to 3,000 officers in the field that have a direct connection to the center. We've turned every officer in the state into a counterterrorism agent. That network never existed before 9/11.
Who or what is vulnerable to a terrorist attack?
Dams, bridges, power stations, oil refineries, hospitals, schools, malls and reservoirs can have their ability to respond to terrorist attacks evaluated by the center. In 2007, the Department of Homeland Security created close to 50 so-called "Fusion Centers" nationwide in response to the lessons learned from 9/11, when agencies failed to share critical information that might have thwarted the attacks.
Would the network of Fusion Centers have been able to prevent 9/11?
If the information we saw and had prior to 9/11 came through one of our centers, there would have been a tremendous amount of examination. The minute we knew about the hijackers attending a Florida flight school, we would have had a full team of counterterrorism agents on it. Around 9/11, we all know that didn't happen because there were dribs and drabs of information that some people thought was important and others didn't.
The center gives officers in the field information about what the FBI's doing and they become our eyes and ears. It's not luck this country hasn't been attacked since 9/11. Through hard work we've thwarted several major attacks nationwide.
What are the biggest potential threats?
There are tremendous threats coming at us from cyberattacks. With DHS, we're creating assessments of dams, oil fields, electrical grids and hospitals so if there is an incident we know how to respond. Our responsibility is to do preventative maintenance and training so we get out in front of issues. In every pocket of California we see a different array of threats. In Stockton it may be gangs. In Fresno it may be marijuana cultivation. Up north it may be domestic terrorism, such as groups that think federal authority's null and void.
What were some of your most satisfying cases as Sacramento FBI director?
When we had a serial rapist up in Chico, we put over 20 agents up there immediately and provided some mapping of the places and the times of the rapes. The suspect was a married medical assistant who was apprehending coeds and drugging them using syringes. We knew he'd hit in the early morning in certain locations, and at 3 a.m. we saw a car drive by one of the locations we'd mapped several times and a stop was made. We found tape, syringes and handcuffs, and got him off the streets.
We also teamed up with police in Fairfield after a 13-year-old was brutally killed on Super Bowl weekend. We provided 15 agents for two weeks, full time, to track the primary suspect and also provided our forensics response teams. With some good DNA analysis, we were able to arrest him.
What really made this case was interviewing people in the neighborhood. What eventually tipped us off was somebody seeing a certain vehicle in a location at a certain time and the investigators started working on a profile. They had to (keep this person under surveillance) in various parts of the Bay Area, and after three or four days of lengthy work they felt they had enough probable cause to make a vehicle stop and through DNA testing were able to make a confirmed match.
What's the region's biggest crime issue?
We have tremendous problems with gang activity from Bakersfield all the way to Chico and Redding.
The Mexican Mafia and Nuestra Familia prison gangs have huge influence on Sureños and Norteños, street gangs who've squeezed in the whole Central Valley because of their ongoing turf battles. There's a direct nexus between Mexican prison gangs, street gangs and Mexican cartels.
Their primary focus is manufacture and transport of methamphetamine and cocaine from the Stockton and Modesto area throughout the United States.
Call The Bee's Stephen Magagnini, (916) 321-1072. Follow him on Twitter @stevemagagnini.