A database that allows the Los Angeles police and sheriff's departments to share crime information useful for analyzing terrorism threats would be expanded to include 45 other law enforcement agencies in the county under a $7-million contract endorsed Monday by elected officials.
Despite concern about sensitive information being shared so widely, the Los Angeles City Council's Public Safety Committee recommended that the contracts be approved for a system to be run out of the Joint Regional Intelligence Center in Norwalk.
That center is operated by the LAPD, FBI and Sheriff's Department and already has begun developing a system to share crime data useful in analyzing terrorist leads between those agencies, such as the names of persons arrested, cited or interviewed by officers, or thought to be involved in crimes.
"This is critical to our terrorism strategy in Southern California," LAPD Deputy Chief Mark Leap told the panel. "What this system will do is link all the disparate law enforcement databases together so analysts in the Joint Regional Intelligence Center will have access to that information and will be able to connect the dots."
Large cities joining the group include Long Beach, Pasadena, Burbank, Beverly Hills, Inglewood and Whittier.
"If a terrorist is stopped and interviewed by a police officer and a field interview card is completed in the city of El Segundo, there is no ability for our analysts in the Joint Regional Intelligence Center to know that that interview has taken place," Leap said.
The center has received 483 tips and leads on potential terrorism since it opened in July, Leap said. Eventually, he said, the Los Angeles County system, called COPLINK, will be connected to similar systems in Orange and San Diego counties.
Councilman Jack Weiss, chairman of the public safety panel, said the information would also allow police analysts to identify patterns involving other types of crimes.
"While it is central to the fight against terrorism, it won't just be terrorism-related," Weiss said. "It will help solve street crime and organized crime and drug crime just as surely as it will have an impact on the battle against terrorism."
Councilman Dennis Zine, a former LAPD sergeant, supported the expansion even as he worried about keeping the information secure, especially given that it is an Internet-based system.
"You hear more and more of these systems being violated," Zine said.
Tim Riley, the LAPD's chief information officer, said the system is designed to protect the information from improper disclosure.