Fusing the Four Corners: Integrating Intelligence-Led Policing Within New Mexico’s Rural and Tribal Communities

Robert Vasquez

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

Collecting and sharing information is the heart of effective intelligence-led policing. One mechanism for managing law enforcement intelligence is intelligence fusion centers, which help partners share threat information between the federal, state, tribal, and local levels. The House Committee on Homeland Security, for example, has called for greater use of fusion centers, arguing that “these State and locally owned hubs for information sharing and analysis serve as the connection point between front-line law enforcement and first responders, and the Intelligence Community.”2F[1] Today, there are seventy-nine fusion centers throughout the country, located within several states and major urban cities.

Although fusion centers were created after 9/11 to combat terrorism, many have broadened their focus to address all crimes or all hazards. The “all-hazards approach refers to preparedness for terrorist attacks, major disasters and other emergencies within the United States.”3F[2] This approach allows fusion centers to broaden their areas of responsibility beyond terrorism and related crime, to include major disasters and emergencies. Statistically, after all, citizens of free countries are more likely to be victims of violent crimes than of a terrorist attack.4F[3]

Unlike other state fusion centers, the New Mexico All Source Intelligence Center (NMASIC)—which is embedded within the New Mexico Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management (DHSEM)—has not expanded its mission statement to include public safety and major criminal threats. The NMASIC’s mission is to serve as a “cross-jurisdictional partnership between local, state, and federal agencies—including private sectors—for the collection, analysis, and timely dissemination of terrorism information.”5F[4] While cases of potential terrorism have remained consistently low, between 2012 and 2013 New Mexico’s violent crime rate rose 6.6 percent, which was the most significant increase in the country.6F[5] This spike in violence shows that the NMASIC may benefit from an all-hazards approach that provides analytical and intelligence support for criminal investigations through intelligence-led policing.

The NMASIC serves a population of over two million, including 102 municipalities and 117 rural communities, which include 25 tribal communities on 122,000 square miles.7F[6] According to the University of New Mexico’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research, the state has followed the national trend of losing rural populations to urban areas but has kept a higher percentage of rural areas compared to the rest of the country.8F[7] This statistical data indicates that, compared to other state fusion centers, the NMASIC’s area of responsibility is unique; therefore, its mission statement may need to reflect the jurisdictional diversity of rural and tribal communities in the information-sharing process. The NMASIC’s area of responsibility differs from most other fusion centers in another way: it covers a largely rural and tribal population.

Research and practice show that intelligence fusion centers should transform to law enforcement needs and, more specifically, to intelligence-led policing. Furthermore, intelligence-led policing is no longer a concept confined to urban policing; rural and tribal communities could benefit from the practice. This research identifies key lessons learned and provides recommendations and suggestions for future research.

 

[1] House Committee on Homeland Security, “Advancing The Homeland Security Information Sharing Environment: A Review of the National Network of Fusion Centers” (majority staff report, House Committee on Homeland Security, November 2017).

[2] Department of Homeland Security and Department of Justice, “Considerations for Fusion Center and Emergency Operations Center Coordination: Comprehensive Preparedness Guide (CPG) 502,” FEMA, May 2010, https://www.fema.gov/media-library-data/20130726-1828-25045-3917/cpg_502_
comprehensive_preparedness_guide_considerations_for_fusion_center___eoc_coordination_2010.pdf.

[3] Mike German, Thinking Like a Terrorist: Insights of a Former FBI Undercover Agent, 1st ed. (Washington, DC: Potomac Books, 2007).

[4] “Fusion Center,” New Mexico Department of Homeland Security & Emergency Management, accessed January 13, 2018, http://www.nmdhsem.org/Fusion_Center.aspx.

[5] Alexander Kent and Thomas C. Frohlich, “The Most Dangerous States in America,” USA Today, January 3, 2015, https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/business/2015/01/03/24-7-wall-st-most-dangerous-states/21214169/.

[6] Suzan Reagan, “Census Population Estimate Release March 2017,” Bureau of Business & Economic Research, April 6, 2017, http://bber.unm.edu/blog/?p=376.

[7] Suzan Reagan, “How Rural Is New Mexico?,” Bureau of Business & Economic Research, December 9, 2016, http://bber.unm.edu/blog/?p=364.

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