MIAMI (CBSMiami) — The Southeast Florida Fusion Center looks like a rather bland, random office. It’s anything but that. It’s where crucial tips come in that ward off terrorism or just every day crime from Key West to West Palm Beach.
For the first time ever, we got a “behind the scenes” look at the center.
“This, right here, are pictures of the Dade County Youth Fair,” Director Capt Janna Bolinger-Heller pointed out as she referenced one of many monitors inside the center.
Detectives from Miami-Dade Police, along with federal agents can set up live feeds to keep an eye on large events where security is a concern.
An example, during the George Zimmerman Trial in Sanford, officers at the Fusion Center were watching protests from the center and in Central Florida.
“We had the capability of posting cameras in Sanford and cameras in Miami-Dade and we were sharing information with Sanford because of the tie here in Miami-Dade,” Bolinger-Heller said.
It’s these same cameras that helped Miami Beach Police catch a burglar who had been a step ahead of police.
“We turned the cameras from a mile away toward this house,” she said. “Turns out the police were coming into the front of the house and a burglar went out the back and jumped in the water and started swimming.”
Police caught up with the crook in the water.
At the center, detectives monitor social media and take in tips. Behind one of the doors, highly sensitive leads are discussed and information can be passed up the chain.
Lt. Maggie Varela explains what makes all this work is the general public. All the equipment and technology in the world is practically useless without people keeping their eyes open for suspicious activity.
“Look at the behavior. What is that individual doing?” Lt. Varela asked. “Is there a vehicle? Is there an item left behind, things like that.”
Agents remind the public to pay attention to the slogan, “If you see something, say something.”
To pass along information or to learn the eight signs of a terrorist, click here.