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WV intelligence center monitors gang activity

January 21, 2010

WV intelligence center monitors gang activity

By Beth Vorhees

West Virginia has its own intelligence gathering agency, the West Virginia Intelligence Fusion Center, located at the capitol complex in Charleston. Its mission is to connect the dots and share information with a variety of state agencies.

The center was established in 2008. Every state has at least of these centers.

Director Tom Kirk spoke to members of the House Committee on Homeland Security that every state has at least one of these centers.

“When fusion centers were first developed they were developed to fight terrorism. But they found out that a lot of the information that was coming in to the fusion centers pertained to other things, drugs, child pornography, a little bit of everything,” Kirk said.

Kirk said officials decided to log and channel all of this information to the proper authorities.

“If it effects the safety and security of West Virginia we want to help out,” Kirk said.

Kirk says information on any criminal activity from terrorist threats to child pornography is researched by the center’s staff and FBI analysts and quickly disseminated to state and federal agencies.

House members were most interested in the centers work to monitor gang activity in the state.

“We have some of the most notorious gangs in the nation setting up shop in West Virginia,” said Kirk. “It’s kind of amazing to us—we’re seeing gang graffiti in places, very rural parts of West Virginia.”

“I’m getting teachers e-mailing me by telephone, they walk past something and click it and send it to me and saying “is this gang graffiti?” And so from that we’re developing a sense of where these gangs are moving into, if they’re getting big,” Kirk said.

Kirk warns that gangs are involved in drug dealing, gun running and counterfeit goods.

The West Virginia Intelligence Fusion Center has a budget of about $489,000 from state funds.

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