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California's 40th District

An Orange County law enforcement facility brought together GOP Rep. Young Kim and Democratic Rep. Mike Levin this week.

Appearing jointly at the Orange County Sheriff’s Department on Wednesday, Aug. 31, the bipartisan duo said they were able to add nearly $3.5 million for upgrades to the Orange County Intelligence Assessment Center in the yet-to-be-passed federal funding package for fiscal year 2023.

OCIAC (referred to as oh-kayak), in place since 2007, is part of a network of fusion centers where law enforcement officials coordinate, analyze, collect, and share information and intelligence with other public safety agencies, including fire and health, and both private and public sector groups.

Orange County is the second-highest producing fusion center in the United States, only behind the New York Police Department, according to Sheriff Don Barnes. And aside from counter-terrorism work, OCIAC also addresses social unrest, cybercrimes, domestic violence extremists, threats to churches, and more, according to Director Alberto Martinez.

“Getting the right information to the right people at the right time can make a world of difference between life and death,” Kim said. “From rising cyberattacks to the recent Laguna Woods shooting — where the Sheriff’s Department responded in record time — to the organized smash-and-grab crimes, the Orange County Intelligence Assessment Center plays an important role in keeping our communities safe.”

OCAIC now operates out of a 4,000-square-foot facility provided by the city of Orange.

But with the $3.47 million planned in the federal budget, OCIAC is expected to be moved to a newer, 120,000-square-foot facility in Tustin that will also house other investigatory elements of the Sheriff’s Department to create a real-time crime center, Barnes said. The facility will also hold dispatch and work with contiguous counties.

Funding will also be used for additional personnel, tools and technology, said Martinez. Overall, the new OCIAC facility will require $12 million in equipment and supplies, officials estimated. (The remainder of the funding not included in the federal budget comes from the county through bond funding.)

“The contribution that this will make in keeping Orange County one of the safest communities to live — not just statewide, but nationally — will put us in a much better position to keep us in that safest communities to live in the United States (group). But you have to start operating ahead of the curve of our adversaries and how they’re functioning,” Barnes said.

The new facility is slated to open by the second quarter of 2023, but Barnes noted the Sheriff’s Department has run into supply chain issues, construction costs, and more — making the deadline more of a “moving target.”

In California, other fusion centers are located in Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco and Sacramento. Most states, including Arizona and Oregon, only have one such facility.

Barnes stressed that OCIAC isn’t “spying” on people during its intelligence gathering, and he ensured constitutional rights and privacy are upheld in its assessment processes while still protecting the community.

Kim and Levin said they remained committed to ensuring the funding remains in the federal budget.

“This is where our efforts in Congress should be — working across the aisle to get big things done for the communities that we serve,” Levin said.

“This is a great example of what has been done despite the very partisan nature of what the media portrays what we do in Washington, D.C.,” Kim said.

Orange County Register

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