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Arizona law enforcement agencies, FBI meet to talk about stopping homegrown extremists

Posted: 6:32 PM, Aug 08, 2019
Updated: 2019-08-09 08:53:10-04

PHOENIX — About 50 members of Arizona's Joint Terrorism Task Force met at Phoenix's FBI office Thursday to talk about recent mass shootings and to discuss new ways to thwart homegrown violent extremists.

Col. Frank Milstead, director of the Arizona Department of Public Safety, told ABC15 he attended the meeting. After discussions with other task force members, he wants to increase the capacity for receiving and investigating citizen tips at the Arizona Counter Terrorism Information Center.

Milstead also wants more ACTIC outreach to youth who may be the first to notice peers becoming radicalized.

"How do we entice them to say it's okay to call in those tips to make sure something doesn't happen to someone they know, love, or care about?" Milstead asked.

Once more tips are coming into ACTIC, Milstead said the counterterrorism team must work to increase partnerships with colleges, schools and government agencies to share the information and gather intelligence. If a partner organization spots warning signs of future violent behavior, more analysis and follow up is needed. In these cases, Milstead sees an expanded role for hundreds of ACTIC's local police liaison officers. They were originally trained to help prevent international terrorist threats after the 9/11 attacks.

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"Those threat liaison officers can do that piece of investigation for those respective agencies and have a quick turnaround because none of us have new staff to really throw at this," Milstead said.

Milstead does caution that police have limited power unless there is a criminal act or threat of violence. Hate speech is not a crime.

"All we can do is work with them, educate them, make contact with them, let them know that we are out there, and someone is paying attention," Milstead said.

ACTIC's tipline (1-877-2-SAVEAZ) is monitored 24 hours a day.

ABC15 Investigator Melissa Blasius welcomes news tips and story ideas. Reach her at Melissa@ABC15.com.