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Intelligence helping authorities in Arizona, US track down threats

Officials investigate the scene where a suspect in a series of bombing attacks in Austin blew himself up as authorities closed in, Wednesday, March 21, 2018, in Round Rock, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

LISTEN: Paul Penzone, Maricopa County Sheriff

PHOENIX — Each violent serial event that shocks the United States and elsewhere has taught authorities something, Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone said Wednesday.

“Intelligence has become the most powerful asset in law enforcement today,” Penzone said on KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Arizona’s Morning News, just hours after a serial bombing suspect in Texas killed himself.

Two people died in the series of explosions that began March 2.

“There are lessons learned relative to how to be more effective in quickly identifying or finding evidence,” Penzone said.

As law enforcement officers began to converge on a car parked in ditch near a hotel outside Austin, suspect Mark Anthony Conditt blew himself up inside.

Authorities said an online order of “exotic batteries” guided them to identifiying Conditt.

“Here, we have (Arizona Counter Terrorism Information Center).

“This is a chance for us to actually be out front of a lot of things and to make sure that we are more prepared when issues occur and better prepared for dealing with large events,” he said.

The multiagency task force gathers intelligence and investigates homeland security issues and potential threats.

“They stay on top of this information and share it with other agencies and they try to continuously track those that can pose a threat to us. … Every time a new name comes up it’s added to the list,” Penzone said.

Penzone’s office, along with the state’s Department of Public Safety, Valley police and fire departments and the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office, and federal agencies, among others, have been assigned to the task force.

More help, Penzone said, can come from private citizens.

“We are a vulnerable nation because we are a nation of freedom and democracy — that’s something we embrace.

But because of that, we can be more vulnerable. Vigiliance is about the community’s investment … to be our partner in solving crimes or preventing crimes and that is all the time. It’s not (just) when we see events such as these.”