POLICE CALL ON PUBLIC TO HELP TACKLE TERRORIST THREAT
With the terror threat becoming increasingly complex and varied, police are calling on communities to act on their instincts to help prevent atrocities taking place in the UK and overseas.
The appeal comes as new figures reveal information from the public has assisted counter terrorism police in a third of their most ‘high-risk’ investigations, helping keep communities safe.
The UK’s most senior counter terrorism officer, Met Police Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley, has launched a new Action Counters Terrorism, or ACT, campaign, urging the public to report suspicious activity to the police.
Mr Rowley told an audience of community and business representatives in Manchester that information from the public continues to play significant part in recent successes in countering terrorism. However, officers need even more information to help build better intelligence pictures on individuals or groups plotting attacks.
This comes as the threat, which remains at ‘Severe’ – meaning an attack is highly likely – continues to diversify and expand. This is seen in cases where terrorists have been able to reach across the world to radicalise often vulnerable, volatile or chaotic individuals and groups, and inspire and direct them using instant and secure communications.
In London, Commander Simon Bray, lead for the Met Police Security and Specialist Operations said: “Met officers, along with the rest of the Counter Terrorism Network, are working tirelessly to keep the public safe, however, advances in technology make it more complex and challenging for us to spot would-be terrorists, with radicalisation taking place in a relatively short space of time using encrypted communications.
“Everyone has seen the impact of low technical level attacks on crowded places in other cities across the world; making it even more important that we all remain vigilant and people act, by calling us confidentially, if they are concerned about any suspicious activity.”
Last year a record number of people contacted the confidential Anti-Terrorist Hotline, with the service receiving more than 22,000 calls. Officers hope this number will continue to increase if more can be done to encourage people to call or report online.
Commander Bray continued: “Here in London we have excellent relations with our communities. These are the people that we depend on for information to help us keep Londoners safe. The number or calls and online reports we receive with information is increasing but we are appealing for even more.”
Research to support the ACT campaign looked at public attitudes towards counter terrorism policing. Over 80 per cent of respondents said that it was important for communities to work with police to prevent terrorism.
However a quarter of those surveyed said they might not report their suspicions because of fears over wasting police time and 39 per cent were unsure about what suspicious behaviour might look like.
Commander Bray addressed these concerns, saying: “Research has shown some people worry they might be wasting our time or they are not sure what sort of activity might be suspicious. So we want to allay those concerns and help them to help us make nothing happen by acting on their instincts.”
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “As the face of terrorism continues to change and develop, the public plays an increasingly vital part in the ongoing fight against it. We know their information makes a real difference, so I urge Londoners to keep their eyes and ears open and immediately report anything suspicious to the police.”
More information on what to look out for and how to contact police can be found at gov.uk/ACT or call by calling police confidentially on 0800 789321.
Podcast is a CT campaign first
As part of the new campaign, counter terrorism policing has produced its first ever podcast. ‘Code Severe’ is a two-part series, narrated by actor Mark Strong, revealing previously untold stories of how terrorist attacks on UK soil were prevented – straight from those involved.
The stories are told by counter terrorism detectives, bomb disposal and surveillance officers – many speaking publicly for the first time, as well as senior officers, witnesses and the terrorists themselves.
The podcasts give never heard before accounts of police action to protect the public. In one episode: ‘Multiple Bombings’, a former Special Branch officer explains the race against time to secure vital evidence right under the nose of a terrorist suspect in a highly sensitive covert operation. We also hear – for the very first time – from a member of the public who acted on her instincts after seeing something suspicious and called police, helping detectives locate core ingredients for a massive bomb.
Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley said: “Our first ever podcast series explains, in a compelling and engaging way, how members of the public acted on their instincts and helped save lives. ‘Code Severe’ has been produced to help encourage others to do the same. By being more open about the threat and our work to confront it we hope the public will feel better informed and more confident in coming forward.”
“I hope the podcasts will demonstrate that one piece of information shared with the police can make a massive difference. At the same time, if information turns out to be nothing of concern we will still be happy to have checked it out.” (Source Met Police press release)