Londoners urged to be alert to terror risk during festive season

·3-min read
 (REUTERS)
(REUTERS)

Londoners have been urged to raise the alarm about potential terrorists in their midst as Scotland Yard announced that armed and other police patrols are being stepped up to combat the risk of a Christmas attack in the capital.

The Met said firearms specialists and other officers specially trained to “stop tell-tale signs of people .. who might be preparing an act of terrorism” would be deployed in increased numbers over the coming weeks to shopping areas, transport hubs and other crowded locations across London.

But it said the public could play an equally vital role in spotting signs of unusual behaviour among their friends and family and contacting police to allow investigations to begin before it becomes too late.

The combined decision to step up counter-terrorism patrols and appeal for public vigilance follows the attack on Liverpool Women’s Hospital and the killing of Conservative MP Sir David Amess and the increase in the official terror threat level to “severe” – meaning a strike is deemed highly likely.

The Met Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick warned recently that the capital remains the focus of a significant proportion of terrorist plotting. On Monday, the country’s top counter-terrorism officer, Assistant Commissioner Matt Jukes, said that the help of Londoners was essential in protecting the city from attack.

“We know that people can spot all sorts of signals - that might be online activity, purchases made online and strange items delivered to homes or other locations, people paying particular attention to security arrangements,” he said.

“There are a whole host of indicators that we are alert to, but friends and family and members of the public who know what’s normal in the place or family where they live, are best placed to identify. Of course there are those cases that we are monitoring very accurately, but the public are our eyes and ears.”

Mr Jukes said that a “very high proportion” of the calls or contacts police receive each year to the anti-terrorist hotline or its online equivalent, proved helpful to investigations and that such tip-offs were particularly important in London because of the number of terror attacks targeted on the capital.

He added: “Londoners who really understand the place that they live and the people they live around can make an enormous contribution to keeping the city safe.

“The challenge of people who are less known to us, or the risk they present is less known to us, really do amplify the public role of the public .

“Communities defeat terrorism and every year we receive in the region of ten thousand calls and contacts to the anti-terrorism hotline and the online equivalents and around one in five of those leads to intelligence that makes a meaningful contribution to an investigation.

“People may be concerned that they are wasting our time, but in fact we see a very high proportion of those contacts lead to really meaningful lines of inquiry. The key message to the public is that their vigilance is critical.”

Scotland Yard said the extra patrols in the capital will be “highly visible” and include armed officers but would also involve the deployment of plain clothes police, as well as number plate recognition technology, CCTV and other methods.

Others taking part would be “specially trained officers who are able to spot tell-tale signs of people who may be involved in criminality, and also detect and disrupt those who might be planning or preparing an act of terrorism”.

Met Deputy Assistant Commissioner Matt Twist said: “It has been two years since we’ve been able to get together and enjoy London in all its festive glory with some degree of ‘normality’.

“But, tragically, we’ve seen two terrorist attacks in Essex and Merseyside over the past few weeks, and as a result, the terrorism threat level has been raised from ‘substantial’ to ‘severe’. It is important people stay vigilant, and report anything that might look out of place or suspicious.”

  • Anyone wanting to report concerns can contract the anti-terrorist hotline on 0800 789 321, or report online via gov.uk/ACT.

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