Assistant Commissioner Alistair Sutherland: spring update 2021
When the COVID-19 pandemic began in 2020, I don’t think any of us could have imagined just how much of a major impact it would have on our lives.
Now, almost a year on, most of the world is still living with the virus and in the UK, we find ourselves in lockdown again. While many aspects of our lives are now different, I want to take this opportunity to remind you of one thing that hasn’t changed: our commitment to keeping our communities safe from the threat of terrorism.
As I write this, the threat to the UK from terrorism is categorised as ’substantial’, meaning that it is likely that a terrorist attack could occur.
Continued response to terrorism
There may be a different look and feel to our city centres and public locations amid COVID-19, but we all need to be mindful that the threat of terrorism has not gone away. I know the Square Mile is much quieter these days, so it’s important, now more than ever, for those still visiting the City for work or other essential reasons, to be our eyes and ears.
Much like our approach to combatting COVID-19, defeating terrorism requires a collective community effort, where police, security staff, retail and hospitality workers and the public come together to minimise the chance of attacks. By working together in this way, communities can defeat terrorism.
As well as playing your part, please be reassured that nationally, Counter Terrorism Policing (CTP) and local police forces continue to work throughout the year to ensure that the UK is both well prepared for and protected from the threat of terrorism.
Most recently, CTP launched their winter vigilance campaign, encouraging the public to remain vigilant, to look out for suspicious activity and report their concerns. As part of this campaign, deployments of Project Servator, a policing tactic that aims to disrupt a range of criminal activity, including terrorism, continue to take place across the UK.
City of London Police are the national lead force for Project Servator, which this month celebrates its seven year anniversary. During that time, more forces have adopted Project Servator across the UK and beyond, including New South Wales Police Force in Australia and Royal Gibraltar Police.
Project Servator officers have continued to patrol the City throughout the pandemic, aiming to disrupt hostile reconnaissance – the information-gathering that terrorists and other criminals need to do to plan their actions.
As well as these deployments, our Counter Terrorism Security Advisers have trained over 300 individuals from more than 20 businesses based in the City since the beginning of the first lockdown in March 2020.
This training gives individuals the skills to identify and report suspicious activity, so that they are equipped to be our extra eyes and ears when the City returns to business as usual. If you would like to learn more about how to sign up for ‘See Check and Notify’ training with your local Counter Terrorism Security Advisors, please visit: www.cpni.gov.uk/Scan
Alternatively, for anyone who would like to become a CT Citizen and learn how to spot the signs of suspicious behaviour and understand what to do in the event of a major incident, you can find out more information and sign up for the ACT E-Learning training here: www.gov.uk/government/news/act-awareness-elearning
Sector Policing efforts
In addition to Project Servator, officers from our new Sector Policing model, which launched in October 2020, have been on patrol throughout COVID-19.
Our Dedicated Ward Officers (DWOs), who are responsible for particular areas of the City, also work against the threat of terrorism. Each officer is familiar with their area, which helps them spot things, or people, that may not seem right. Our DWOs have already built up good relationships to become trusted in the community: people know that they can talk to their DWO about any concerns they may have.
To find out more about our Sector Policing Model, visit: www.cityoflondon.police.uk/sectorpolicing
DWOs cover all aspects of policing and focus on the response to, and management of, crime and disorder in their ward, which includes antisocial behaviour, drugs and alcohol, vulnerable people and hate crime.
One example of success is the tremendous results this team has achieved in the last few months in tackling bicycle thefts across the City. With more people opting to cycle into the City amid COVID-19, following warnings from the government not to use public transport unless absolutely necessary, we started to see a slow, but steady increase in bike thefts. Losing a bike, regardless of its financial value, has a significant impact on the victim – they may well use that bike to get to work or school or for work, as bike couriers or delivery staff, for example.
So far we’ve made 16 arrests in relation to bicycle thefts and recovered more than 70 bicycles, a number of which have been returned to their owners. Thanks to our officers’ work in this area, the level offending is the lowest we’ve seen over the last 4 years.
As well as enforcement action, our officers have also carried out prevention activities, and in 2020 we held 28 bike marking events, marking 749 bikes in the process. We look forward to holding more of these events once the COVID-19 restrictions lift again.
While we may be living in one of the most challenging times in recent history, your police force is still out there, still protecting you from threats as great as terrorism and as focused as antisocial behaviour where you live or work. But we work in partnership with the public: we want you to talk to us about your concerns and let us know if you see anything that doesn’t seem right. We all have a role to play in keeping our communities safe.
If you see or hear something suspicious, trust your instincts and ACT. Report it to police in confidence via gov.uk/ACT or on 0800 789 321. In an emergency, always call 999.
Keep safe. Stay well.