16 January 2015
In light of the attacks in Paris last week, the National Policing Lead for Counter-terrorism, Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley has provided an update:
I wanted to make a short statement about some of the steps we are taking following the attacks in Paris last week and elsewhere. The UK has been at a heightened level of threat from international terrorism for some years now. We have seen attacks in a number of countries, including France, Australia and Canada over the last few months and in Belgium last night. We have also been working with security services to investigate a variety of threats and to disrupt a number of different plots to undertake attacks here. In 2014 there were 327 arrests for terrorist offences that is a 32 % increase compared to the previous year.
Last summer, the national threat level was raised to SEVERE. This means a terrorist attack here is highly likely. At that time we took a number of additional steps to protect communities and the public. This included, but was by no means limited to, additional armed patrols and more visible policing. We also held a counter-terrorism awareness week before Christmas to alert the public to the need for greater vigilance, and we offered specific advice where necessary.
But, in light of the attacks in Paris last week, we have been reviewing, alongside our partners, our overall security posture. This is a further step in a process over a number of years of learning lessons from such events. For example, since the attack in Mumbai in 2008, we have enhanced our ability to respond effectively to a marauding terrorist attack by expanding our specialist firearms capability and improving the effectiveness of the response and joint working of all the emergency services. More generally we have continued to refine our plans and to enhance our capabilities to respond to a terrorist threat which has evolved and diversified.
The global picture of terrorist activity does give us heightened concern about the risk to the Jewish community in the UK. We are seeing continuing anti-Semitic rhetoric from extremists and attacks on this community in France and elsewhere. In addition to our existing security measures, we are in dialogue with Jewish Community leaders about further actions that we will be taking, including more patrols in key areas. We remain alert to the vulnerabilities of other communities.
Where we do have particular concerns, we make these known to those involved. For example, we continue to be alive to those who want to exploit the current situation and create fear in our Muslim communities, with whom we work closely, to offer our protection and reassurance.
We are also considering what further measures we might put in place to enhance the security of police officers, given some of the deliberate targeting of the police we have seen in a number of countries across Europe and the world.
Chief Constables across the country are reviewing how to strengthen the protection of their officers from such attacks. Our men and women on the frontline are used to confronting risk and danger and are well-trained in how to protect the public and themselves.
The fight against violent extremism relies upon the active support of all communities, to look out for one another in their neighbourhoods and to continue to demonstrate a show of resolve that will eventually help to defy the poisonous ideology of extremists and deny them of opportunities to harm communities. We have been pleased and encouraged by the way that public has responded to appeals to report concerns or suspicious activity. The number of calls to the anti-terrorist and other hotlines has increased significantly over the last few months. This has made an important contribution to keeping the public safe.