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This is what has been done in Norfolk to combat terrorism

PUBLISHED: 15:37 23 May 2017 | UPDATED: 15:37 23 May 2017

Police close to the Manchester Arena the morning after a suspected terrorist attack at the end of a concert by US star Ariana Grande left 22 dead. Photo: Peter Byrne/PA Wire

Police close to the Manchester Arena the morning after a suspected terrorist attack at the end of a concert by US star Ariana Grande left 22 dead. Photo: Peter Byrne/PA Wire

The Press Association

Police chiefs in Norfolk and Suffolk are meeting today to review their response to terrorist attacks after a suicide bomber killed 22 people and injured another 59 at a concert in Manchester on Monday night.

Chief Constable Simon Bailey at Norfolk Constabulary Headquarters, Wymondham. Photo: Steve Adams Chief Constable Simon Bailey at Norfolk Constabulary Headquarters, Wymondham. Photo: Steve Adams

Speaking on Tuesday morning, Norfolk’s chief constable Simon Bailey said senior officers from the two forces would make sure the region’s planned response to any terror attack was as good as it could be.

“We will do it jointly and review our response again in light of what took place last night,” he said.

“Policing in Norfolk is constantly under review, whether due to local, national or international issues.

“We are acutely aware of the threat to the UK from international terrorism, demonstrated by the fact officers and staff from Norfolk and Suffolk Constabularies are today taking part in a pre-planned terrorist training exercise.”

Police at one of the gates to Norwich Airport where a man was arrested after assaulting workers in a secure area in April 2017. PICTURE: Denise Bradley Police at one of the gates to Norwich Airport where a man was arrested after assaulting workers in a secure area in April 2017. PICTURE: Denise Bradley

The terror threat in the UK has been classed as “severe” for almost three years and two incidents in the last year have tested the response of Norfolk police to major incidents.

At the end of April a man broke into a secure area of Norwich Airport, attacked two workers and got into the cab of a lorry at around 2.30am.

Eight minutes later, police had arrested him.

For Mr Bailey it was a sign of how effective the force’s response is to any security threat.

RAF Marham was on high alert last July after the attempted kidnapping of a serviceman. Picture: Ian Burt RAF Marham was on high alert last July after the attempted kidnapping of a serviceman. Picture: Ian Burt

And last July a major investigation was launched into a attempted kidnapping of a serviceman near RAF Marham, sparking fears of a possible terrorist link.

Detectives have since moved away from terrorism as a motive, but the investigation is still open.

•Live exercises

RAF Marham was on high alert after the attack on the serviceman last July close to the Norfolk base. Picture: Ian Burt RAF Marham was on high alert after the attack on the serviceman last July close to the Norfolk base. Picture: Ian Burt

Counter terrorism experts class Norfolk and Suffolk as low risk areas but say nowhere is risk free.

And speaking before the attack in Manchester, Mr Bailey said the force was better prepared than it has ever been to counter the terrorist threat.

He said they had practised for “pretty much everything”, including knife attacks, HGVs and attacks in crowded places.

“We work closely with the military to make sure we are prepared,” he said. “We exercise locally with fire and ambulance colleagues to make sure the response is completely joined up.”

The aftermath of the attack at Westminster in March. Photo: Lauren Hurley/PA Wire The aftermath of the attack at Westminster in March. Photo: Lauren Hurley/PA Wire

The force held active shooter exercises in 2016 with more planned for 2017.

Staff in control centres have also been trained to deal with a surge in calls any attack would cause.

“We are better prepared than we ever have been before because we are testing this constantly,” he said. “Every time there is a new form of terrorist attack we then go back and ask the question – if that was to happen here, how would we deal with it?”

Plans have also been developed for attacks in specific crowded places in Norwich city centre, modelling how the police would respond if the unthinkable did happen.

Emergency services at Manchester Arena after reports of an explosion at the venue during an Ariana Grande gig. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Emergency services at Manchester Arena after reports of an explosion at the venue during an Ariana Grande gig. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo.

The Norfolk and Suffolk police forces’ planned response is called Operation Skillgate which Mr Bailey said was being mirrored by other forces after being held up nationally as an example of best practice.

But new threats keep emerging.

•Road changes

Armed police at Manchester Arena after reports of an explosion at the venue during an Ariana Grande gig. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Armed police at Manchester Arena after reports of an explosion at the venue during an Ariana Grande gig. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo.

The so-called Islamic State has called on its supporters to use vehicles to drive down pedestrians in the UK, a tactic already used to devastating effect in Berlin, Nice, Stockholm and Westminster.

Authorities take measures against that by placing obstructions, planters and bends in roads to stop vehicles building up speed.

A counter terrorism expert from Norfolk Police advised Norwich Airport in 2013 to put in measures to slow vehicles down as they approach the airport.

But this type of attack is one of the hardest to prevent.

Police cordon near the Manchester Arena, the scene of the attack on Monday night. (AP Photo/Rui Vieira) Police cordon near the Manchester Arena, the scene of the attack on Monday night. (AP Photo/Rui Vieira)

Referring to the Westminster terror attack, Mr Bailey said, “Khalid Masood in London used a car. When your terrorist is mobile like that it is incredibly difficult.

“You could put physical obstructions in place but that has got to be balanced against your ability to get around a city centre, taking into account what our communities would want to see and how they would want to see a city designed.

“It’s about where they would see the balance between a city centre being used and usable, against a city centre that becomes simply a non-friendly environment for people to come and enjoy – that is the challenge.

“How do you get that balance right? I think we have got that balance right here (in Norwich).”

Former police officer and counter terrorism specialist Ross McDermott of Dardan Security. Picture: Peter Treglown/FOUR Former police officer and counter terrorism specialist Ross McDermott of Dardan Security. Picture: Peter Treglown/FOUR

Local authorities have a big role to play in this.

•Planning applications

Councils work with the Home Office to put counter terrorism strategies into their building designs and infrastructure.

Both Suffolk and Norfolk police forces have counter terrorism specialists, called CTSAs, who advice councils on building developments.

A spokesman for Transport for Norwich which was behind the recent road changes in the city said: “Designing a public space means balancing various factors, both in terms of managing risk and meeting the needs of those who use it.”

A Norwich City Council spokesman said they consulted CTSAs on relevant planning applications.

It was a CTSA who in 2016 advised Norwich City FC on a planning application to remove on-street parking outside Carrow Road.

The other role councils play is monitoring CCTV cameras, although since April the city council no longer monitors cameras 24/7, saving money by just staffing the cameras on Friday and Saturday nights.

In Cambridgeshire policing operations for crowded places are also being reviewed after the Manchester attack and additional patrols will be carried out across the county.

•See citizenaid.org for advice on how to respond in event of a terrorist attack

•‘No area is risk free’

Councils and schools have a duty to stop people from being drawn into terrorism under the Government’s anti-terror strategy called Prevent.

It aims to tackle the threat by stopping terror attacks, stopping people becoming terrorists, protecting against attacks and preparing for the worst-case scenario of an attack happening.

Both Suffolk and Norfolk are seen as low risk areas but the Norfolk County Community Safety Partnership says no area is risk free.

“There is a general perception that terrorism involves large scale organised activities, such as the Paris attacks, which may seem remote to rural areas,” a report from the Partnership sates. “However, an emerging threat is that of individuals, who operate by themselves but who have been influenced by extremist ideology.”

Suffolk has something called a “Channel Panel” which gives support to those who may be vulnerable to being drawn into terrorism.

•For more information visit Let’s Talk About It at www.ltai.info/about/

•What can businesses do?

Police forces have Counter Terrorism Security Advisors (CTSA) who make businesses aware of any possible risks.

They focus particularly on firms who may have hazardous chemicals on site or are in crowded areas.

They develop plans for any vulnerable sites and promote awareness of the terrorist threat.

Specialist in counter terrorism Ross McDermott, from Dardan Security, advises businesses including Norwich Airport on security.

He said training staff to spot and report anything suspicious was one of the most effective things businesses could do.

“The threat to aviation is very different to the threat in crowded places, but a lot of it is about having people on the ground being aware,” he said.

“Security is one of those things that people don’t necessarily invest heavily in.”

But he said if things went wrong it would cost many times more than prevention.

•Report any suspicious behaviour or activity to the anti-terrorist hotline on 0800 789 321 or 999 in an emergency

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