Young people in rural communities are just as much a target of radicalisation as those in the major UK cities, a senior Counter Terrorism Police officer has warned as new figures reveal a significant growth in Right Wing Extremism.
Detective Superintendent Matthew Davison, who coordinates the North East’s Prevent programme - part of the UK’s Counter-Terrorism strategy, revealed young people are being targeted by radical groups in smaller towns and villages across the country and not just the bigger cities like London, Birmingham and Manchester.
He also revealed Prevent - which is aimed at helping those vulnerable to being drawn towards terrorism - has seen a 34 per cent increase in Right Wing Extremism, with around 7,000 referrals nationally in the 12 months to April this year.
Mr Davison said: “History has shown that radicalisation and terrorism issues associated and the challenges they present are not isolated to just the bigger cities.
“Anyone can be disenfranchised by changes in society and anyone can be forgiven for having mental health issues and various other factors that cause vulnerability and allow people to radicalised by others.
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“We need to make sure that people from the biggest cities to the smallest villages are aware of the danger and that if they spot those signs they know who to turn to to get help and support for that individual to prevent them going down the wrong pathway. The Prevent strategy is something I spreading across the UK.”
Mr Davison also spoke of the importance of people not stereotyping and linking the Islam religion to terrorism.
He said: “Because of the Islamic attacks in previous years, this is something people tend to have focussed on, but, the evidence and reality now is that Far Right Extremism is an issue for us. We have had a 34 per cent increase in Prevent referrals in the last 12 months to April 2019.
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“The issues out there in society are driven by a lot of different factors. There is the global economic crisis and austerity which has probably led to some disaffection and people being unhappy. When people are unhappy - you only need to look back to the 1930s and history - if people feel hard pressed then they are very receptive to someone saying ‘it’s because of them and we need to unite against them’ and this is when radicalisation hits.”
Mr Davison’s comments follow a special event at Leeds Beckett University yesterday which explored areas including the radicalisation of young people, as well as freedom of expression and hate crimes.
The event was organised by Dr David Lowe, senior research fellow Leeds Beckett University Law School, and was attended by students, academics from other universities and local government officers.
Dr Lowe said: “The real aim with Prevent is to have some community initiatives, supported by Prevent staff, where people in different cities, towns and villages can take ownership to address terrorism and radicalisation.”