Counter-terror police say they need the public’s help more than ever to thwart another deadly plot, as the UK prepares to mark a year since the Westminster attack.
Briton Khalid Masood drove into pedestrians, killing four, on Westminster Bridge and fatally stabbed a police officer at the Palace of Westminster before he was shot dead in the capital on March 22 last year.
It was the first of five attacks on UK soil in 2017 and the country’s terror alert level remains at ‘severe’, meaning further attacks are highly likely. Security chiefs say information from the community is crucial to confronting the unprecedented threat, both from Islamist and far-right groups, with more than 6,000 tip-offs yielding useful intelligence last year.
Speaking exclusively to The Yorkshire Post, Detective Chief Superintendent Martin Snowden, who leads the counter-terrorism policing unit for Yorkshire and the North-East, said: “This is around how the public can support the fight against terrorism.
“We want the public to feel confident in trusting their instincts and reporting their concerns.
“No matter how small it might seem to them, that single piece of information, that single piece of reporting, could be really significant for us in the bigger picture.”
Det Chief Supt Snowden urged people to “trust their instincts” if they had concerns ,either about people they knew or suspicious activity they had seen.
He said: “Examples are where people are buying or storing large amounts of chemicals, fertiliser or gas for no obvious reason; whether people are taking notes or photos of security arrangements or inspecting CCTV cameras, again in an unusual way, or if people are receiving large volumes or unusual deliveries from online couriers.”
Det Chief Supt Snowden said people should also make a report if someone they knew was viewing worrying material online.
He said one particular sign which should raise concern was if an individual was going on the dark web – a network of hidden websites and untraceable activity – although he said terror plotting or radicalisation was “not exclusively [on] the dark web at all”.
He also said it was not only people in larger cities, where crowds could be targeted, who should be vigilant.
The planning and preparation of terror attacks often took place in more isolated areas, he said, adding that the threat level of ‘severe’ covered every part of the country.
He said: “Our activity can stretch right across the region, right across the country and we would ask people in every town and city to have that level of vigilance to come forward with their suspicions in any way.”
Counter-terror police will today start a new phase of a public awareness campaign called Action Counters Terrorism, encouraging more people to act as their eyes and ears.
The campaign will see the counter-terror unit, based in West Yorkshire, staging a variety of events across Yorkshire and the North-East over the next four weeks.
And with the growing threat of online radicalisation, anti-terror officers will be taking the message to social media platforms Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.
New figures show that across the country, 30,984 reports were made to counter-terror police online or over the phone in 2017. Of those 6,659 – more than a fifth – proved useful to officers.