Following the explosion on a tube train at Parsons Green London Underground Station on the morning of Friday 15 September, which resulted in 30 people being injured, the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre increased the terrorism threat level posed in the UK from ‘Severe’ to ‘Critical’. The episode was the fifth terrorist attack on the UK mainland in the past six months. As a result, the Government carried out additional counter-terrorism operations around the country to help protect people in public places.
Metropolitan Police Service officers were on scene at Parsons Green within four minutes of the explosion occurring. As the terrorist threat level moved to ‘Critical’, forces around the country responded with well-practised plans and put thousands of extra officers on patrol to protect and reassure. The investigation moved at pace, enabling the threat level to be brought back down to a ‘Severe’ rating by the afternoon of Sunday 17 September.
Speaking this morning about the ramifications of the incident, Sara Thornton CBE QPM (chair of the National Police Chiefs’ Council) stated: “In response to the significant threat, the Government is increasing the money it spends on terrorism from £11.7 billion to £15.1 billion, but only 5% of that figure – about £700 million – is spent on policing. The allocation of this budget for policing is set to be cut by 7.2% in the next three years. When the volume and nature of the threat is growing alarmingly, that’s a real concern.”
Thornton continued: “The size of the counter-terrorism budget isn’t the whole story. We don’t counter terrorism in isolation. An effective effort relies on the whole policing system. Every time there’s a terror attack, we mobilise specialist officers and staff to respond, but the majority of the officers and staff responding come from mainstream policing. This puts extra strain on an already stretched service. In the response to the Manchester attack, three quarters of the resources deployed came from mainstream policing. This disrupts the daily work of policing on which the public rely. It creates backlogs of incidents in our Control Rooms and results in a slower response to the public.”
With officer numbers at 1985 levels, crime up by 10% in the last year and police work becoming ever more complex, Thornton feels this additional pressure isn’t sustainable. “The current flat cash settlement for forces announced in 2015 is no longer enough.”
As far as Thornton’s concerned, an effective response to an attack is just one part of the counter-terrorism effort “and will never be as good as preventing them in the first place”. Thornton and her fellow chief officers are particularly concerned about the resilience of local neighbourhood policing. “Fewer officers and Police Community Support Officers will cut off the intelligence that’s so crucial to preventing attacks. Withdrawal from communities risks undermining their trust in us at a time when we need people to have the confidence to share information with us.”
Police chiefs are determined to do all they can to protect the public from terrorism. “We will make choices about what we prioritise and where we invest. Some of these choices may be difficult and unpalatable to the public, but we can make them if necessary. Over time, we can reduce the demand on us. We’re doing this by improving our technology and working with partners to intervene early in order to protect people from harm. I’m sure that we can make further efficiency savings on top of the 1.5 billion delivered since 2010.”
In conclusion, Thornton urged: “Experts tell us that the spate of attacks in the UK and Europe represents a shift rather than a spike in the threat, which will take 20 or 30 years to eliminate. This new normality necessitates an open-minded dialogue with Government about how we respond. Our resources have to be part of the conversation.”
BBC News’ home affairs correspondent Danny Shaw believes this is Sara Thornton’s “most significant intervention” to date in the debate around police funding since the terrorist attacks perpetrated in London and Manchester.
Assisting the safety effort
One company operating in the private sector that exhibited a determined response to the Parsons Green incident was Securitas. The business took the decision to proactively support the Emergency Services and military operations by requesting its protective services officers to provide additional patrols at transport hubs right across the UK.
Over the weekend of Saturday 16 and Sunday 17 September, Securitas teams completed an additional 223 patrols on top of their normal security duties, providing visible, uniformed reassurance and completing security patrols in crowded places.
These activities were co-ordinated through Securitas UK’s Operations Centre. From the moment the decision was taken to act, the company’s mobile teams immediately provided on-the-ground support.
Securitas offers a ‘total security solution’ that’s designed to protect people and property. In a world of ever-present security threats, the business mirrors the thoughts of Sara Thornton in that everyone has an increasingly important role to play in keeping society safe from harm.
Although the current threat level posed by international terrorism in the UK has dropped from ‘Critical’ to ‘Severe’, as a business Securitas is encouraging everyone to remain vigilant and report any suspicious behaviour or activity to the Anti-Terrorism Hotline on 0800 789 321
Securitas has just achieved BAFE (British Approvals for Fire Equipment) accreditation. BAFE is a scheme that has been set-up to ensure companies maintaining portable fire extinguishers work to a recognised standard.
This standard is principally based on ISO 9001:2015, but specifically shaped to make sure those who maintain fire extinguishers follow strict industry codes. The security firm and its employees who maintain fire extinguishers are continually assessed to ensure that end user customers receive a professional service that meets recognised standards.
The news means that Securitas is now certified to ISO 9001 and BAFE SP101, as well as being listed on the official BAFE Register.
Shaun Kennedy, director of specialised protective services at Securitas, commented: “We’re delighted to add another industry-leading accreditation to our repertoire. This will provide the opportunity for new business growth in a specialist market. Most importantly, it affords customers the confidence that their fire equipment is maintained in a highly professional and safe manner.”
Earlier this month, Securitas gained Free-Running Explosive Detection Dog (FREDD) certification – the EU standard for the use of dogs in aviation cargo security. This achievement means that Securitas UK now provides the highest level of explosives detection capability using specially-trained canines.