There was a time when you let me know, what’s really going on below…

After recently attending some thrillingly named ‘extreme threat’ training during which we were given a presentation by an officer from our Counter Terrorism Unit, I thought I’d use this post to stress how important the sharing of information is when it comes to combating the threat posed by terrorist activity in the West Midlands.

First of all, yes, we have called our anti-terrorism team ‘CTU’. Yes, this is the same name as the organisation that Jack Bauer belongs to in the show ’24’ and yes, although the officer we spoke to wouldn’t be drawn on the matter I’ve no doubt that his work is just as exciting as it looks on the TV. He didn’t perform any combat rolls during the presentation itself but did interrupt his PowerPoint a couple of times with interjections of “upload the schematics to my PDA!” and “damit, that’s not the right play!!”. Exciting stuff…

Anyway, one of the main drives of the presentation was how useful it is to CTU to have a good source of reliable information to work on. Whilst they doubtlessly have their own top secret intelligence gathering methods, these are supplemented by officers, other agencies and, most importantly, the public supporting them and contacting them when something potentially suspicious comes to their attention.

To this end the Anti-Terrorist Hotline (0800 789 321) was established with specially trained counter-terrorism officers manning the phones around the clock ready to speak to people who want to report an issue and potentially prevent an attack. The officer we spoke to stressed that often a detail may appear insignificant alone, but when viewed as part of a bigger picture may well represent the last piece of the jigsaw.

What is ‘suspicious’ then? Well, I would say that ultimately it is the trained staff who will make that call but in the past useful leads have been obtained from people phoning to report persons taking undue note of security systems at shopping centres, large amounts of chemical containers left in rubbish bins and unusual gatherings of people.

Of course it’s not only counter-terrorism efforts that benefit from publicly generated intelligence and we’ll always appreciate you contacting us to report suspicious or criminal activity. Some of the most successful drugs warrants I’ve been involved with have come about due to other residents suggesting illegitimate activity was taking place and ultimately these have led to convictions in court. You can talk directly to an officer, phone us up or go through Crimestoppers with intelligence and you may even receive an award for doing so.

Ultimately it’s in everybody’s interest and is a shared responsibility to tackle terrorism and crime in general. We’ve got officers, like ‘Jack’, working around the clock but as hard as they work without good intelligence to work on their effectiveness is limited, so if you see something suspicious, odd or unusual, please make the call. You never know what you might prevent by doing so…

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1 Response to “There was a time when you let me know, what’s really going on below…”

  1. 1 Rich 02/05/2011 at 13:42

    Firstly, the lyric is Hallelujah (who’s ever version you consider to be the best, personally, I think it’s Jeff Buckley’s).


    I’m not sure what I think about all this security stuff. Yes, be vigilant – but this is nothing new. I’m old enough to remember what it was like during the mainland bombing campaign in this country from the IRA. We had major explosions in The Docklands, Manchester, Birmingham, not to mention the various “kills” of leading politicians and influential figures both on this country and in Northern Ireland.

    Whilst the game has changed and I suppose it could be argued that the IRA had some courtesy about their campaign (leaving warnings etc), security has gone in to overdrive in this country and the risk is that the public become complacent to threat after threat issued by the authorities, but then little materialising. Of course, the general public are never to know how close to happening, or how real these threats are – this is left to you boys in the know, but then again a cursory glance around Twitter in reactions to threats show the complacency that happens in response to threat after threat. If we live our lives in complete fear of what is possible, then the terrorists have already won, in part?

    Whilst of course I don’t take away from any of the good work being done by the authorities, counter terrorist units and the police, the risk of a constant state of “we’re under threat” can breed complacency and, at worst, a state of panic and fear. Should everything be reported? A constant fear of people, expecting the worst? This is no good for our communities, no good for fostering a belief in the good of humankind and certainly no good for the notion of a “big society”.

    It’s a difficult one, I appreciate. Who knows what the best course of action is?

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