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…