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Senior police reveal their top five terrorism fears in new book by UEL criminologist

A collection of exclusive interviews with the country’s most senior police figures has revealed their most pressing concerns around potential terrorist attacks on British soil. 

The comments are found in Dr Mark Roycroft’s new book, Police Chiefs in the UK: Politicians, HR Managers or Cops?’ 

“All those I interviewed for the book were mindful of the backdrop of terrorist attacks in Paris and Belgium in 2015 and 2016,” said Dr Roycroft. “They are also aware of the growing threat from violent dissident Irish republicans.”

Dr Roycroft lectures in criminology at the University of East London (UEL), and is a member of the Terrorism and Extremism Research Centre at the University. He is also a former Metropolitan Police acting superintendent and detective chief inspector.

He said, “The interviews revealed five main issues in combating terrorism: dealing with spontaneous terrorist activity such as marauding attacks seen in Paris in 2015; dealing with radicalisation; disrupting terrorist activity; dealing with terrorist financing especially through IT and social media; and establishing adequate structures to deal with counter-terrorism.

“One chief constable said that the best model for counter-terrorism was seen as the MI5 model, highlighting that police services needed to be linked in to local communities to gather better intelligence around Syria and ISIS, along with encryption of data.”

In March this year, Assistant Police Commissioner Mark Rowley revealed that security services had prevented 13 potential terror attacks since June 2013. He also told the media there were 500 live counter-terror investigations at any time.

The chief constables interviewed by Dr Roycroft were concerned with the links between organised crime and terrorism. The sale of firearms and fake passports along with the use of smuggling routes were mentioned as cases in point.

Dr Roycroft said the disruptive nature of counter-terrorist work meant the public were largely unaware of police activity.

“Police chiefs are proud of the disruptive work that is being done throughout the UK to deter and disrupt terrorism at every level,” he said. “This includes terrorist financing and terrorist asset freezing.” 

The deployment of specialised firearms officers to prevent marauding attacks has concerned UK law enforcement since the Mumbai attacks of 2008, when 166 people were killed by 10 roving terrorists.

As with the 2016 Brussels and 2015 Paris terrorist outrages, attacks have concentrated on transport hubs and key locations.

“The chief constables I spoke with were concerned with having sufficiently trained officers to cope with this type of attack, especially across a number of key locations,” explained Dr Roycroft.

Dr Roycroft will lead UEL’s new BA (Hons) Policing degree, which starts in September this year. Students will have the opportunity to study modules in the global illicit drug trade, terrorism, youth crime, football hooliganism, and crime investigation. 

Visit the course page to find out more and apply