The public make more than 3,600 “contributions” to the fight against terrorism every day, the country’s most senior counter-terror officer has said.
Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley said cooperation between the police and the public was the UK’s “greatest advantage” in the fight against terrorism. It comes after Metropolitan police commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe warned that a terror attack in Britain is a case of “when, not if”.
In a blog post for the National Police Chiefs Council, Rowley said officers were not complacent and he “couldn’t agree more” with Sir Bernard’s assertion that Britain is a “hostile environment” for would-be terrorists. He added the UK’s counter-terrorism advantages include tight gun laws and a close working relationship between police and the security services.
Rowley said: “But for me our greatest advantage is the cooperation between the public and the police. It has often been said that ‘communities defeat terrorism’ and now that’s more important than ever before.
“The true scale of that collaboration is impressive, but rarely explained. The fact is that we see at least 3,639 contributions from the public every day, helping keep us all safe in our collective effort against terrorism.”
Members of the public assisted police by calling the confidential anti-terrorist hotline on average 32 times a day and making on average five referrals of extremist material online and two of potential radicalization.
Rowley added that, every day, some 300 people visit the Prevent Tragedies website, 1,750 National Counter Terrorism Security Office sessions – where specialist officers advise how to protect homes and businesses – are recorded and 1,550 people either take part in anti-terror briefings or watch a Stay Safe film.
“Every call, every referral, every briefing is part of our joint fight against terrorism,” he said.
“All these contributions are critically important to our ability to keep each other safe.”
Earlier, Sir Bernard said that he could not promise an attack will not take place. Writing in the Mail on Sunday he said: “I feel and understand that fear, and as the police officer in charge of preventing such an attack I know you want me to reassure you.
“I am afraid I cannot do that entirely. Our threat level has been at severe for two years. It remains there. It means an attack is highly likely – you could say it is a case of when, not if.”
Explaining the work of the police, he pointed to the number of terror plots that had been foiled since the murder of Lee Rigby in May 2013, including one to murder officers at Shepherd’s Bush police station, west London, and another to carry out a Lee Rigby-style attack on US soldiers in East Anglia.
The UK’s top officer also said that the “British way of life and culture” made the UK hostile to terrorists.