Counter Terrorism Policing has warned the public against complacency after the number of people arrested for terrorism offences in the last quarter of 2019 hit a two-year high.
The Home Office’s quarterly release of statistics relating to the police’s use of powers under the Terrorism Act 2000 revealed that there were a total of 280 counter terrorism-related arrests in the year to December 2019, a decrease of 1% on the previous calendar year.
This is actually the lowest number of arrests in a calendar year for the last six, although Counter Terrorism Policing’s Senior National Coordinator, Deputy Assistant Commissioner Dean Haydon, believes the spike in arrests in the final three months of the 2019 demonstrates that the tide can change rapidly and that the public must remain vigilant.
“As we have seen in the last few months, attacks can happen anywhere and at any time without warning,” he said.
“Today’s figures show that the gradual decline in CT-related arrests has continued since 2018 but despite this – and the reduction in the threat level from Severe to Substantial – the attacks in Fishmongers Hall and Streatham demonstrate that we cannot allow ourselves to think this threat has disappeared.
“With 3000 or so subjects of interest currently on our radar and more convicted terrorists soon due to be released from prison, we simply cannot watch all of them, all the time.
“When my colleagues and I tell you that ‘Communities defeat terrorism’ it is not just a catchphrase. We know from experience that public information and action, including being vigilant, helps saves lives and lead to the significant arrests detailed in these statistics.
Of the 280 arrests 87 (31%) resulted in a charge, of which 65 were charged with terrorism-related offences. There were also 23 terrorism-related convictions in the same time period.
But Deputy Assistant Commissioner Haydon also warned that the only way to reduce the number of terrorists in the long term wasn’t by actions from officers making arrests, but the Prevent practitioners around the country doing their best to protect vulnerable people from radicalisation.
“Our officers will always step in to protect the public from those who wish to harm us, but we need to stop them getting to that point in the first place,” he said.
“We need people to trust their instincts and to trust us with that information, and not just signs of suspicious activity or behaviour. We need your help to stop vulnerable people from being drawn down the path that leads to the awful violence we have seen recently.
“Early intervention, through the Prevent programme, is absolutely key. We need families, friends, colleagues and local communities to recognise that early intervention is not ruining someone’s life but saving it, and potentially that of others too.”
To learn more about how you can contribute to the UK’s fight against terrorism visit gov.uk/ACT
The full statistics published on the Home Office website can be found here.