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Case Studies

Project Servator in Plymouth

Devon & Cornwall Police have begun Project Servator deployments in Plymouth, after a trial in Exeter. As featured over recent years in Professional Security magazine, Servator seeks to disrupt a range of criminal activity, from theft to terrorism, by visible and unpredictable police deployments.

Each at varying times and places is made up of officers trained to identify criminal intent; and resources may include police dogs, armed officers, live monitored CCTV, drones and ANPR. Part of the stress of Servator is work with partners, businesses and the public to encourage the reporting of any suspicious or unusual activity. The aim; vigilance which makes it difficult for potential terrorists who may be considering their targets, or for individuals looking to commit crime.

Devon & Cornwall Police have been trialling the work in Exeter since October 2019 and were due to begin in Plymouth earlier this year, but due to the pandemic was delayed.

Since October 2019, 26 arrests have been made and 86 stop and searches have been conducted. Of those 86, 38 (44.2pc) had a ‘positive outcome’ such as an arrest or seizure of prohibited items, which is above the overall national positive outcome rate for stop and search. Servator in Plymouth will include areas such as Drake Circus.

Each deployment is intelligence led, police stress, whereby uniformed officers engage with the public, encouraging them to be the police’s extra eyes and ears and report anything that doesn’t feel right, while plain clothed officers can blend into the crowd and watch for suspicious activity. Partners, businesses and security staff are provided with information and training around Project Servator to help raise awareness among the public about the importance of reporting suspicious activity. Businesses receive SCAN training where staff are also training to look out for suspicious activity and what to do if they see it.

Devon & Cornwall Assistant Chief Constable Glen Mayhew, said: “Project Servator deployments may look slightly different, but they are nothing to worry about. These are normal police operations engaging with and reassuring the public, but with enhanced training we can disrupt hostile reconnaissance – the information gathering criminals do to help them plan their activity.

“Project Servator has been developed by experts in the field of a behaviour, so we understand how individuals behave when planning a crime: ranging from shop lifting to terrorism. Following this extensive research we have trained officers to be able to identify very subtle behaviour of a person undertaking this level of planning and reconnaissance.

“Across the UK, Project Servator has also been successful in gathering intelligence that has assisted police in investigating and preventing acts of terror and has resulted in arrests for a multitude of offences as well as firearms, knives and drugs being removed from our streets. This is an approach to policing which has been proven to disrupt a wide range of criminal activity.”

Exeter’s Project Servator Sergeant, Chris Pusey, said: “Project Servator brings together the police, security services, the community and businesses to help make where we live, work and relax a safer place. Working with the community is a vital part of making it difficult for criminals to operate successfully, and record numbers of people have been contacting the police nationally to report suspicious activity.

“You shouldn’t be worried if a deployment happens in your area. I encourage anyone to talk to officers to find out more. You can help keep everyone safe by reporting anything that doesn’t feel right.”

Background about Servator; the City of London Police began it in 2013; in 2014 we featured its use at One New Change near St Paul’s Cathedral, and in Scotland for the 2014 Glasgow
Commonwealth Games. We’ve since featured it at main rail stations by British Transport Police, as begun by BTP in December 2015; around Sellafield nuclear power station by the Civil Nuclear Constabulary, central London and shopping centres. More at https://www.counterterrorism.police.uk/servator/.

Photo by Mark Rowe; Merchant’s House, Plymouth.


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