- Security TWENTY
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Project Servator, the counter-terror policing patrol method, has featured in Professional Security magazine in recent years, in London and at Glasgow before the 2014 Commonwealth Games; and most recently in our January 2016 print issue, for the roll-out by British Transport Police (BTP) at London termini, including Kings Cross (pictured). At the UK Security Expo last week, Chief Insp Gary Ash of BTP gave an update.
Since Servator went live, the UK rail network has not had a terror attack. Is it down to Servator? “I don’t know,” Ash said, “But there has been a success, that we haven’t been attacked. We have had hostile reconnaissance, and we had detected a lot of wider crime.”
Ash has been doing Servator work for the last 18 months; the method went live with the transport police about a year ago. Ash said that Servator gave officers more focus. More generally speaking, the tactic has been gradually more widely used by police, and judging by the questions to Ash from the floor, security people want to see more of it.
The word Servator is defined as ‘watcher’ or ‘observer’, which suits the method, because as Ash said it’s unpredictable and highly visible; using a wide range of assets, covert and overt, including officers specially trained in behavioural detection, and supported by media and public relations, with the aim of helping to disrupt hostile reconnaissance and deter anyone with criminal intent generally, while reassuring the public.
Ash went through the thought processes of the ‘hostile’; on becoming aware of Servator deployments, he would feel anxious and paranoid, making him self-conscious; and such behaviour will make him stand out from the normal crowd. He may decide to do whatever it is he wanted to, another day, whether planning or an actual attack; he has been disrupted. Nor is Servator only about countering terrorism; it applies as well to the trafficker in drugs, or the handbag thief or the shoplifter.
He stressed that it wasn’t an operation by police alone: “We can’t do it all on our own.” He gave the example of retail at main line stations, such as cafes that might be used by people carrying out surveillance. As for what a Servator deployment looks like, the days, time of day, and length of deployment and the sort of things in use (dogs, advertising boards, the high-visibility or covert police, and work with private security such as CCTV) change. Also the layout and size of a station may determine the sort of deployment.
And as for what the travelling public has made of the BTP Servator deployments, and as another sign of Servator fleixibility, Ash said: “What we found, from the Paris and Brussels [terror] attacks, the passengers and staff needed reassurance, so we needed to change the deployment to a very reassuring, high visibility approach, rather than a detection approach.” Police doing Servator have been speaking to the public and giving out leaflets and postcards explaining it, to reassure and also asking people to report any suspicious behaviour or items: “We need them [the public] to be our eyes and ears.”
About the UK Security Expo
The 2017 exhibition and conference runs at the same west London venue, Olympia, on Wednesday and Thursday, November 29 and 30.