There is heightened concern about the safety of the police and the Jewish community in the UK in wake of the French attacks, one of Britain’s leading counter-terrorism officers warns.
Met Police Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley said the attack on a kosher supermarket in the French capital last week and anti-semitic rhetoric from extremists has led to a “heightened concern” about the risk to the Jewish population in the UK. The “deliberate targeting” of police in recent terrorist attacks has also raised fears about the dangers faced by frontline staff, he said.
His comments come in light of last week’s atrocities in Paris and growing concerns about the spread of anti-Semitism in the UK and France. Police and community groups have strengthened security at Jewish locations in Britain in recent days, while the British-based Community Security Trust, which monitors anti-Jewish hate crime, said it was working closely and more frequently alongside police to guard Jewish sites.
“The global picture of terrorist activity does give us heightened concern about the risk to the Jewish community in the UK. We are seeing continuing anti-Semitic rhetoric from extremists and attacks on this community in France and elsewhere,” a statement released just after 2pm in London said.
“In addition to our existing security measures, we are in dialogue with Jewish Community leaders about further actions that we will be taking, including more patrols in key areas.”
Earlier this week one of Europe’s most high profile rabbis suggested some Jewish proprietors should be armed in order to assure visitors to shops and synagogues. But that suggestion was widely dismissed by others in the community who warned it would be a “dangerous overreaction” to the events in France last week.
Mr Rowley’s statement siad that counter-terrorism services were “considering what further measures we might put in place to enhance the security of police officers, given some of the deliberate targeting of the police we have seen in a number of countries across Europe and the world.”
“Chief Constables across the country are reviewing how to strengthen the protection of their officers from such attacks,” he said. “Our men and women on the frontline are used to confronting risk and danger and are well-trained in how to protect the public and themselves.”
The announcement does not affect the UK terror threat level, which is currently “severe”. There are five levels of threat, ranging from “low”, meaning an attack is unlikely, to “critical”, when an attack is expected imminently.
It was last at “critical” following the attack on Glasgow Airport and the failed car bombings in central London in 2007.
Simon Israel, our home affairs correspondent, writes:
There's a growing 'it's not if, but when' feeling about the current threat from jihadi terrorists.
The national threat level may not have changed but the one against certain groups has - from moderate to severe.
So Jewish communities will get significantly more police resources rather that the occasional two man patrol.
The equally difficult problem is safety for police officers themselves.
While AC Mark Rowley, in charge of UK counter-terrorism, does not go into details about such provisions it is clear that one man patrols in certain areas are going to have to be curtailed.
This was part of the solution to the Home Secretary's large scale cuts in the policing budgets.
But Paris and Belgium have revealed that officers in general are becoming one of the jihadi's preferred targets.
This isn't new. There have been a number of plots uncovered in recent months where photos of random officers have been found on suspects' phones.
It has permeated an uneasy feeling among the ranks, which will require than just reassurance from chief constables. Security does not come cheap.