Hampshire Police ‘at crisis point’

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HAMPSHIRE Constabulary has said the public will see “an increased policing and security presence across the county”, as commissioner Michael Lane condemns the “horror” of the weekend’s terror attack in London.

This comes as John Apter, chairman of the Hampshire Police Federation, warns the force is “at crisis point” after budget cuts, with officers and resources under strain.

Seven people were killed and 48 injured in last Saturday night’s attack, with the three perpetrators shot dead by police.

The incident saw Khuram Butt, Rachid Redouane and Youssef Zaghba target pedestrians with a van on London Bridge, before indiscriminately stabbing members of the public in the area around Borough Market. Armed police killed all three of them eight minutes after receiving the first 999 call.

Prime Minister Theresa May said they were “radical Islamist terrorists”.

Speaking on BBC Radio Solent, Mr Apter expressed concern for Hampshire, saying “there are simply not enough police officers”.

Previously, he has spoken about rural towns and cities being targeted by terrorists.

As attacks are increasingly carried out with relatively crude methods, combined with a likely longer waiting time for armed officers outside of London, the fear is that if jihadists did target smaller towns and cities, the results could be devastating.

In a previous statement he said “being realistic, if a firearms unit was coming from the middle of the county you are still talking about 30 miles away, you are not talking about a few minutes”.

On Tuesday, Mr Apter told BBC Radio Solent that, following the “devastating cuts” to Hampshire Constabulary’s budget, “we have almost a thousand fewer police officers”. According to the BBC, the Hampshire figure stands at 2,898 officers as of September 2016 – down by around 21 per cent from 2010.

However, this comes as their workload is increasing and “demands are ever greater”.

And that’s just to sustain regular policing, without a crisis such as the attacks seen in London.

He also confirmed that Hampshire Constabulary has sent officers to Manchester and to London in the wake of recent incidents, which is “the right thing to do”.

“But there’s only so much you can spread that thin blue line,” he added. “And we are at crisis point.”

Asked about officer numbers and response times for armed police, Hampshire Constabulary told the Alton Herald that it doesn’t release specific details.

“In response to the ongoing threat the public will see an increased policing and security presence across the county at key sites, such as train stations and other crowded places,” a spokesman said. “For operational reasons, we are not confirming details of locations, tactics or numbers of police officers on duty.

“We urge the public to be alert but not alarmed – the police service and our partners are doing everything we can to help protect the security of our communities, public institutions, critical national infrastructure, and businesses and places.

“In addition, we advise the public to remain vigilant and to report any suspicious behaviour or activity to police in confidence on 0800 789 321 or online at gov.uk/act. In an emergency, members of the public should always call 999. For more information, please visit act.campaign.gov.uk.”

The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community UK, which will return to East Worldham in July for its annual Jalsa Salana, said it is “deeply saddened and shocked” at the “brutal and barbaric terrorist attacks in London on Saturday night”.

Rafiq Hayat, national president of the community, said: “Ahmadiyya Muslim Community UK unequivocally condemns in the strongest possible terms Saturday’s terrorist attack in London. All acts of terrorism and extremism are vile criminal acts that are completely unjustifiable.

“We express our deepest sympathy and condolences to the families of the victims and pray for a full and speedy recovery of those injured. We also commend the excellent work of emergency services, who responded in a matter of minutes. We are proud of them.

“This latest attack follows the horrific attacks at Westminster Bridge and the suicide bombing in Manchester and it is clear that such murderers are bent on sowing the seeds of hatred and division. As before, they will not succeed.”

And he added: “Such acts find no hiding place in Islam for it rejects extremism and terrorism in any form and for any reason. We will continue to stand united against extremism and work with all who seek peace to defeat this ideology of hate.”

Mr Lane, Hampshire’s police and crime commissioner, said on Sunday: “Amid the horror of London last night, there are three things I would like to share to set some reassuring local context about our communities.

“At 10pm last night, I left an immensely engaging, hospitable event – IFTAR Under the Stars – led by the Muslim community, including other faiths, community leaders and young people. It was just what vibrant, inclusive community should look like. The horror but minutes later would not be in their name.

“It will always be right for members of the public to report concerns via 999, 101 or the anti-terrorist confidential hotline number 0800 789 321. As the Metropolitan Police commissioner reinforced in her statement, any concern reported could be a contribution, or even the key, to allowing the security forces to interdict other potential terrorist or criminal acts.

“Thirdly, yesterday was a Hampshire Constabulary families day for policing – a reinforcing day for the police, emergency services and their families – demonstrating the truth of their being members of our communities, with the same family priorities and ties, as we all have, but with the particular motivation and commitment at work to keep us safe.”

 

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atharHampshire Police ‘at crisis point’