A major new national initiative aimed at helping spot early signs of radicalisation or possible involvement in terrorism is directly acting upon years of research by University of Huddersfield academics.
Counter Terrorism Policing (CTP), the national policing organisation which protects the UK from terrorism, has launched a new safeguarding website and social media campaign, called Act Early, designed to help people share their concerns about relatives or friends who they are worried are becoming radicalised by ideologies.
The CTP’s digital Prevent campaign has drawn on the research of Professor Paul Thomas, Professor of Youth and Policy in the School of Education and Professional Development. He has researched a wide range of community issues, including the Prevent counter-terrorism strategy, and collaborated with Visiting Professor Michele Grossman of Deakin University, Australia on the Community Reporting Thresholds project for the UK’s Centre for Research and Evidence on Security Threats (CREST).
That research resulted in a report for CREST which made a series of recommendations that have influenced policymakers and counter-terrorism specialists. Evidence from the inquest into the 2017 London Bridge attack showed that few family or friends share their concerns either at all or until almost too late, so CTP’s new campaign, drawing on Professor Thomas’ findings, now offers various mechanisms for people to make contact at an early stage.
Resources in the new campaign include videos, case studies and advice, plus a dedicated phone line for sharing concerns in confidence with Prevent officers.
Spotting the early signs of radicalisation are vital
“Helping friends and family identify loved ones who are getting involved in the planning of terrorism and terror activity has been a real blind spot in national counter-terrorism policy. Our research has helped address this,” says Professor Thomas.
There has been a UK Anti-Terrorism hotline in place for several decades, but this new campaign and its resources are not a replacement service for that ’emergency’ line.
“We call it ‘intimates reporting’ – it is about family or close friends having early concerns and sharing them,” explains Professor Thomas. “Our research looked at whether people would share these concerns about an ‘intimate’ with the authorities. If they wouldn’t immediately, what would they do first? What are the barriers to them sharing their worries?
“Before formally reporting to the police, the research pointed towards an initial willingness to address possible radicalisation and worries over changes on behaviour or lifestyle directly with the relative or friend concerned. If that was brushed off, then trusted family members would be approached.