Businesses urged to join our network of vigilance to help disrupt hostile reconnaissance

As COVID-19 restrictions ease and people are able to shop, socialise and spend more time in public spaces, specially-trained police officers are working to disrupt the information-gathering terrorists and other criminals need to do to plan their actions.

In order to carry out their crimes successfully, terrorists and other criminals need to gather information to help them plan. This is known as hostile reconnaissance.

They’ll get information from a range of sources, but will almost always visit the location they want to target to find out more about what day-to-day life is like there and to assess their chances of success. This is an opportunity for police to detect them whilst they are in the planning phase.

Project Servator is a policing tactic designed by the Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure (CPNI) and the City of London Police to disrupt hostile reconnaissance and stop would-be terrorists and other criminals before they take action.

West Midlands Police have specially trained Project Servator officers patrolling Birmingham City Centre in both uniform and plain clothes. Occasionally West Midlands Police officers will also work alongside British Transport Police officers.

It’s different to regular policing, because the officers involved are specially-trained to spot tell-tale signs that someone may be carrying out hostile reconnaissance.

They deploy in uniform and plain clothes to places that may be of interest to people seeking to gather information to help them plan criminal activity, including terrorism.

Officers can turn up anywhere and at any time across the country – you never know where and when they might pop up next. They are supported by visible and less visible measures, such as armed officers, police dogs, live-monitored CCTV, Automatic Numberplate Recognition and drones.

If officers identify someone whose behaviour indicates that they may be planning or preparing to commit a crime, they will speak to them to find out what’s going on. Through that conversation they’ll determine if there’s an innocent explanation or whether there’s cause for further action, such as a search of the person or their vehicle, or an arrest.

But it’s not just specially-trained officers that have a role to play in disrupting hostile reconnaissance. Project Servator relies on police working with the business community to build a network of vigilance.

National police lead for Project Servator, Assistant Commissioner Alistair Sutherland, said: “Security contractors, stewards and events staff, employees from all kinds of businesses and the public, are encouraged to be our extra eyes and ears, and report anything that doesn’t seem right. They know where they work and live best, so we ask them to trust their instincts. No one should worry about wasting police time. Any piece of information could be important and it is better to be safe and report. No conversation, call or click will be ignored. What you tell us is treated in the strictest confidence and thoroughly researched by experienced officers before, and if, any police action is taken.”

If Project Servator is deployed in your area, it’s very likely that the police will talk to you about it. If you’re a business owner, they’ll speak to staff to let them know what they’re doing and encourage them to report any suspicious activity. Staff can also play an important role in reassuring customers if they see the police activity and ask what’s happening.

Officers will also approach the public, from a safe social distance, and explain what they’re doing. They will remind people that, sadly, the threat from terrorism has not gone away and that they play a key role in keeping themselves and others safe, by reporting anything that doesn’t seem right.

You can be part of this network of vigilance in a number of ways:

  • Support Project Servator in your area by displaying posters in your premises and sharing social media content if your local officers @mention your organisation.
  • Find out more about how you and your colleagues can help to disrupt hostile reconnaissance through See, Check and Notify (SCaN) training. Delivered by qualified police trainers, this programme teaches staff at all levels to identify suspicious activity and what to do when they encounter it. As an added bonus, the skills they learn will enhance the service they provide to your customers. SCaN is about using existing resources more effectively to help keep your business safe. It is designed to work alongside Project Servator and promote effective collaboration with the police. Colmore BID works with West Midlands Counter Terrorism Unit to deliver SCaN training for our BID Members.
  • Remind colleagues to be vigilant and trust their instincts. If something doesn’t seem right, they should report it to security staff or a police officer. They can also report online at In an emergency, always call 999.
  • Download the ACT app to your phone to get up to date information from CT Policing, and encourage your staff to do the same. Colmore BID has a single sign-in registration, making it easier for our BID Members to have the most up to date CT information at their fingertips 24/7.

If you would like to know more about the SCaN training and Colmore BID single sign-in ACT app contact our Safe & Sound Strategic Project Officer here.

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