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Source: United Kingdom London Metropolitan Police

Counter Terrorism officers in London are calling on parents, friends and family to pay particular attention to what young or vulnerable people in their care are looking at online.

This is due to an increased risk of being drawn into violent extremism or terrorism brought about as a result of certain measures currently in place to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic.

Officers from the Met’s Counter Terrorism Command (CTC) are encouraging anyone with worries or concerns to visit the dedicated ‘Let’s Talk About It” website (www.ltai.info), which has advice and guidance on what signs to look out for and what to do and where to go for help if you think somebody is being placed at, or is at, particular risk of being radicalised and drawn into violent extremism or terrorism.

Officers believe that social isolating measures could make some of the most vulnerable people in society more susceptible to radicalisation or other forms of grooming and that the risk of being drawn into violent extremism may increase for some vulnerable people.

This is because the pandemic appears be driving young people to spend more unsupervised time online, where feelings of boredom and isolation may be exploited by negative influences and online groomers of all kinds.

Detective Superintendent Jane Corrigan, who leads the Met’s CTC Prevent Teams said: “Now, more than ever, it’s important that friends and family look out for their loved ones and if they have any concerns, then visit the Let’s Talk About It website, or contact police so we can make sure they get the support they need.

“Unfortunately, one of the effects of the current social distancing measures is that the people who are often the ones who spot the early signs of radicalisation – teachers, healthcare professionals or social workers – are not coming into contact with those affected. This means we’re not getting the number of referrals we normally would and cannot identify those who need support to steer them away from being radicalised and taken down a path into violent extremism or terrorist activity.”

Prevent is just that – a preventative programme delivered locally by teachers, healthcare practitioners, social workers, the police, charities, and religious leaders. It places protection around people vulnerable to radicalisation, stopping them from being drawn into terrorism – regardless of the ideology. It works in a similar way to safeguarding processes designed to protect people from gangs, drug abuse, and physical and sexual exploitation.

Whilst referrals into the Met’s Prevent teams may have fallen in recent weeks, Prevent officers across London continue to work hard to support those already engaging with the programme, as well as the people who support its delivery. This has meant officers have had to adapt and change the way they work since the Government’s measures to tackle the pandemic were introduced in March.

Detective Superintendent Corrigan added: “We’re having to carry out a lot of our work remotely now, using technology like video conferencing, to ensure that we’re providing the same level of service to the people we engage with.

“Officers are also still going out for face-to-face visits where required, but in a way that as in line with the Public Health guidelines so as not to put themselves or others at risk.

“Another thing we’ve done is to release a small number of NHS nurses who were contracted to work with us on Prevent, and they have gone back onto the NHS frontline to provide vital support and care for those with the coronavirus. But the support from the NHS staff who continue to assist us with Prevent work has been tremendous, in what are such difficult circumstances.”

Officers are also working with education specialists and are hoping to produce a guidance sheet that could be used by parents or other adults to have a conversation with young people about the issue of violent extremism.

The intention is for it to be used in conjunction with a short film called ‘Hate’, which was recently produced by internet comedian Humza Arshad in collaboration with the Met’s CTC. The film explores some of the ways young people can be drawn into violent extremism, and ultimately how futile such action is.

Detective Superintendent Corrigan said: “The ‘Hate’ film was launched in January, and our officers, along with Humza, visited a number of secondary schools across London to talk with students and really get them thinking and debating the issues which are raised in the film. Our intention was for teachers to carry on this work during lessons, but with the schools closures, we’re looking at how these conversations can be had at home by those who might not normally be used to talking about these issues.“

The ‘Hate’ film is available to view on YouTube at: https://youtu.be/3ppFEyjwPsA

More information and guidance is available at the Let’s Talk About It and Action Counter Terrorism websites. If you’re worried someone is in immediate danger, you should always call 999.

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