The 2016 murder of MP Jo Cox and the 2017 attacks in Westminster which claimed eight lives are recent reminders of the deadly consequences of modern extremism from the far-right and radical Islam.
Both incidents were lone-wolf attacks perpetrated by Britons. Such home-grown terrorism is particularly disturbing in this age of divided politics and resurgence of extreme, violent ideologies.
While we may sometimes feel powerless to stop these seemingly random acts of violence, there are actions we can take in the security industry and as individuals to reduce the risk of such tragedies happening again.
Security guards should not be seen as an isolated part of the country’s security infrastructure from police and intelligence. In many spaces, it is not police who are the public’s first point of contact with security concerns, it is private security guards.
Security guards can identify and report known threats, identify potential threats and provide detailed information to the police or intelligence services. In many high risk sites and crowded public spaces which may be targets for terrorism, it is security guards, not police, who are responsible for public safety.
In light of the current political climate, there are a number of enhanced training courses available to security companies which can make their guards more capable of identifying and reporting potential extremism.
As I have written before, this training is particularly valuable in schools, colleges and universities as young people are more vulnerable to being preyed upon by extremists.
A student who spends all their time with their peers, from classes to social periods to halls, is more susceptible to indoctrination than someone who works a nine to five and then goes home.
Far-right extremism is troubling as its popularity is fairly evenly spread across all ages, with slight peaks amongst 18-29 year olds and 65+. More reliable predictors of right-wing extremism are income level, social isolation and education.
It is important that training is regularly refreshed to keep security guards up to date with the changing threats faced by our country.
This is yet another reason why the security industry needs to take the quality of its service and training seriously. The more capable our private security forces are, the better prepared we will be to identify and report extremists.
Much of the radicalisation that drives people towards violent acts occurs in online spaces, but there are still red flags that spill over into day to day life which may indicate that someone should be reported to the authorities for monitoring.
For example, Thomas Mair, the murderer of Jo Cox, was a far-right extremist who had been consuming white nationalist propaganda and conspiracy theories for many years. He had attended far-right gatherings and purchased far-right publications, some of which he had written in to.
While hindsight is always 20:20, it is important that we do not underestimate the indoctrinating effect of engaging with such materials and becoming integrated into extremist communities where violence is an integral part of the ideology.
Unfortunately, even when an extremist is known to the police and M15, they can still slip through the cracks. Khalid Masood, perpetrator of the 2017 terrorist attack on Westminster Bridge and the Houses of Parliament, was known to have a violent past and links to Islamic extremism.
As individuals, we all have a responsibility to report anyone who we suspect holds extremist views which are incompatible with the society in which we live. Taking the time to share a few details with the police could save someone’s life.
At Magenta Security, we’ve provided security services for some of the most high risk sites in the UK, from government offices to embassies and ports. If you need a robust security service tailored to the threats of today, call us now on 0800 772 3786.
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