The ACPO is launching a national campaign calling for untrained people to denounce their friends and neighbours who are a bit different - possibly foreign or with a mental handicap. This follows two similar campaigns by the Met, in 2007 and 2008, and a recent one by the GMP targeting hair salons. Here's a graphical example from this year's campaign by the Met:
The ACPO press release:
Launch of national counter-terrorism campaign
‘Don’t rely on others. If you suspect it, report it.’ That is the key message of the national counter-terrorism campaign launched today in the UK.
The campaign, which will use print, radio, outdoor and transport advertising, will remind people to be vigilant as they go about their daily business and to call the Anti-Terrorist Hotline on 0800 789 321 if they are concerned about suspicious activity.
Considering how bad trained police officers are at spotting terrorists, asking untrained people to attempt to do the same will end up creating more suspicion of anyone behaving a bit differently. This will obviously target those who have different customs and those who are afflicted by some illness, fuelling further discrimination. These campaigns also focus on common objects, recently photographers have been particularly targeted. Looking at our environment, be it buildings or CCTV surrounding us, - hostile reconnaissance as it is called by the police - is a cause for arrest but so far has not been a cause for any conviction.
Although the threat of attack remains real, the advertising campaign has not been launched in response to any specific threat.
So there has been no risk assessment?
Deputy Assistant Commissioner John McDowall, Senior National Coordinator Counter-Terrorism, said:
“This campaign is asking all members of the public to trust their instincts and contact the Anti-Terrorist Hotline on 0800 789 321 with any information they have. No piece of information is considered too small or insignificant.
“Terrorists live alongside us in our communities. They make their plans while doing all they can to blend in. They try to avoid raising suspicions about what they are up to.
“We want people to look out for the unusual – some activity or behaviour which strikes them as not quite right and out of place in their normal day to day lives – and to take responsibility for reporting it.”
Check out the interviews on the Colors Magazine website, or the profiles in the magazine itself, if you need to be convinced that this campaign will result in more innocents ending up on police files just because they're not British and white and compliant and...
The advertising campaign will run for between three and five weeks across the country from 16 March and asks members of the public to report any suspicious behaviour to the Anti-Terrorist Hotline on 0800 789 321.
All information passed to the Hotline is treated in the strictest of confidence and researched prior to police action being taken.