In the eighteen months since the terror prevention program started Sir Norman Bettison, the chief constable of West Yorkshire Police and Britain’s most senior officer in charge of terror prevention, states at least 200 cases have been intervened.
That number is a huge increase from the 10 children identified prior to the June 2008 start of the The “Channel project”, run by the Association of Chief Police Officers.
The project asks teachers, parents and other leaders in the community to watch for signs that their children are being groomed by extremists or drawn to the viewpoints of extremists.
The Telegraph reports:
“One of the four bombers of 7 July was, on the face of it, a model student. He had never been in trouble with the police, was the son of a well-established family and was employed and integrated into society.
“But when we went back to his teachers they remarked on the things he used to write. In his exercise books he had written comments praising al-Qaeda.
“That was not seen at the time as being substantive. Now we would hope that teachers might intervene, speak to the child’s family or perhaps the local imam who could then speak to the young man.”
When a child is identified outreach workers come in to discuss with the family the concerns. The outreach workers are religious figures in the community like a local imam.
Sir Norman said that some of the children have had police directed intervention.
The basis of the project is to build trust and confidence within the community. By targeting children that could be vulnerable they are hoping to stop terrorism in its tracks. Sir Norman is clear that this is not to be confused with a target on the Muslim community instead they are targeting criminals and would-be terrorists that could become entrenched in Islamic extremism rhetoric.
The project is covering Lancashire, Lambeth in London, West Yorkshire, the Midlands, Bedfordshire and South Wales. It is now set to be started in the rest of London, South Yorkshire and Greater Manchester.
The Telegraph reports:
A Home Office spokesman said: “We are committed to stopping people becoming or supporting terrorists or violent extremists. The aim of the Channel project is to directly support vulnerable people by providing supportive interventions when families, communities and networks raise concerns about their behaviour.”
There are some concerns that the project could infringe on children’s privacy the Daily Mail reports:
Inayat Bunglawala of the Muslim Council of Britain said: ‘There is a difference between the police being concerned or believing a person may be at risk of recruitment and a person actually engaging in unlawful, terrorist activity.
‘That said, clearly in recent years some people have been lured by terrorist propaganda emanating from al-Qa’ida-inspired groups.
‘It would seem that a number of Muslim youngsters have been seduced by that narrative and all of us, including the Government, have a role to play in making sure that narrative is seen for what it is: a nihilistic one which offers no hope, only death and destruction.’