"You Have Nothing To Fear From Prevent" - Det Supt Nik Adams, CTP North East

In an opinion piece for the Yorkshire Post, Detective Superintendent Nik Adams has written about the work of Prevent across the seven forces covered by Counter Terrorism Policing North East:

"Back in 2001, in front of a Magistrate, an audience of new colleagues and my family, I read aloud the words ‘I will prevent all offences against the persons…. without fear or affection, malice or ill will’. It was one of the proudest days of my life; the day I took the oath to become a police officer.

I have devoted my service to diverse inner city neighbourhoods, and in those same neighbourhoods I have also served as a school governor and as a member of a drama group helping to raise money for local causes. Like many of my colleagues, I have a deep understanding of crime, policing, education and communities, but critics of Prevent rarely stop to consider that.

In my career I have sadly seen the devastating impact of serious crimes. One crime in particular, the sexual attack and rape of a 13 year old girl by a group men in a park next to a primary school, profoundly influenced me as a young Inspector. With the Head Teacher I met with 150 parents. They were angry, devastated and understandably fearful for their own children’s safety. Drugs and street crime were perceived to be rife, enabled by growing criminal fearlessness in the face of a community scared to challenge or report incidents. There was also frustration about a lack of positive activities to raise aspiration, a sense there was nothing to counter the negative influences that surrounded young people locally. The situation was complex and spanned far beyond the serious assault that had taken place; this wasn’t something the police service alone could solve.

In policing, through our close involvement and relationships with both victims and offenders, we understand needs and forge partnerships to solve problems. We care, we are resilient, and our determination to impartially and proportionately tackle problems enables us to make a difference in the right way. As you’d expect, the police took a tough stance against the criminals, running investigations and operations to bring them to justice. I was also passionate about working with our partners and the community to make lasting change, which was enhanced with help from a charity that specialised in inspiring community activism. A local police officer on my team was instrumental in driving this forward.

Wind the clock forward 8 years: On the very spot where this crime took place now stands a modern and impressive community centre housed in donated and upcycled porta-cabin buildings. It brings people together for everything from coffee to sport to mentoring and education. It’s inspirational, community-owned and volunteer-led. Adjacent wasteland, once rife with drug use, is now a sports field developed and maintained by the project. Local professionals donate time and expertise to help the community obtain funding and build this dream. Every day amazing young role models and community volunteers safeguard vulnerable people from being drawn into modern day ills. The police remain involved and the local Community Safety Partnership continues to tackle the risks and negative influences that need more robust intervention, arrest or prosecution.

There are many parallels between the challenges I faced in the early days of this work, trying to galvanise support and encouraging people to speak out, and the challenges I face working in Prevent today.  An approach that protects people who are vulnerable and exploited whilst also tackling those who do harm is balanced and proportionate. Prevent is just that, and for it to be labelled otherwise is misleading.

My Prevent team intervene where a clear risk of radicalisation or an extremist is identified, and the voluntary Channel programme brings together wide professional expertise to shape the right safeguarding support for vulnerable individuals. Community projects are often used to provide support, along with mental health professionals, school based mentors, religious experts or social workers as appropriate in each case. I am surrounded by dedicated professionals whose values and decisions are shaped over decades of experience. We constantly strive to listen and learn to improve what we do, which is essential in the fight against manipulative and poisonous extremist narratives. You can have confidence in our commitment and professionalism.

I know the devastating impact of terrorism extends far beyond an actual attack. The fear of terrorism and the stigma associated with being labelled an extremist are corrosive. These are by-products of terrorism, not Prevent. Some say Prevent has achieved nothing, well tell that to the girl who was prevented from travelling to Syria and is now at university enjoying a bright future. Or tell that to the teenager who had an irrational hatred of Muslims, was attending EDL marches and becoming overtly threatening in his behaviour, driven by his lack of experience of other faiths and cultures. He was supported through Channel and now volunteers at a project like the one above with people from different backgrounds. He’s making a really positive contribution. Both families are getting on with their lives and want to put the past behind them. I can understand why they don’t want to publically tell their story of how Channel and their mentors changed their lives, but hopefully one day they will.

Undermining confidence in Prevent and the professionals who deliver it delays and prevents people stepping forward to share concerns about friends, colleagues or loved ones. I know that’s often a hard decision, but only when concerns are shared early can we intervene before it is too late to stop someone from being drawn into terrorism. I felt an immense sense of pride when I took my oath 16 years ago and I feel the same pride today when thinking about what we achieve in Prevent. I am also proud of the way our communities respond to the devastating impact of terrorism, but it’s this we fear - you can trust me, you can trust my colleagues, you have nothing to fear from Prevent."

If you are worried about a loved one please reach out and share your concerns.

You can contact the police in confidence on 0800 789 321, online via this link.

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