New police tactic to spot suspicious behaviour on Suffolk streets

Patrols being carried out at Ipswich railway station Picture: SUFFOLK CONSTABULARY

Patrols being carried out at Ipswich railway station  - Credit: Archant

Police are set to be trained in methods derived from counter-terrorism strategy in order to spot suspicious behaviour on the streets of Suffolk.

The force will become the latest to adopt a strategic tool known as Project Servator, which sees uniformed and undercover officers arrive unannounced in populated areas to observe behaviour in an effort to disrupt criminal activity.

Deployments can happen anywhere, at any time, and may be backed by specialist resources like dog units, armed officers and drones.

Introduced by the City of London Police in 2014, Project Servator is the name given to "unpredictable, highly visible police deployments" designed to deter, detect and disrupt criminal activity, including terrorism, with officers trained to identify criminal intent. 

The tactic has been used at major events, railway stations, ports and shopping centres by forces including Essex, Norfolk, North Yorkshire, Devon and Cornwall, West Midlands and Greater Manchester.

It is understood Suffolk's Kestrel team – established last August to bolster response to high-volume crimes like drug-dealing and anti-social behaviour – will be trained in the spring, with Project Servator potentially launched in Ipswich over the summer.

Assistant Chief Constable Rob Jones told last week's meeting of the independent Stop and Search Reference Group that Project Servator's main focus was on looking for suspicious behaviour and hostile reconnaissance, but that skills applied well to detecting and disrupting serious crime.

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A study by the University of Leicester in 2019 found that, in forces which took part in Project Servator, 37% of stop and searches resulted in an arrest or the discovery of weapons or illegal drugs, compared to the 17% national average.

Mr Jones said: "It's about trying to create objective behaviour, and when officers engage, they give much better and more thorough grounds.

PCC Tim Passmore said: “This is an exciting operational initiative and I look forward it being used in Suffolk.

“Project Servator has been successful elsewhere in the UK, especially in the City of London, where their force developed this programme.   

"It is a high profile, very visible policing approach, which will improve public engagement with our communities across Suffolk, and help disrupt and deter criminal activity.

“I’m very supportive of these policing initiatives that take organised criminal gangs and dangerous people off the streets of Suffolk, and look forward to seeing the results later this year.”

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