If you travel regularly by plane then you’ve probably seen some pretty tough looking police officers armed with guns. It’s an unusual sight in the UK as our regular police force are not armed. For international visitors, it probably doesn’t come as much of a surprise. Their purpose is to provide a wide range of law enforcement duties specifically in the airport environment providing enhanced security to airport staff and passengers. Due to the current high levels of terrorist threat around the globe, their role is more important than ever. They will also be wearing Body Worn Camera to capture evidence and offer reassurance to travellers. For more information, visit http://www.pinnacleresponse.com/body-cameras-and-the-law/.
In the UK it is the responsibility of the local police force to provide armed patrols to any airport within it’s geographical area. They are often trained in fire, emergency medical response and enforce the airport’s rules and regulations on the airfield and within secured areas. They are vital presence in keeping our airports safe and controlled.
Policing at civilian airports used to be operated by specialist constabularies but with the onset of global terrorism, armed police from territorial forces were deployed under the Policing of Airports Act. This came about due to a terrorist alert in 1974 at Heathrow Airport which saw the army deployed in immediate response. This is when armed officers from the Metropolitan Police were, for the first time, permanently deployed to the airport.
Heathrow is under the watchful eye of officers from the Met Police and they are also responsible for London City Airport. It deals with the threat of terrorism, the protection of iconic sites, theft and organised crime. Their aim is to make Heathrow and London City safe and secure for members of the public and to make life difficult for criminals who want to use these facilities. It’s important to work in partnership with the airport to create a safer environment, concentrate on crime reduction strategies, respond to anti-social behavior and increase confidence in policing.
Safer Airport Teams are based in every terminal and consist of a number of police officers and police community support officers. As each team is based in one terminal, they get to know the businesses and staff and make it easier for people to approach them with questions and suspicions. This is a more effective way to gather information and intelligence to prevent crime and terrorism.
The Safer Airport Teams work is split between community relations and crime but the two go hand in hand. It’s important that the airport are listened to and feed any information to the team for them to act on information. These teams are useful in the fight against shoplifting offences, persistent offenders including bag thieves and rough sleepers, as well as general and organised criminal activity. Each policing team can offer advice, information and presentations on any number of subjects. This is grass roots policing in a busy, complex environment but is treated like the village it is, full of businesses, restaurants, services and people from all backgrounds and nationalities.