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Project Servator - vehicle checkpoints

Some myths dispelled about our vehicle checkpoints...

As we train more officers and increase our Project Servator deployments across York and North Yorkshire, you might have noticed a number of “vehicle checkpoints” on our roads where officers are stopping vehicles and talking to the occupants.

Project Servator vehicle checkpoint at Catterick
Vehicle checkpoint at Catterick

Project Servator deployments are made up of a range of police resources. Some are highly visible, such as police officers in high-visibility jackets. Others are less visible, such as plain clothes police officers and CCTV operators who aren’t ‘on the ground’.

The use of vehicle checkpoints is one of a wider range of assets that can be used in Project Servator deployments including police dogs, armed police officers, plain clothes police officers, security staff, CCTV ANPR (Automatic Number Plate Recognition), and cycle patrols. On some occasions, air support from helicopters and drones is used.

Here’s a few myth-busters about vehicle checkpoints:

  • They are not speed checks
  • We are not checking on people’s movements
  • We do not stop every vehicle – there is a rationale behind the vehicles we do stop
  • Our specially trained officers are looking out for the tell-tale signs that someone might be involved in or planning crime
  • If you are a law-abiding member of the public, you have absolutely nothing to worry about
  • We may stop you if your vehicle looks defective
  • It will be clear that it is a Project Servator checkpoint by the blue signs we display
  • They are designed to help keep you safe from criminality

Police officers specially trained to identify individuals who may be planning or preparing to commit a crime are involved in the deployments. This can range from someone shoplifting in the town centre to an individual who is planning a terrorist attack carrying out reconnaissance at an iconic site – the tell-tale signs that bring them to officers’ attention are the same.

Plain clothes police officers blend in with the crowd while uniformed police officers engage with the public to provide reassurance and raise awareness of the role the community can play in preventing crime by remaining vigilant and reporting anything that doesn’t feel right.

If an individual is displaying the tell-tale signs that officers are trained to identify, they will be stopped and spoken to. Individuals could also be stopped as a result of something else that brings them to police attention, such as a vehicle defect.

Nationally, under Project Servator, 35% of stop and searches carried out in 2019/20 resulted in a positive outcome, such as an arrest or drugs seizure. This is more than one-and-a-half times the overall national positive outcome rate of 20% (to year end 31 March 2020) and shows that Project Servator is a successful tactic in the fight against crime.

Is Project Servator a response to recent terrorist attacks?

Project Servator has been developed over several years and a number of police forces had adopted this approach to policing before the terrorist attacks of 2017 in the UK. North Yorkshire Police adopted it in 2017.

Although Project Servator is not a response to a specific threat, the threat to the UK from terrorism is ‘severe’, meaning an attack is highly likely. The tragic events at Streatham High Road in February 2020, Fishmongers’ Hall in London in 2019 and London and Manchester in 2017, as well as recent attacks in Europe, remind us that attacks can happen at any time or place without warning. This means we all have to remain alert and vigilant when going about our daily lives.

Cooperation between the public, commercial organisations, partners and the police remains the greatest advantage in tackling the challenge the UK faces from terrorism and, in light of the significant threat level, this cooperation is more important than ever before. Project Servator plays an important role in encouraging everyone to work together to make the UK an uninviting target for criminals and terrorists. It aims to disrupt a range of criminal activity, including terrorism, while providing a reassuring presence for the public.

Should the public be worried if Project Servator comes to their area?

Law-abiding members of the public should have nothing to fear if they see a Project Servator deployment in their area. These are normal police operations designed to disrupt a range of criminal activity and create a network of vigilance against those intent on committing crime, including terrorism.

Our research tells us that the majority of the public are reassured to see the police, businesses, community partners and fellow members of the public working together. Around 2,000 members of the UK public have been surveyed about their attitude to Project Servator deployments. The individual surveys have shown that between 57% and 73% of respondents found the deployments reassuring.

As part of Project Servator, police officers will talk to members of the public about the deployments and how they can help. We also encourage people to ask officers questions if they have any concerns.

We rely on the public to be our eyes and ears. You have a key role to play by reporting anything that doesn’t feel right, for example an unattended item or someone acting suspiciously. We ask the public to report suspicious activity immediately to a police officer or their local police on 101. Suspicious activity is anything that seems out place, unusual or doesn’t seem to fit in with day-to-day life. If it’s an emergency, always call 999.

Officers have also forged partnerships with local businesses and organisations to raise awareness of Project Servator, to train staff and volunteers about how to spot suspicious activity, and in some cases, carry out joint deployments such as those carried out with the armed forces in Catterick, and BID rangers in York.

Suspicious activity is anything that seems out place, unusual or doesn’t seem to fit in with day-to-day life. If it’s an emergency always call 999.

North Yorkshire Police was one of the first forces in the country to launch Project Servator and is now one of 17 to have fully implemented the tactics in the UK.

Project Servator was developed by the Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure (CPNI) and the City of London Police, which began using the style of police deployments in February 2014 to reinforce the existing ‘ring of steel’ around the City of London. CPNI is the government authority which provides protective security advice to businesses and organisations that provide the UK’s essential services.

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