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Another tragedy on our streets will not shatter our way of life

In her latest blog, Alison talks about the recent London Bridge attack and Project Servator.

Over the weekend heartfelt tributes were paid to two exceptional young people. Jack Merritt and Saskia Jones were named by grieving relatives as the victims of Friday’s London Bridge stabbing.

The two Cambridge graduates were clearly blessed with keen minds and had a deep social conscience. They had decided to work in the rehabilitation of prisoners and had helped to organise the Learning Together conference attended by their killer, Usman Khan.

It is likely that Jack and Saskia would have made an incredible contribution to society and their deaths deprive us all. Khan injured three others before he was disarmed with the help of incredibly brave members of the public. Then he was shot dead by police.

The loss of two entirely innocent members of the public in this attack is obviously a tragedy, and my thoughts and prayers are with the grieving families whose shock and loss will be inconsolable.

It is the job of Government to establish why Khan was on the streets and what lessons can be learned. He had spent time in prison for a 2012 terror plot, had links to hate preacher Anjem Choudary, and he clearly should have been behind bars.

But as society reels in the wake of what appears to be another Jihadist attack there are some aspects of Friday’s incident that I hope people will find consolation in.

The response from the police appears to have been swift and decisive. The man who is seen in video footage walking from the scene with a large knife, and the officers who were on the scene moments later put their lives on the line to prevent more people being hurt or killed. Immediately after the attack the streets were flooded with officers who are now well prepared, equipped and trained to deal with such situations.

I would also like to pay tribute to the incredible bravery of those members of the public who ignored the natural instinct to flee the scene and who risked their own safety to tackle Khan. We have yet to understand the full details of their actions but it is clear that they risked injury or death to stop this murderer in his tracks.

Britain has lived with terrorist threat for many years now. London Bridge was also the scene of a 1992 IRA bombing in which dozens of people were injured. The threat has changed over the years and the police response has adapted, but unfortunately we have learned to live with the fact that some will attempt to use fear and intimidation to disrupt society rather than the tools of democracy and free speech that British people are so fortunate to have at their disposal.

The threat from radicalised individuals is difficult to counter as the affiliations and links between terror groups and their acolytes are loose or in some cases non-existent. Here in the Westcountry we enjoy one of the safest parts of the country, if not the world, yet there have been attempts to kill or injure people that were either foiled by good police work before they got off the ground or, like the 2008 attempted bombing of Exeter’s Giraffe restaurant, were enacted.

As Christmas markets and festive events up and down Devon and Cornwall get into full swing evidence of part of the force’s response to this threat will be clear for all to see.

Project Servator (Servator is Latin for watcher) is a policing tactic used to disrupt a range of criminality, including terrorism. It sees the deployment of both highly visible and plain clothed police officers, supported by other resources such as dogs, firearms officers, Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) and CCTV.

Deployments can happen anywhere and at any time and include police officers specially-trained to spot the tell-tale signs of individuals who may have criminal intent.

If you see a Project Servator deployment, there's nothing to worry about - it's normal police activity. Officers will be happy to explain what we are doing and answer any questions you have. Feel free to talk to them if you want to find out more.

We are all united in shock and grief at this latest loss of life, but we have a duty to send a message to any would-be terrorists that these tactics do not work. Atrocities of this nature will not stop British people from getting on with their daily lives.

Alison Hernandez