Friday, 22 December 2017 08:32

Local police aware of terrorism landscape

Inspector Mark Edwards, of Bairnsdale police, has warned that the community shouldn’t be complacent in thinking terrorism won’t strike regional areas, like East Gippsland. Inspector Edwards, who attended the International Counter Terrorism Forum in Melbourne last week, says the landscape of terrorism attacks has changed remarkably over time. He says in the past terrorism attacks involved mass gatherings and explosives to maximise casualties, but vehicle born attacks, like the one on Westminster Bridge in the United Kingdom, are becoming more prevalent. “Vehicles just hitting places and running over people to cause maximum damage, now that doesn’t have to be in what we call places of mass gathering, they can be in places just to have enough people around,” Insp Edwards said. “If you look at the face of terrorism over the past 10 years, it’s changed a lot. “It’s a lot easier now for a terrorist to hire a car and go and mow down a heap of people and jump out of the car. “They tend to do that now in places where they have access to victims, where there’s a lot of pedestrian traffic. “While it would be naïve of me to say that a place like East Gippsland would ever be immune to it, we never will be.”

Insp Edwards said the Esplanade in Lakes Entrance on New Year’s Eve could potentially be a target. “This is not about people needing to stay away from Lakes Entrance on New Year’s Eve, people just need to be mindful and I guess the message to the community is if you see something, say something,” he said. Insp Edwards said the public shouldn’t feel silly in notifying police. “If you see something that’s not right, that looks suspicious, ring the police, ring Crimestoppers and report what you’ve seen,” he said. “It might be something, it might be nothing, but we’d rather people ring and provide the information; there’s no such thing as a silly phone call.” There is evidence to suggest terrorist cells operatie in rural areas. “Not so much to cause damage in rural areas, but to train, because they’re away from the public eye of the CBD,” he said. “So this is where we say to the community if you have people in groups in remote areas and they’re training in weap-onry or some sort of tactical training, it’s worth making that call to Crimestoppers or your local police.” Insp Edwards stresses no one should put themselves in any danger and go and ask questions, but report what they see and let police deal with it. He says prevention is the way forward in combating terrorism. “We have to stop people from being radicalised,” he said. “The timelines from radicalisation to attacks have been a matter of months,” he said of some instances. “In every case study we looked at, there was a noticeable change in their behaviour. “They change and they change noticeably. We need to get better at prevention and work with the community. “They need help to address issues and the community can play a bigger part.”