At close range Guns and knives have formed the basis of some of the deadliest attacks on UK soil. Kate O’ Flaherty asks how can comms technology help to alert those close-by of danger, and track the perpetrator on the run
One of the most well-known and deadly gun attacks in the UK took place in Hungerford in 1987, when 16 people were killed and 15 injured by Michael Ryan. Nearly 10 years later in 1996 meanwhile, the Dunblane massacre saw gunman Thomas Hamilton target pupils and staff at a school, killing 17 and injuring 15 others. Following these two major attacks, gun laws in the UK were tightened significantly. However, in 2010, a major police manhunt took place in Tyne and Wear and Northumberland when a 37-year-old man named Raoul Moat shot three people in two days and went on the run. Also in 2010, lone gunman Derrick Bird killed 12 people and injured 11 others. Looking at the situation today, gun and knife attacks are also likely to be carried out by those in small cells as well as individuals. In Paris in 2015, terrorists opened fire at cafés and restaurants before killing 130 people at the Bataclan theatre in the city’s northern suburb of St Denis. In 2017, another major terrorist incident took place, this time in the UK, with the perpetrators utilising knives in a targeted attack on civilians in the London Bridge area. Emergency services know that speed is key when responding to this type of attack. That being the case, a number of alerting systems can be used to warn people nearby of danger. In addition, body-worn cameras and CCTV combined with tracking and facial recognition are now able to catch attackers as they flee. So, 30 years after the Hungerford massacre, what would happen if a gunman or knifeman were on the loose in a busy area?
Facial recognition technology will become more important in preventing violent crime
Gun laws in the UK are tight, but that doesn’t mean it is impossible to get hold of weapons. Indeed, the growth and development of the dark web has seemingly made it much easier. The items available online are often legally owned guns that have been converted or modified to be able to fire live rounds, says Tom Tahany, an intelligence analyst at security and intelligence firm Blackstone Consultancy. With that in mind, as soon as an attack happened in 2019, a number of communications solutions would potentially kick in, helping to relay the issue back to relevant parties. One clear example of this is a location-based solution, with alerts sent out by text to citizens in potential danger in the event of an attack. The UK doesn’t use a specific system as yet, but it is likely something will be in place before long, with the EU having just passed the new Directive on European Electronic Communications Code (EECC). This makes it mandatory to have
“Emergency services know that speed is the key when responding to this type of attack”
a public warning system by 2022. From the police point of view meanwhile, the response to such an attack could involve work across constabularies. It is common practice that a police armed response vehicle would be deployed, for instance, says Tahany. These are equipped with side arms, as well as a G36 semi-automatic rifle. He continues: “Should the individuals who carried the attack flee as Raoul Moat did, it is likely that security forces would initially attempt to spot the subject on CCTV to gain a direction of travel, and in some cases a mode of transport, away from the area.” This would be combined with other resources such as automatic number plate recognition picking up vehicles of interest, as well as phone cell site data and information provided to hotlines by the public. Some of the location-based alerting solutions mentioned above can also help to track an attacker once they have committed the crime and are on the run. For instance, it is possible to send out a text to ask people in the area if they have seen anyone suspicious. If someone replies with a text or picture, the system will show up which base station the message originates from. As the incident
March 2019 | www.bapco.org.uk | Twitter: @BritishAPCO