WORK to tackle extremism in Portsmouth has been successful, a top police officer has said.
Superintendent Will Schofield, Portsmouth’s top officer, said under the scheme two youngsters have been stopped from becoming radicalised.
A huge effort under the counter-terror initiative called Prevent was launched after five young men travelled to Syria from Portsmouth calling themselves the Britani Brigade Bangladeshi Bad Boys in 2013.
Four have died fighting for Isil and one was jailed for terrorism offences.
Supt Schofield said: ‘It’s not common but there’s been a couple of good examples where that (stopping youngsters becoming radicalised)happened in the last year.
‘This is about young people who don’t come into contact with the police very often.’
He added the bulk of work is about engaging with young people instead of taking enforcement action.
‘Ninety-nine per cent of this work is not saying “you have got extreme views”,’ he said. ‘People have come to us, or indeed their community leader, and we’ve had a really good dialogue. They’ve been worried about a young person, we’ve engaged with them and it hasn’t ended in enforcement action.’
But Supt Schofield said the force is not complacent and will take action if it is needed.
Officers have visited schools and colleges, and put on sports events to reach people.
And he said it is not straightforward encouraging people to come forward.
Portsmouth South MP Mike Hancock said he wants to see more officers drawn from the Muslim community.
Mr Hancock said: ‘A lot of the officers dealing with this are not first-hand witnesses of what it’s like to be brought up in an Islamic family.
‘They are always looking in.
‘It would be a lot better that they came from that background, both men and women.’
Abu-Suyeb Tanzam, attends the Jami Mosque in Southsea. He said: ‘We can try our best to deliver this message.
‘I hope it’s going to work but it can’t be guaranteed.’
City council leader Cllr Donna Jones said people had reported concerns about two or three people to her.
She added: ‘We need to be strong, we need to send a clear message. If you travel to fight abroad, you forfeit your citizenship. They need to know there are substantial and severe punishments.’
Muhammad Mehdi Hassan, 19, a former pupil at St John’s College in Southsea, Manunur Roshid, 24, of Buckland, Muhammad Rahman, a 25-year-old former Primark worker and Ifthekar Jaman, 23, all died fighting in Syria.
City is ‘not a high-profile target’ – top officer
PORTSMOUTH is no more a target of a terrorist attack than any other city in Europe, Portsmouth’s top police officer has said.
Superintendent Will Schofield’s comments come after Meon Valley MP George Hollingberry said it is likely that security services would put more attention on Portsmouth in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris.
Supt Schofield said: ‘I don’t think we’re a high-profile target in any way.
‘Nothing would suggest we are.
‘That’s not to say we would become complacent.’
Right-wing poses threat
POLITICIANS have warned that extreme right-wing groups could pose a bigger threat than Islamic groups.
Portsmouth South MP Mike Hancock said he feared if groups on the far right were better organised they could be more damaging.
Talking about Islamic extremism he said: ‘I don’t think their radicalism would be anything like right-wing groups if they really got themselves organised.’
Police have said their role is to allow all groups to protest if necessary. The English Defence League protested outside the Jami Mosque and Madani Academy in October.
City council leader Donna Jones added: ‘It tends to be a reaction.
‘It’s often a backlash when there’s been a bombing.’
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