The first elements of the new Counter Terrorism Operations Centre (CTOC) in London have been unveiled.
A statement issued by the Metropolitan Police revealed the operations include a cutting-edge counter terrorism operations suite which is now fully operational and a dedicated, state-of-the-art counter terrorism forensics laboratory to follow soon.
The first completed section of the new CTOC, which is being housed within the Empress State Building in West Brompton, the statement said was visited on Monday, 28 June by the Home Secretary, Priti Patel and the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan.
“They were shown the new operations suite by the Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick, Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu and the Director General of MI5, Ken McCallum. The Mayor and Home Secretary also met and spoke with staff and officers who will be working from the CTOC”.
Commissioner Cressida Dick at the occasion said, said: “The new Counter Terrorism Operations Centre will allow those involved in countering the threat from terrorism in London to work much more collaboratively and effectively. It will make Londoners, and indeed everyone in the UK, safer from that threat.
“The need for closer collaboration between agencies is something that came out of the review that I and the Director General of MI5 committed our organisations to undertake following the devastating terrorist attacks in 2017. I’m delighted that we’re seeing the tangible outcomes from that review.
“The opening of the new operations suite marks another significant step on the journey to delivering this world-class facility here in London and I would like to thank both the Mayor of London and the Government for their continued support with this project.
“The investment that we, the Mayor and the Government are all making will help to keep London and the UK at the very forefront of global counter terrorism capability and will keep the public safer because of it”.
Also, Ken McCallum, Director General for MI5 said: “Finding concealed threats is a difficult job. We’re always looking for ways to shave the odds in our favour.
“We know our chances of success are better when we combine the knowledge and the skills of experts from different organisations, fighting terrorism as a single team. CTOC is a massive next step on that journey – a world first.
“CTOC is built around the needs of the public, not the convenience of institutions”.
Home Secretary Priti Patel in her speech said: “The threats we face as a country from terrorism are diverse and always changing. To keep the British people safe, we must ensure we’re one step of ahead of those that seek to do us harm and attack our way of life.
“That is why I have established the world-leading Counter-Terrorism Operations Centre, which unites partners from Counter Terrorism Policing, the intelligence agencies and the criminal justice system to ensure that they can discover and disrupt threats more quickly to better protect the public.
“This is just one of the steps we’re taking to protect the British people from terrorism. We’ve also tightened sentencing for terrorist offenders, strengthened the supervision of terror offenders on licence, ended the automatic early release of terrorist prisoners and are consulting on the proposed Protect Duty.
“The British people should be in no doubt, I will always do everything in my power to keep them safe”.
Speaking at the occasion, the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “Keeping Londoners safe is my top priority and that means supporting our police and security services so they have the tools and resources to protect our city from the constantly evolving threat of terrorism.
“The new Counter Terrorism Operations Centre brings expertise and capabilities together in one place for the first time and I’m pleased the £412 million of investment from City Hall and the Met Police helped make this national hub a reality, working to keep London and all of the UK safe.
“It builds on the work London has already started to ensure our capital remains a world leader in counter-terrorism detection and response”.
As well as visiting the new operations suite, the Mayor and Home Secretary were shown around what will be a dedicated counter terrorism forensics laboratory, which will be part of the new CTOC.
The facility, which is due to open later this year, will allow investigators the opportunity to access some of the most advanced forensic science capabilities in the world, and the ability to do so in a much quicker and streamlined way.
The new CTOC will continue to be built and developed within the Empress State Building over the next four years. Gradually, different functions, teams and organisations will move into the centre, with this phased approach allowing current operational capability to continue uninterrupted.
“The development of the CTOC was born out of a series of terrorist attacks in 2017 which killed 36 and caused injuries and life-changing impacts to many more people. The attacks and the subsequent operational improvement review – which was independently assured by Lord Anderson – highlighted the need to further develop our counter terrorism response to ensure it continues to adapt to an evolving threat.
“That need has been emphasised by further attacks here in the UK and across Europe in the past two years, as well as by the 29 deadly attack plots which have been successfully disrupted in the UK since 2017.
“Having a CTOC in London will enable co-location of the London-based elements of Counter Terrorism Policing, the intelligence agencies, and the criminal justice system, as well as other government agencies focused on tackling the threat from terrorism.
“It represents an integrated, partnership-driven approach within a purpose-built working environment which will bring the right people, skills and technology together to help strengthen our ability to protect the UK.
“It will help us install smarter working practices and cultures, rationalising processes and structures, and boosting innovation with new forms of collaboration.
“The CTOC will be a new part of the overall UK counter terrorism response – bringing together, for the first time, all the London-based counter terrorism elements in one place”, the statement said.