l LONDONERS have been grateful for the recent increased presence of police on public transport, some have begun to ask what is happening to the jobs that these additional forces were doing before the attacks of July 7 and 21. There has been a suspicion that a lot of routine but necessary police work may have been dropped to give a higher profile to anti-terrorist duties.
This impression was confirmed yesterday when Scotland Yard revealed that more than 1'000 detectives are working round the clock on investigations into the July 7 bombings and the July 21 failed attempts. In addition thousands of other officers and support staff have been assigned to work on what the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Sir Ian Blair, has called the Met's biggest operational challenge since the second world war. Another senior Met officer was more specific. Tarique Ghaffur, who heads the serious and organised crime division covering murder, drugs and gun crime, said that some 400 of his team have been diverted to anti-terrorism work, slowing the division's other work to a trickle. Non-terrorist criminals will have read the reports of these diversions of resources with keen interest and anticipation. And for the average citizen it must be worrying to know that the streets may be less safe even thought the trains and buses are being protected. How will the Notting Hill Street Festival which normally requires a huge policing presence be dealt with? In the short term it is difficult to see what alternative the police have to the change in priorities they have made; but even in the absence of key ministers on vacation it is to be hoped that longer-term plans are urgently being considered to boost the resources that are likely to be needed for some years in the fight against terrorism. Who will pay for such extra resources? There is talk of a special terror tax for Londoner ratepayers.
This would be invidious. Local authorities are not responsible for terrorism. It is the government's problem and it should foot the bill for dealing with it through central funds.
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