Dubbo was the hub of counter terrorism efforts on Wednesday when the Counter Terrorism and Special Tactics Command held their Crowded Places forum for 2018.
The aim of the forum was to link the Counter Terrorism Command with local police, local business owners, operators and community groups to encourage a whole of society approach to preventing terror attacks at crowded places.
Counter Terrorism and Special Tactics Command Assistant Commissioner Mick Willing opened the forum and said the main message was for the community to be alert but not alarmed.
He spoke with local police and business owners about the current threat environment and how it can impact on the Western region.
Around 30 business owners and operators attended the forum, “which is not a bad result for the population spread across the Western region,” Assistant Commissioner Willing said.
They were given advice around the theme ‘weapons and tactics’, hostile vehicle mitigation, active armed offender situations and explosives.
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“It’s important for us to connect the terrorism threat to regional NSW, it’s not just a Sydney, Europe or America thing, it impacts everywhere.
“We saw the other night what happened on Westminster bridge, it can easily happen in any place in Western NSW.
“In my mind there is no difference between the possibility or likelihood of a crowded places act of terrorism in metropolitan Sydney or Dubbo, regional NSW.
“The risk comes from the fact the internet is seeing people radicalised very quickly and messages are circulated globally calling for attacks on crowded places anywhere in Western countries.
“We have seen in the past people and groups come out to the Western region to train whether it be for fitness, weapons or slaughtering animals,” Assistant Commissioner Willing said.
Orana Mid-Western Police District Commander Superintendent Peter McKenna said the forum was well-received by local police and business owners.
“The first step for any community member or business owner who has concerns would be to contact local police as we certainly would be the ones to do the initial panning of events in conjunction with them, and if need be call on the expertise of the Counter Terrorism and Special Tactics Command,” Superintendent Peter McKenna said
Counter Terrorism Command, Capability and Protective Security Group Commander Albert Joseph said the forum addressed the need for a whole of police organisation approach.
“The internet has brought everybody closer, you don’t need to be living in a populated city … People are being radicalised over the internet, where they are? We don’t know, they could pop up in Dubbo today and another regional town tomorrow.
“Police alone can not do it, one policing agency can’t do it, we need to adopt an all-in approach.
“The focus of terrorism has shifted, its not iconic locations, its not big bang type of attacks, it could just be anything now, an indiscriminate person waking up and thinking today i’ll undertake a terrorist attack,” Commander Albert Joseph said.
Assistant Commissioner Willing said “complacency is our enemy” when approaching the terror environment and that “it’s everyone’s issue”.
“This threat is not going to away, it’s evolving, it will be here well after we’re gone, because its ideologically driven and utilising tools like the internet to achieve its aims.
“I would say this is a societal problem, it can’t be addressed by law-enforcement or intelligence alone.
“The take home message was that counter terrorism is something that we all have to be involved in in 2018 and if any members of the community ever have any concerns about anyone behaviour being suspicious or concerning to make sure they contact the local police,” Superintendent Peter Mckenna said.
Assistant Commissioner Mick Willing said they would continue to conduct forums on a needs-basis.