Cities are getting better at combatting and responding to terrorist attacks, but the evolution of threats requires further coordinated worldwide action, said panellists during a Friends of Europe Policy Insight debate ‘Terror and the city: boosting urban resilience to violent extremism’ on 22 February.
Paul Argyle, Strategic Advisor to the Mayor and Deputy Mayor of Manchester attributed part of the widely-praised reaction to the Manchester attack in May 2017 on the basis of a generic response.
“We use the same plan when we respond to an incident, so that we have the same command-and-control structures. We then support that with plans for specific scenarios,” he said.
The 2016 attack in Nice, when a truck was deliberately driven into crowds of people, showed the difficulty of dealing with attacks using vehicles. One way is to change urban design by restricting access to pedestrian areas with physical barriers.
Other solutions were proposed by the private sector, such as the use of drones for disaster recovery. Emmanuelle Pierrard, Head for Energy, Transport and Public Sector at Nokia Benelux explained that the company is investing in drones equipped with intelligence capable of spotting heat and motion, as well as in video and data analytics that could be used to spot an anomaly in a crowd, enabling security forces to act to prevent an attack.
Government structures are also critical. European Union initiatives such as the Schengen Information System have improved in their ability to track potential terrorists. But implementation is the responsibility of individual member states, some of whom are reluctant. Staying ahead of the latest violent methods deployed by terrorists needs constant learning, developing new techniques and adopting best practices.