AT THE tail end of 2009, Surrey Police announced the launch of Project Kraken – an initiative designed to alert people on our stretch of the river to the dangers of terrorist and criminal activity on the non-tidal Thames.
Since then, things have been a little quiet but on Monday last week, the Police held a briefing at the Holiday Inn in Shepperton to bring local businesses and organisations up to speed with progress of the scheme to date.
Kraken, which has been described as a kind of neighbourhood watch on the water, is already operating in many coastal counties with ports of entry into the UK where illegal immigration and drug smuggling are obvious problems.
But it is only relatively recently that the police have identified that it could be possible for people to enter the UK illegally by simply getting on a boat and travelling right up the Thames into our part of the world.
Which means that marinas like Penton Hook, Shepperton, Walton, Thames Ditton and Bates Wharf in Chertsey could potentially be in the front line of the fight against terrorism – a fact magnified in importance because of the impending Olympics in London with many of the venues and athlete accommodation easily accessible via the river.
Detective Constable Mick Coulson, a Special Branch ports officer, has been responsible for implementing Kraken in Surrey and he is pleased with progress.
“We’ve now trained around 60 police officers in boat-handling and river safety and they have begun to make regular patrols sharing launches run by the Environment Agency to try to raise the profile of a police presence on the river,” he told me.
That goes some way to replacing PC Jim Halstead who, many regular readers will remember, was axed from his role as a river Neighbourhood Specialist Officer in 2009.
DC Coulson admits that there is still some way to go before Kraken is fully up to speed, but he’s now keen to engage the help of river users, businesses on the Thames and local residents to help in the fight against terrorism and crime.
“With the Olympics on the horizon, we need to be very vigilant about reporting anything unusual on the river,” he told the meeting.
“Anything a little out of the ordinary, people behaving oddly or doing things at odd times of the night on the water is something we’d like to know about.
“You may not associate Surrey with a risk of terrorist activity but it’s worth remembering that one of the planners involved in the 9/11 attacks in the United States was living under cover in Weybridge for a while,” he said.
Already, an increased police presence and eagle-eyed residents have started to show results.
Surrey Police officers arrested a man and woman and seized a number of items after carrying out search warrants on two boats moored in Staines in March this year.
The raids took place at around 5pm on Tuesday, March 16 when officers from Surrey Tactical CID searched two boats moored near Town Quay.
They were aided by the Environment Agency and the Metropolitan Police Marine Policing Unit. The operation took place following information regarding suspicious activity from members of the public submitted through Project Kraken.
Officers seized suspected class A drugs, which were taken to Staines Police Station and have since been sent off for analysis.
A 44-year-old woman from London was arrested at the scene on suspicion of possession of class A drugs and possession of other inappropriate materials. A 50-year-old man from Bath was also arrested on suspicion of possession of class B drugs.
Both the man and woman are on police bail until a date in September.
If you see anything suspicious on the river, contact the police by calling 999 or 0845 125 2222 and ask for the Project Kraken team.