York has never known a police presence like it, outside of major emergencies.

Officers patrolled the streets on horseback and with dogs, watched from on high and at street level, as a major new anti-crime initiative got underway.

Known as Project Servator, it is an innovative police scheme that deploys teams of officers to deter, detect and disrupt criminal and terrorist activity in crowded places.

It sees the deployment of both highly visible and covert police officers and staff alongside other resources such as dogs, firearms, ANPR (Automatic Number Plate Recognition) and CCTV cameras in busy centres and at large events.

Specially trained officers

Officers in Coney Street

Following the launch on Tuesday (April 11), the initiative will be rolled-out at other key locations and events across the county such as the upcoming Tour de Yorkshire.

Police say these deployments are by design highly unpredictable and are intelligence-led.

The public will see officers specially trained to deter, disrupt and detect crime using tactics developed and tested over a five-year period by the Centre for Protection of National Infrastructure (CPNI) in partnership with City of London Police.

The police helicopter above York

Project Servator has been successfully used by a number of forces such as City of London Police, British Transport Police (BTP), Essex Police, Ministry of Defence Police and the Civil Nuclear Constabulary.

It was also used extensively by Police Scotland during the Glasgow Commonwealth Games in 2014.

Public key

Outside the West Front of York Minster

Key to the success of Project Servator is the support of people living, working and visiting York and North Yorkshire.

They are asked to be the extra eyes and ears for police, reporting any suspicious behaviour to help make it even harder for criminals.

Superintendent Mark Grange, North Yorkshire Police’s strategic lead for Project Servator, said: “The active support of the public, community and businesses is key to the success of Project Servator.

“Our officers have already been engaging with businesses and the local community over the last month to introduce them to the concept and to explain the vital role that they have to play.”

The horses do their bit for community policing
The police dog was a great draw

He said people shouldn’t be alarmed by the heavy police presence in York today and at other locations around the county in the coming weeks and months, adding:

Keep in mind that these are normal police operations that will deter, detect and disrupt a broad range of criminal activity.

The deployments are designed to be unpredictable and can turn up at any time. One day our tactics may be highly visible, the next we will be working in a more covert way.

You can help us keep your area and community safe by engaging with the Servator teams if you see them deployed in your area and by speaking to officers to find out how you can play a part.

Increase vigilance

Talking to the public in King’s Square
The public’s co-operation is vital, say officers
The public meet George the police horse and North Yorkshire officers

Chief Inspector Fiona Willey, of North Yorkshire Police’s proactive policing command, said that by combining police deployments with increased levels of vigilance they will be able to “disrupt a broad spectrum of criminality, everything from pickpocketing to terrorism”.

She said the tactics are not in response to a specific threat “or the recent tragic events in Westminster, but have been in the planning stages since September 2016.

Police at the Minster
Explaining the project on Coney Street

“They will be rolled-out across the county in the coming months as part of our continuing work to help keep North Yorkshire safe by collaborating with our partners and the communities that we serve.”

The public should stay vigilant and report anything that they deem to be suspicious immediately by telling a police officer, or by calling 101, or 999 in an emergency or by calling the Anti-Terrorist Hotline on 0800 789 321.