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  1. ITV Report

Threat of terrorism and smuggling increasing along East coastline

The police unit that's tasked with patrolling the longest coastline in the country says the threat it is facing from terrorism, people smuggling and drugs importation is increasing.

  • Click below to watch a report by ITV News Anglia's Hannah Pettifer

Essex Police Marine unit like many departments within the police has undergone budget cuts, but they say suspicious activity on the waters, once rare, is now becoming commonplace.

Credit: ITV News Anglia

The police unit patrols 400 miles along the Essex coastline. However only four years ago plans were announced to get rid of the unit altogether to save money.

Instead the number of boats were reduced drastically and the team brought down to just three full time officers. Neither Norfolk Police nor Suffolk Police have a marine unit.

It comes as President of the Police Superintendents Association of England and Wales recently described policing as facing a 'perfect storm', following budget cuts and rising crime.

Credit: ITV News Anglia

"On a day like today we do counter terrorism patrols, look at our vulnerable sites around the coastline, looking out for suspicious activity on the water, any vessels that come in that we don't recognise, we're not happy with, vessels with foreign flags or not showing a flag, we'd go alongside and board them as well.

"It's not just a counter-terrorism thing, it's people smuggling, drugs importation.

"It's happening more and more now on a regular basis that we'd come across vessels that we're not happy with, where we'll see things.

"Perhaps in the past it was quite rare but now it's becoming more commonplace that's for definite."

– PC Ian Newling, Essex Police