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West Yorkshire's PCC and University of Bradford join forces to tackle online radicalisation


West Yorkshire's Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC), Mark Burns-Williamson, West Yorkshire Police, the North East Counter Terrorism Unit and the University of Bradford have joined forces to tackle online radicalisation.

The University of Bradford will work with the Office of the PCC, West Yorkshire Police and the North East Counter Terrorism Unit to carry out an in depth study into online radicalisation.

The University has created a Cyber Security Interdisciplinary Centre to carry out focused research into cyber security issues, the first of which will be the joint radicalisation project.

The Centre has a wealth of expertise from many different backgrounds including computer science, digital forensics, cryptography, peace studies and social science, which will enable them to look at the data available from different perspectives to that of the police, to understand how an individual can be radicalised through online means.

It is being led by Director, Dr Andrea Cullen, Senior Lecturer in Computer Science, and Lorna Armitage, Lecturer in Computer Science and Programme Leader for BSc Computer Science for Cyber Security.

The outputs of this project are expected to include learning materials for community policing, education providers, local government and other partners as well as innovative tools to enable the police to focus their resources for investigation and disruption operations in more targeted ways.

Dr Cullen said: “The CSIC draws many academics from across different disciplines within the University of Bradford. Our expertise spans computer science, peace studies, psychology, social sciences, management, law and mathematics. The group's interdisciplinary approach offers new insight into cyber security issues that have traditionally been looked at from an individual or specialist area perspective.

“The aim of this Centre is to create a unique resource that will act as a central research, knowledge transfer and consultancy hub for all matters related to cyber security activity at the University of Bradford, positioning the University to capitalise on any new developments in this area. It will also result in more effective delivery of undergraduate and post graduate programmes.

“The collaborative partnership with West Yorkshire Police is a key part of the CSIC and is the first of many important projects to come out of the centre.”

The project is being part funded by West Yorkshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner who has invested nearly £50,000.

Police and Crime Commissioner, Mark Burns-Williamson said “Online radicalisation impacts heavily upon our communities and feelings of safety and the consequences can be truly devastating.

“Tackling radicalisation has its roots in partnership working. This new research is a step in the right direction in further understanding the behaviour and circumstances that surround an individual being radicalised and the steps that can be taken by various organisations to prevent it and provide a counter narrative.

“I will be keeping a close eye on the progress of this research and I am also keen to see what other opportunities arise to further partnership working.”

Assistant Chief Constable Russ Foster, who is the Chief Officer lead for the North East Counter terrorism Unit said: “Gaining a better understanding of the techniques used to radicalise young people on line is undoubtedly a key part of our work to prevent it.

“This innovative new partnership holds the potential to provide valuable insights into how those who seek to identify vulnerable members of our communities, slowly manipulate and twist their thoughts and radically alter their values, beliefs and behaviours to cause harm to themselves and others.

“We will seek to make the best use of the learning derived from this study in both the training of our staff and the delivery of the Prevent pillar of the Government’s Counter Terrorism Strategy with our partners to the people of West Yorkshire which we serve.

“All communities and partners must remain vigilant and continue to work together to meet the challenges we collectively face in keeping people safe and feeling safe.

“Anyone with any information about radicalisation either on line or anywhere else should call the police immediately on 101 or the confidential Anti-Terrorist Hotline on 0800 789 321.”

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