One of the largest ever police operations at Silverstone Circuit is well under way ahead of this weekend’s British Grand Prix, but the superintendent in charge has insisted it is business as usual for policing in Northamptonshire.
Thousands more people will be arriving at the circuit during the course of the weekend with police leading a massive multi-agency security operation designed to ensure racegoers have an enjoyable and safe visit.
This year has seen a significant uplift in security and racegoers can expect to see more armed as well as unarmed police officers around the circuit over the weekend.
The police have advised spectators to leave home a little earlier as it may take a bit longer than previous years to enter the circuit.
“People can expect more security generally and visitors should be prepared for bags to be searched going into the circuit,” said event commander, Supt Chris Hillery, head of local policing.
“This year we’re policing all the way out to the park and rides, and then all the way in through the road network, right up to the site gates, and then inside the circuit.
“And that includes normal uniformed police officers, armed officers, search officers both inside the pay line and outside the pay line.
“That isn’t because the threat level has changed but the perception of threat has changed off the back of the terrorist attacks that have occurred in the UK and Europe in recent months.
He added: “We have a large number of officers, including specialist officers, on duty this weekend and this is a great opportunity for Northamptonshire Police to show the very best of UK policing to the world. This is the UK’s biggest sporting event in terms of visitors and we have planned accordingly for that.”
With close to 320,000 people expected to attend the race, Supt Hillery said the main priority was to ensure every person at the event feels safe, whether they are in the grandstand, or on the fair ride, or in the stall areas.
Police officers from surrounding counties have been drafted in to lend a hand to stewards and security staff, but Supt Hillery insisted this did not mean forces in Northamptonshire, the East Midlands region, Hampshire and Thames Valley were weakened as a result.
“What it doesn’t do is affect business as usual policing across the county, so the resources in Kettering, Corby, Wellingborough and East Northants are exactly the same as they would have been last weekend.
“This operation is isolated, has a significant impact on our overall resources, but doesn’t affect our service delivery elsewhere.”
As well as the emergency services, the Army are also present at this years Grand Prix as part of the multi-agency operation.
“The military do a number of things, they are here doing some parades but we’re also supported this year by EOD, bomb disposal, who albeit service the region, they’re here so that if we have an incident we can call upon them to support us really quickly,” said Supt Hillery.
“This is the first year we’ve got them as part of our policing operation and it allows them to do some training and make sure they understand the policing operation as well.
“And they’re an integral partner in the delivery of a safe event.”
An ANPR operation is also taking place throughout the weekend in order to identify any vehicles that are known to have connections with criminality and officers will also be patrolling campsites as well park and ride facilities.
Planning police operations for the 2017 edition of the British Grand Prix began at the conclusion of last year’s race, following a debrief which highlights areas in which the force can improve.
“I started planning in the summer last year to deliver this event,” said Supt Hillery.
“It’s always about learning the lessons and developing. We know last year we weren’t going into an event off the back of three terrorist attacks in the UK, this year we are and we need to learn not only from Silverstone 2016 but the Ariana Grande concert, Westminster Bridge, Finsbury Park.”
People camping during the event are being advised to make sure their belongings are as secure as possible when they go to sleep and when they leave their tents.
Visitors are also reminded they do not need to bring lots of cash to the event but make use of the cashpoints on the site rather than carry lots of money.
At midday on Friday, police had recorded a total of four crimes, all thefts from motor vehicles, and made one arrest.
More crime prevention advice is available at northants.police.uk/Silverstone or by following @northantspolice on Twitter.