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Casemates security tightened for New Year party

Additional police officers will be deployed on Gibraltar’s streets for the New Year celebrations, as security for big events is reviewed across Europe in the wake of the Berlin terror attack.

In common with other countries, Gibraltar’s law enforcement agencies are tightening their stance to ensure the public are protected and can safely enjoy the year-end festivities.

The threat level in Gibraltar remains at “substantial”, the third-highest grading in a five-step list that means an attack is “a strong possibility”. However security officials stress there is no specific threat to the Rock.

The current threat level, which was first raised to substantial in January 2015 after the Charlie Hebdo shootings, echoes similar measures put in place across Europe.

Since then EU law enforcement and intelligence agencies have continually reviewed their response to the threat of terrorism, with concerns about mass-casualty terror plots heightened after extremists struck busy public events in Europe.

In July, a lorry ploughed down the packed seafront promenade in Nice during the annual Bastille Day celebrations, killing 86 people and injuring hundreds of others.

A Christmas market in the heart of Berlin was the scene of a similar atrocity earlier this month, when 12 people died as a truck packed with steel was driven into crowds.

“Policing operations and contingency planning remain under constant review, and in consultation with the Gibraltar Contingency Council, the Royal Gibraltar Police have implemented a wide range of overt and covert measures over the festive season in Gibraltar,” a spokesman for the RGP told the Chronicle.

“Without discussing specifics, measures include the deployment of additional human resources, traffic management around forthcoming public events and additional numbers of armed officers on duty in certain locations at specific times.”

Security is also being visibly tightened in cities across Spain, including in the neighbouring Campo de Gibraltar.

In La Linea, several areas of the city centre where people tend to congregate over the festive season have been sealed off with bollards and concrete planters. Similar measures are being put in place in Algeciras.

In Madrid, the Spanish Ministry of the Interior has boosted the number of police officers who will patrol the Puerta del Sol New Year celebrations and bollards will seal off all vehicular access to the area.

The UK is also taking steps to better protect citizens who attend mass gatherings to celebrate the New Year.

The threat level in Britain remains at “severe”, meaning an attack is considered “highly likely”, according to the Metropolitan police.

Armed police will join around 3,000 officers on the streets of London on Saturday as hundreds of thousands of people flock to watch the Mayor's firework display.

But the Metropolitan Police's Detective Superintendent Phil Langworthy sought to reassure the public, saying there were “both overt and covert” measures in place for protection.

“Clearly we have been looking at what has happened around the world in terms of Berlin, Nice, etcetera, and have adjusted our plans and continue to adjust our plans,” he said.

“We police around 3,500 large events every year including New Year's Eve and we meticulously plan those events - we have meticulously planned New Year's Eve - and we look at our tactics and we look around the world and adjust our tactics if need be.”

“We have a very extensive planning period, we plan for many months, pretty much we start planning since the last event.”

Police here and across Europe are also urging people to “do their bit”, be alert and report anything suspicious to the authorities.

In Gibraltar, the Gibraltar Contingency Council recommends that people be aware of the advice in the RGP Stay Safe document, which can be found on the RGP website.

“We continue to encourage the public to remain vigilant and aware of the threat from terrorism, and to report any suspicious behaviour or concerns to police,” the RGP spokesman said.