Thames night patrol cuts risk ‘Mombai-style attack’ on London, MP warns

Thames River police patrol

Thames River police patrol - Credit: Archant

The Thames waterfront could be in danger from a “Mumbai-style terror attack” if the Met Police marine unit at Wapping is shut down, an MP has warned.

Thames Marine Unit HQ at Wapping

Thames Marine Unit HQ at Wapping - Credit: Spencer Griffiths

It would affect a 14-mile stretch from east London to Westminster and the Houses of Parliament if the Met stops night patrols and reduces its Marine force by 40 per cent, according to Poplar & Limehouse MP Jim Fitzpatrick speaking in Parliament.

“The attack in Mumbai two years ago came from the sea, which demonstrated the risk of sea-borne attacks,” he told the Commons. “During the Olympics, HMS Ocean was based on the Thames to support the Met’s Marine unit—that demonstrated the risk was still there.

“The Thames is London’s Achilles heel—the Home Office must make sure we maintain our security vigilance.”

He demanded to know from the Home Secretary if the Met Police review would result in “no night-time patrols at all, which is the word on the river.”

The threat to the Marine Unit did not specifically appear in the review, he pointed out. Many police stations face closure, three of them in the East End apart from Wapping.

Mr Fitzpatrick has now written to the Police Commissioner asking for confirmation about Wapping police station.

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He says in his letter: “The end of night patrols would leave 14 miles of the Thames unpoliced, which would affect the ability to respond to a major incident.”

It would “severely undermine” security on the Thames, he added.

The river police force has its roots at Wapping in the 18th century, founded in 1798 to protect the wharves of east London from piracy and smuggling—three decades before Robert Peel set up the Metropolitan Police in 1829 which later incorporated it.

Mr Fitzpatrick is calling for public consultations before any cuts are “brought in through the back door” in April.

Scotland Yard insisted the Met can meet its obligations to police the river and inland waterways and “safety would not be jeopardised.” All areas of policing are being reviewed which would “share the budget reductions.”