Armed police patrols of the streets and crowded places in South Yorkshire are now 'a day to day reality' and will continue into next year as the fight against terror continues, a police chief admitted today.
Police chiefs in South Yorkshire have doubled their number of trained firearm officers over the last year and said armed patrols of crowded areas, major events and sports venues are be expected long term.
Extra patrols have been ordered in the wake of anti-terror raids in Sheffield on Tuesday, but South Yorkshire Police said that with the country's terror threat level 'severe', meaning that an attack is highly likely, armed patrols will become a way of life in the county in a bid to keep people safe and offer reassurance.
Assistant Chief Constable David Hartley said: "Compared to a couple of years ago we have doubled our armed capability in South Yorkshire and over Christmas, New Year and through next year armed and unarmed officers will be highly visible. While ever we remain at a severe threat level this will be the reality.
"We have been doing this all year but following this week's activity we are re-doubling our efforts to be visible to offer that extra reassurance."
He said Tuesday's terror raids - two in Burngreave, one in Meersbrook and another in Stocksbridge, as well as one in Chesterfield - were intelligence led and he urged people with suspicions in their communities to come foward.
"We have neighbourhood police officers back in communities again but we need information from the public too - we can't function without that. It is key," he said.
ACC Hartley said he hopes members of the public carry on with their lives as normal in the wake of Tuesday's anti-terror raids, which saw three men, aged 22, 36 and 41, arrested in Sheffield on suspicion of being concerned in the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism.
A fourth suspect - a 31-year-old man - was arrested in Chesterfield.
"I live, work and socialise in South Yorkshire and I will be doing the same as everyone else over Christmas - none of my plans are changing," he said.
"I won't have armed officers following me around but we are doing all we can to put our staff where they need to be. I feel the same threat as everyone else but I won't be changing my plans."
He added: "Our officers are there to keep you safe, they are not there to frighten or deter anyone from enjoying themselves over the Christmas break. Please feel free to chat to them about their role, they are normal bobbies that just happen to be armed.
“Christmas and New Year is understandably a very busy time for us but as always, we have planned our duties and resources to match this demand, so be reassured that we will be there when needed.
"Our plans over the festive season are detailed and this is about being prepared but not alarmed. My advice is to remain vigilant, but continue to go about your daily business as you usually would."