updated 3/28/2009 6:44:05 PM ET 2009-03-28T22:44:05

British police said Saturday that a program that tries to identify children at risk of Islamic radicalization has dealt with 180 cases over an 18-month period.

The Association of Chief Police Officers said that around 180 children were referred to the program, designed to combat homegrown terrorism, between April 2007 and September 2008.

The program, known as the Channel Project, asks parents, teachers and youth workers to look out for children who may be taking an unusual interest in extremist literature or those who may be tempted to join radical groups. Community leaders and local government workers then develop a program to help the children.

West Yorkshire Police Chief Constable Norman Bettison said the program could have helped spot the suicide bombers who killed 52 commuters on London's transit system in July 2005.

"One of the four bombers of 7 July was, on the face of it, a model student," he was quoted as telling The Independent newspaper in an interview published Saturday.

"But when we went back to his teachers they remarked on the things he used to write. In his exercise books he had written comments praising al-Qaida. That was not seen at the time as being substantive, Now we would hope that the teachers might intervene, speak to the child's family, or perhaps the local imam who could then speak to the young man."

The Channel Project was set up by the Association of Chief Police Officers in 2007 in parts of northern England and London and is being rolled out across the country.

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