Police urged to use stop and search to save more lives
Police leaders must make sure their officers are confident to use stop and search powers wherever necessary, to seize dangerous weapons and prevent knife crime
The Home Secretary has written to chief constables of all 43 police forces in England and Wales, to give her full backing to the common sense policing tactic and to urge them to ensure their officers are prepared to use the full powers at their disposal, so they can be more proactive in preventing violence before it occurs.
The Home Secretary also calls on the police to use powers to arrest and investigate instances where someone is unlawfully obstructing a stop and search and for police to publish more body-worn footage quickly. It is hoped that by telling the whole story quickly, innocent police officers will not be subject to trial by social media over their actions.
The drive comes as new data shows more than 100,000 weapons have been removed from Britain’s streets since 2019 through a range of tactics – almost half of which were seized in stop and searches, which have also lead to more than 220,000 arrests. The latest data available shows that serious violence has been driven down by 25% since 2019.
Home Secretary Suella Braverman said:
"Carrying weapons is a scourge on our society. And anyone doing so is risking their own lives as well as the lives of those around them. This dangerous culture must be brought to a stop.
"My first priority is to keep the public safe and people who insist on carrying a weapon must know that there will be consequences.
"The police have my full support to ramp up the use of stop and search, wherever necessary, to prevent violence and save more lives.
"Every death from knife crime is a tragedy. That’s why I also back the police in tackling this blight in communities which are disproportionately affected, such as among young black males. We need to do everything in our power to crack down on this violence."
In the year ending March 2022, 99 young people lost their lives to knife crime in England and Wales, and 31 of those victims were black. Black males are, therefore, disproportionately more likely to be killed by violence and knife crime. Though the government recognises black males are more likely to be stopped and searched, our first priority must be on prevention and public safety.
The Home Secretary has also provided an update on safeguards the government is putting in place on stop and search powers to strengthen trust between the police and local communities. After consulting with the policing sector, the government will go further to strengthen 2 of the conditions of the former Best Use of Stop and Search Scheme by putting them into law.
These conditions are:
- police should communicate with the local community when a Section 60 order is being put in place in an area, unless this would hinder a sensitive operation
- data on every stop and search interaction must continue to be collected for the Home Office to publish for transparency and public scrutiny
As committed to in the government’s Inclusive Britain report, the Home Office is also working with partners to develop a national framework on how the use of police powers – including stop and search – are scrutinised at a local level.
Currently, local panels made up of members of the public, chaired often by an independent party, review randomly selected records and footage of incidents of stop and search and reflect on whether officers have acted appropriately, providing feedback to their local force. The national model will improve consistency and standards across forces, help strengthen local communities’ confidence in their local force and improve the police’s confidence to exercise these powers.
Too many criminals who carry knives and weapons go on to offend time and again. Our new serious violence reduction orders aim to help end that cycle by giving the police powers to automatically search those already convicted of knife and offensive weapon offences. This acts as a deterrent, while also ensuring that those who persist on carrying knives are more likely to be caught. The orders are being piloted in 4 police force areas for 2 years.
The government recognises that the drivers behind serious violence are complex. Tough law enforcement action is only one part of our approach to tackling the root causes of serious violence. The government has also invested £170 million in early intervention, education and prevention schemes since 2019, with our network of Violence Reduction Units supporting more than 215,000 vulnerable young people in the past year alone.