Stop-and-search use in London rose 40% in lockdown, figures show
Tactic was used 1,100 times a day between April and June, and lower proportion led to arrests
Stop and searches in London rose by 40% during lockdown and a lower proportion of them led to arrests, figures show.
The tactic was used 104,914 times between April and June, equating to more than 1,100 times a day.
Scotland Yard said the drop in crime at the height of the pandemic meant more officers had been able to go on the frontline and target drug dealers and violent gangs.
But only one in five stops led to an arrest, fine or caution. The statistics have prompted renewed concerns that police are using the power indiscriminately.
Police officers: share your views on the use of stop and search
Maurice Mcleod, the chief executive of Race On the Agenda (Rota), said: “These latest statistics are worrying. They show that as reported crime fell during lockdown, police officers have had more time to work proactively and that this proactive work seems to have resulted in a huge spike in stops.
“The increased proportion of stops that result in no action suggests that stops are being carried out based on officers’ pre-existing biases rather than on genuine suspicion of criminality. As lockdown regulations ease, there is a real risk that the increasingly disproportionate use of these powers will further damage relations between the police and some of London’s communities.”
The shadow home secretary, Nick Thomas-Symonds, said: “Stop and search should be intelligence-led. It is crucial that use of these powers is transparent and the police work alongside communities. We know there are very high levels of disproportionality in stop and search, especially with black men, and it is vital that concerns about its use are listened to and addressed.”
Last month the Metropolitan police apologised to the athlete Bianca Williams after she was stopped and then handcuffed while in a car with her baby.
Insp Charles Ehikioya, a serving officer, is planning to sue his own force for racial harassment after he was stopped while driving off-duty, and the Labour MP Dawn Butler accused the force of racial profiling when a car she was travelling in was stopped. The Met said the incident was down to a mistake in a number plate check.
Despite the controversies and the focus on police treatment of black people after the death of George Floyd at the hands of US officers, the Met commissioner, Cressida Dick, has defended officers’ use of stop and search.
The new figures are contained in an update by the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (Mopac) covering the first quarter of 2020-21.
The report says “the context of stop and search is important” and that “in recent years we have seen an increase in violent crime across the UK”. It adds, however, that “any use of stop and search or use of force must be proportionate and accountable”.
The figures show that 21% of stops led to arrests, fines, drugs warnings or cautions, down from 33% two years ago. Only 9% of people stopped in May were arrested.
The report says drug-related stops accounted for 69% of the total, and those for weapons, points and blades made up 15%.
The number of offences reported to the Met between April and June dropped by 27% on the previous quarter, including falls of 40% in knife crime and 25% in gun crime, leaving officers more time to stop the few people who were out during lockdown.
Gavin Hales, a senior associate fellow at the Police Foundation, a thinktank, said: “The Met have been increasing stop and search for a couple of years as part of their response to violence, but the spike in May of this year was exceptional. We know that when stop and search goes up, a smaller proportion result in crimes being detected and more law-abiding people are stopped and searched.”
A Met spokeswoman said: “Stop and search results in drugs and dangerous weapons being taken off the streets as well as acting as a deterrent in itself, and officers will continue to use this tactic lawfully and ethically where there are grounds to carry out a search.”
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