Increasing stop and search is ‘not the solution’ to knife crime, say campaigners

The new rules would significantly increase police powers to stop and search those with past convictions

Campaigners have raised the alarm over new government proposals which would greatly increase the police’s powers to stop and search those with past knife crime convictions.

Under the government’s new plans, police officers will use Serious Violence Reduction Orders (SVROs) to target ‘repeat offenders’.

Imposed by a court for a specific amount of time, SVROs will apply to those convicted of knife offences, including those who received non-custodial sentences. According to the government, the new orders will build on existing stop and search powers to ‘better target the small minority of persistent offenders’.

Stop and search has been criticised as both an ineffectual and institutionally racist policy. Knife crime reached a record high in 2019, despite a twentyfold increase in Stop and Searches under Section 60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act in the two years preceding.

Police have been accused of ‘stereotyping’ and ‘targeting’ BAME communities when applying stop and search powers. Across the country, Black people are eight times more likely to be stopped and searched than white people.

Critics say that this leads to communities being profiled as well as fuels feelings of general distrust of the police.

StopWatch chief executive Katrina Ffrench called these new proposals ‘deeply concerning’.

She said: “We know – from research using the Home Office’s own figures and police data – that stop and search is ineffective in tackling knife crime.

“Removing the hard won protection of reasonable suspicion from any search is only going to lead to less effective policing and greater harassment of those already over-policed and under protected – young black men. These orders will further entrench these patterns and fuel the distrust between impacted communities and the police.

“Thinking back to just this summer, when a vulnerable child approached police ask for medical assistance following a far-right attack, they searched him. Increasing stop and search powers is not the solution.”

Nick Thomas-Symonds MP, Labour’s Shadow Home Secretary, said: “The truth is that under the Tories violent crime – and knife crime in particular – has risen right across the country, whilst Ministers have overseen a rise in reoffending.

“That is, sadly, the inevitable consequence of deep cuts to the police and preventive services. A range of actions are needed to tackle repeat offending, with a strategy that carries the confidence of all our communities, not simply a public consultation on piecemeal measures.”

Sophia Dourou is a freelance journalist

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