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Stop and search must change

CONCERN: Knife crime is becoming more prevalent across the capital and must be tackled

TOO OFTEN I hear commentators and politicians discussing the use of stop and search, and it’s clear that they don’t understand what it’s like to grow up on the receiving end of this.

I’ve been searched more times than I can count. Often, I’m told I match the description of someone who has committed a crime in the area, but many of us know what this means, it means I’m black and that they’re looking for a black man.

In London, the Mayor is perhaps the most prominent voice on this topic, and he previ- ously promised a cut in stop and search to win votes and then changed his mind once in power.

I have grown up in London – I’ve spent my adult life volUnteering to help people with drug addiction, helping young people get better life chances and been involved in family work aimed at preventing gang activity.

Many of the vulnerable people I have worked with have also been on the receiving end of stop and search too many times. The message I receive is clear – it alienates them. Anyone reading this may be surprised to know that I support stop and search, and so do many members of the black community in London.

I know that used correctly, it can help reduce knife crime and keep the black community safe. The problem is, it’s not being used correctly.

It’s being used to search black people for drugs rather than as a tool to fight knife crime. Only 15 per cent of stop and searches relate to knife crime, compared with 60 per cent relating to drugs.

This is despite the fact that, in the most recent Crime Survey of England and Wales, drug usage among white people is almost twice that of black people.

Yet young black males are more than 10 times more likely than white males to be arrested for drug offences, and eight times more likely to be stopped and searched.

These figures show that the black community is being targeted for a crime that they’re predominantly not committing. This erodes community trust and underpins suspicions within the black community that stop and search is disproportionally targeted against us.

PROTOCOL

Knife crime has been on the rise in London. From December 2016 to November 2017, there were 14,348 knife crime incidents, representing an increase of 31 per cent from the year before and a two-year increase of 43.62 per cent.

Knife crime is a crime that disproportionately affects the black community, both as vic- tims and perpetrators, therefore, if police began to use stop and search correctly and sensitively, then the protocol could help save more lives.

In my recent report on knife crime, Londoners Lives Matter, I have made a series of recommendations – one of which is focused on better use of stop and search.

For too long, the debate has been focused on increasing or decreasing the use of stop and search. I believe that this is wrong, we need to use stop and search better – we need to refocus it on high harm and violent offences such as knife crime.

I want to see a London free from knife violence-related deaths. Refocusing stop and search away from petty drug offences to a tool to fight knife crime could help do this.

It would help increase trust in the police among the black community and give all Londoners peace of mind that the violence currently infesting their streets will be tackled.

Shaun Bailey is deputy leader of the Greater London Assembly Conservatives.

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