Stop and search in Havering soars for the first time in a decade
PUBLISHED: 07:00 28 January 2020
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The use of stop and search powers by police in Havering more than doubled in 2019. Here’s what a year’s worth of results looks like.
More than 3,700 people were subject to on-the-spot searches by police in Havering last year, including 184 children aged under 15.
Officers used their powers under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1989 to search people and vehicles 3,794 times in the borough, a sharp rise compared to the 1,783 occasions the year before.
It comes as use of stop and search across London has increased dramatically for the first time in 10 years - in response, police claimed, to a surge in violent crime.
A police spokeswoman said: "Tackling violence is the number one priority for the Metropolitan Police Service. One homicide, one stabbing, one violent incident is one too many.
"The rise in stop and search is a response to the increase in levels of violence and is part of our ongoing efforts to prevent crime, reduce injuries and save lives."
During 2019, 26 per cent of searches in Havering led to some form of action being taken against the person police had stopped.
In 53 per cent of cases officers were looking for drugs, and on 24 per cent of occasions for weapons.
A total of 541 people were found carrying drugs and 76 were caught with knives or bladed weapons. On nine occasions, the person searched had been carrying a gun.
They also searched 763 people suspected of carrying stolen goods and 338 people they believed were "going equipped": carrying tools for criminal purposes.
Police found evidence of theft or fraud on 177 people and and 15 of those searched were suspected of possible immigration offences.
Eleven people were caught carrying psychoactive substances - and one person in 12 months was rapped for having fireworks.
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Police arrested 491 people as a result of searches in Havering and 127 more were slapped with a penalty charge, or later, a court summons by post.
Some 89 per cent of people stopped by police were male and 1,439 of all those targeted were teenagers aged 15 to 19.
A total of 2,399 people searched were described as Asian, 2,198 as white, 1,805 as black and 165 described by police as of "other" ethnic appearance.
Of the 184 children aged 10 to 14 that were searched by the Met in Havering, 12 were found to be carrying something of note.
Despite police doubling down on use of the power, London-wide data shows stop and search has become less effective. In 2019, 76 per cent of searches resulted in no further action, compared to 71 per cent in 2018.
Katrina Ffrench, CEO of UK-wide charity StopWatch, said the organisation was "concerned" about the figures.
She said: "The line has been that police want to tackle knife crime, even though in reality it is mostly used for low-level drugs offences.
"Police are adamant that stop and search saves lives, but we have argued that actually when over-used, it breaks down trust and confidence in communities."
"They want to be seen to be doing something but the power is used disproportionately for a small reward."
Met-wide figures show black people are still more likely to be searched, even though the rate of "positive outcomes" - incidents where something was found - is higher for white people.
Ms Ffrench added: "The grounds used to stop black people seem to be at a lower threshold and the ethnic disparity has been there all along."
In response the Met said stop and search was carried out based on "intelligence", adding: "Knife crime and street violence in the capital disproportionately affects boys and young men, particularly of African-Caribbean heritage, in terms of victims and perpetrators."
Across London stop and searches increased from 151,000 in 2018 to 268,432 in 2019, after a decade of steady decline.
In that time 670 people made formal complaints about an encounter with officers who had used the power. Of these, 31 were upheld by the Met's Directorate of Professional Standards.