14 August 2017

Letter to The Times

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Read our letter to The Times, published 12.8.17, in response to their article (9.8.17) which wrongly claimed criminologists blamed the reduction in the numbers of stop and search for the increase to police recorded knife-related crime.

We are surprised by the claim in your article (9.8.2017) that (unnamed) criminologists attribute a rise in knife crime to reductions in stop and search.  Criminological evidence, particularly Home Office research into the Metropolitan Police's Operation Blunt 2, shows that the intensification of stop and search had no measurable impact on knife crime.

Commissioner Cressida Dick cites improvements in the proportion of searches resulting in “something being found” from 10 to 16 percent. She fails to mention that the “something” found, in most cases, is not a dangerous weapon, but small quantities of drugs or evidence of other minor criminality.  Even this improved “hit rate” means five out of six people stopped are found innocent of any crime, hardly indicating a ‘targeted’ approach.   

Intensifying stop and search now risks reversing recent improvements, including the small rise in the “hit rate”, and of exacerbating the disproportionate rate at which black and ethnic minority people are subjected, unfairly in the vast majority of cases, to stop and search.  Until the police and Home Secretary can demonstrate that this power is being applied equitably, lawfully and with far greater rates of effectiveness, increases in its use should be strongly resisted.  

Signed: Emeritus Professor Lee Bridges, School of Law, University of Warwick; Professor Benjamin Bowling, The Dickson Poon School of Law, King’s College London; Associate Professor Michael Shiner,  Department of Social Policy, London School of Economics; Rebekah Delsol, Carson Arthur, Kamaljeet Gill: StopWatch members