Met say most cases relate to drug dealing and gang activity
Picture: H&F Council
The Met Police’s use of stop and search has dramatically increased during the lockdown more than doubling in Hammersmith & Fulham in April. It has the highest increase of any borough in London.
There were 1,330 cases last month compared with just 558 in March with the vast majority of cases related to drugs.
Across London, there were 30,608 uses of stop and search in April, compared to 23,787 in March – a rise of 22 per cent. In Kensington and Chelsea searches jumped from 339 in March to 731 in April. The only borough which saw a slight drop in the number of searches was Hackney.
While crime has fallen since the lockdown, Scotland Yard said street-level drug dealing and gang activity have become “more visible”, and that increased use of stop and search has been based on intelligence.
This year’s figures on the use of stop and search vary dramatically from 2019, when there was a 20 per cent drop between March and April. While April 2018 saw only 13,085 searches – fewer than half the number of searches in April 2020.
Suspicion of carrying drugs was the reason officers gave in 66 per cent of all stop and search cases since February.
The Met’s data also shows how many searches have been happening in each of London’s 32 boroughs.
Stop and search is a controversial method of policing, and there is a belief in some London communities that young people from minority-ethnic backgrounds are more likely to be stopped than their white British peers.
Defending the change of tactics, a Scotland Yard spokesman said: “The use of stop and search in response to intelligence about criminal activity and the threat of violence remains an important tactic for frontline officers tackling crime and protecting the public.
“The reduction in emergency calls and operational demand due to coronavirus, and the ‘stay at home’ instruction making suspicious activity on the streets more visible, has meant that the Met has been even more proactive around preventing street-based violence and drug dealing. There have also been more officers assigned to frontline duties, and this has resulted in an increase in the use of stop and search.
“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.”
However, only 22 per cent of all cases resulted in any further action being taken. 11 per cent of all searches led to an arrest, while 7.4 per cent led to a “community resolution”.
Gareth Dixon, the CEO of the Young Hammersmith and Fulham Foundation, and a member of the borough’s Policing and Crime Commission, said some young people have a “general distrust” of the police due to stop and search.
Mr Dixon said: “Stop and search is something that is discussed a lot. There can be a general distrust of the police… the number of young black males who are stopped is disproportionate to the residential demographic of Hammersmith and Fulham. So there’s a mistrust of the motivation for being stopped – whether it’s for good reason or if it is because they’re young, black and male.”
He added: “I would advise young people that, if they are stopped, to respond respectfully, even if you think it’s unfair. But of course this is easier said than done. Young people need to be educated on their rights and supported to not overreact, especially if you have done nothing wrong. It’s better to go through the process and raise concerns afterwards.”
Anyone with concerns about drug dealing in their area can call the non-emergency 101 phone number to contact their local police.
Owen Sheppard, Local Democracy Reporter
October 18, 2019