Home Secretary risks alarming communities with calls to ramp up stop and search

20th June 2023

The Home Secretary has called on police forces to ramp up the use of stop and search to prevent violent crime.

When used effectively and justifiably, stop and search provides the police with the means to tackle crime and help protect the public. However, accurate information and intelligence should always support the grounds and basis for its use.

It is not an area of policing that should be arbitrarily driven by targets. Decisions to use stop and search should be made locally by police forces, based on identified need and informed by feedback from community engagement.

Furthermore, HMICFRS inspection findings require police officers to ensure that the grounds for stop and search activity are reasonable, and that effective scrutiny and governance is in place to ensure that all related interactions with the public are lawful and correctly recorded.

Today’s statement does nothing practical to help police tackle the issues at hand and risks alarming those who may already feel disproportionately affected by stop and search.

Gwent Police’s use of stop and search is independently scrutinised by members of the public through my Legitimacy and Scrutiny Panel. The panel assesses body worn footage and police records to assess the grounds and interactions between officers and the public. I want to reassure our communities that we will continue to monitor Gwent Police’s use of stop and search, and that if issues are identified they will be dealt with appropriately.

The Criminal Justice in Wales Board Anti-Racism Action Plan provides a further focus on use of stop and search as a gateway to the criminal justice system and reducing racial disproportionality for both victims and offenders.

Stop and search is an important tool to prevent violent crime, but it is just one tactic in the toolbox. We need to tackle violent crime when it takes place, but we must work to prevent people becoming involved in the first place.

To make a real difference we need a full partnership approach to address the issue from the earliest possible age. We are doing a lot of this work already here in Gwent with the police, local authorities, schools, health and the third sector all working together to prevent young people from going down a road that leads to violent crime.

While I agree that a growing culture of violent crime and the danger to lives it presents must end, stop and search should not be expected to provide the only solution. We must move away from focusing solely on the symptoms of violent crime and really try to understand the cause.