Guest columnist: Time we saw stop and search as tiresome but necessary – like airport security checks


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So, the shadow home secretary once again takes aim at police in respect of stop and search.

Little wonder that Diane Abbott is mistrusted by police officers of all ranks. Unlike her shadow policing minster Louise Haigh, she rarely praises police, instead preferring to align herself with left-wing activists and politicians who persistently heap vitriol on frontline officers doing their best in a society that is becoming increasingly lawless.

She refers to “random” stop and search by which she probably means a Section 60 order. This empowers police to stop and search without requiring reasonable grounds. It is not imposed lightly and will only be implemented in a relatively small area following a critical incident such as a stabbing or a shooting or where there is specific intelligence concerning potential violence, normally that which involves gangs.

Those who, like the Tory mayoral candidate Shaun Bailey, wish to see drug searches curtailed seem to be totally unaware of the fact they also frequently reveal dangerous weapons. Each and every victim who has died on London’s streets as the result of knife or gun crime would still be alive today if their assailants had been stopped and searched before encountering their victims.

Ms Abbott also ignores the fact, now acknowledged by the mayor’s office, that the street victims of London’s gun and knife crime attacks are disproportionally from the black community as can be seen from the sad montages of victims. These are not racial attacks of the kind that killed Stephen Lawrence; most of the perpetrators are also black. This situation exists by virtue of social deprivation, inferior housing, education, and lack of employment opportunities, and we should look to blame generations of politicians from across the spectrum – not police.

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It’s interesting that it is politicians and activists from the left who are heard criticising “racist” police stop and search rather than the parents and families of the victims themselves. Surely it is time that these persistent police critics adopted the view that stop and search, rather like airport searches, are tiresome but necessary. In Merseyside, where there are similar drug, gang, gun and knife crime issues, most stops and searches are carried on young white males.

Given the stop and search controversy, it could be argued it is time to conduct a “control” experiment and rein in stop and search with the backing of individuals and activist groups who oppose it. Let’s ban all stop and search for six months unless there is specific, recorded, top-grade intelligence that a person is carrying a firearm or knife, or indeed any item possessed illegally. This would cater for the “evidence-based” stops and searches favoured by Ms Abbott. If stop and search makes little difference and serves only to antagonise, we shouldn’t see any increase in gun and knife attacks.

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If, however, those who oppose stop and search are wrong, we’ll see carnage on our streets, the likes of which overstretched police are currently doing their best to prevent despite constant vilification. A risk worth taking?

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