In response to a rise in knife crime, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner appears to be preparing to go up against the Home Secretary over plans to limit stop and search.
Stop-and-search is a controversial police tactic, often seen as targeting young black men. A review of its use by officers has led to a 60% reduction in the number of stop and searches since February 2012. At a recent London Assembly session the Commissioner, Bernard Hogan-Howe, told Assembly Members:
"We have reduced hugely the amount of stop and search we have done over the last three years. This has led also to yet more arrests. We have done... fewer stop and searches and we have ended up with 2,000 more arrests from those. Therefore, we are being more productive from less."
This reduction in stop and search also initially corresponded to a fall in the numbers of people being injured with knives, as measured by the police's gang crime and youth violence statistics. However, in the last year, incidences of knife crime have started creeping back up — 1,679 in the year to May 2015, compared with 1,365 in the year to May 2014.
Dave Hill has some excellent research on some possible reasons behind this rise, but Hogan-Howe seems to think part of the answer lies back in stop and search. ITV London News quotes him as saying "If we are getting to the stage where people think they can carry knives with impunity, that can't be good for anyone. Stop and search is a reasonable tactic when used in the right way," and that the force is 'reviewing its position' on stop and search.
Theresa May, the Home Secretary, is planning to introduce changes to limit stop and search; Hogan-Howe could be setting himself up for a confrontation. We'd suggest that he's making a knee-jerk response to a rise in crime without waiting to see if it's a temporary blip or a long-term trend; and given the previous fall in knife crime alongside the reduction in stop and search, perhaps it's not the universal band-aid he seems to think?