Police in England and Wales have been granted greater power in conducting stop and search investigations of suspicious persons in areas of high violence.
Knife crime is on the rise in the United Kingdom, with the number of fatal stabbings reaching record numbers last year to 285 deaths. Home Secretary Sajid Javid hopes the new measures will keep people safe and stop knife crime before it occurs.
To others, however, the stop and search policy is seen as ineffective and “disappointing and regressive”.
Stop and search has often been seen as disproportionately targeting people of color and can be viewed as an abuse of power by police. Regardless, Home Secretary Javid believes the measures are necessary to keep the country safe from knife crime.
“The police are on the front line in the battle against serious violence and it’s vital we give them the right tools to do their jobs,” he said.
Seven police forces in areas where knife crime is at its highest will be given the power of “section 60” checks. In the areas of London, the West Midlands, Merseyside, South Yorkshire, West Yorkshire, South Wales and Greater Manchester, police will be able to stop and frisk anyone in a given area they deem suspicious.
Police won’t have to prove that crime “will” occur in order to stop and search someone, only that a crime “may” occur.
For Katrina Ffrench, the chief executive of StopWatch, an organization that campaigns against the excessive use of stop and search, the new policies are upsetting. “This decision is a disappointing and regressive move, which is about politics not saving lives.”
Ffrench believes that allowing police officers a lower threshold for conducting stop and searches “will not only exacerbate the racial disparity, but has the potential to further damage the relationship between the black community and the police,” she said.
Only time will tell whether or not the new measures will be an effective method to deter knife crime.