Stop-and-search is working

Knife-crime fatalities have fallen since it was reintroduced – but there’s still much more to do.

Dave Clements

Topics Politics UK

‘Knife crime hits new record high’, scream the headlines. The latest figures, released by the Office for National Statistics, show that 44,000 crimes involving a knife or other sharp instrument were committed in England and Wales in the past year (up to June). That’s an increase of seven per cent on the previous year. However, the statistics also show the number of homicides involving a knife or a sharp instrument has fallen by 14 per cent. The number of incidents in London has remained steady, with a rise of just 0.1 per cent

This fall in fatalities follows a marked increase in the use of stop-and-search in the capital. And something similar seems to be happening in Manchester. Greater Manchester Police say increased use of stop-and-search in known ‘hot spots’ has reduced the incidence of knife violence by 23 per cent over the three months between April and July this year, compared with the same period last year.

So where are the celebrations for what are, on the face of it, strikingly successful interventions over a remarkably short period? Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said it would take a decade to address the problem of knife crime. Of course, there is so much further to go. But surely he should now be pleased that so many lives have been spared in the past year. Why isn’t he recommending that this tougher approach be taken up by other forces across the country?

Critics of stop-and-search like Khan are reluctant to endorse an approach they regard as intrinsically racist. They say it risks inflaming victimised communities. Indeed, when she was home secretary, Theresa May imposed restrictions on stop-and-search in an attempt to counter accusations of police racism. These have since been relaxed, allowing forces to use their powers more easily.

We certainly shouldn’t be complacent about the police’s use of these beefed-up powers. They effectively allow forces to stop whoever they like within the worst affected areas. But nor should we allow the wrongs of the police’s racism of the past to undermine what is a fittingly robust enforcement response to an upsurge in violence today.

It is not the 1980s anymore. The Met is far more likely to tell us off for hateful tweets or keep an eye on our use of gendered pronouns than it is to visit racist brutality on our inner cities.

Today, we are faced with a violent nihilism. Young people are turning on each other and their own communities. This has been particularly pronounced since the 2011 riots. In this context, public confidence in the police is threatened less by perceptions of racism than by the perception that oversensitivity to identity issues is contributing to a failure to keep the streets safe for all.

The alternative put forward by the critics of stop-and-search is often referred to as the ‘public-health approach’. But in practice, this also leads to the surveillance of young people and their families. It is currently being applied in tandem with stop-and-search. Teachers and other public-sector workers will soon be expected to follow a ‘public-health duty’ to ‘work together to address serious violence’, according to government proposals. But social workers are already over-intervening and hospitals are overstretched. Teachers could contribute so much more by instilling in young people a love of learning and putting them in touch with ideas and experiences that lie beyond themselves – something that yet another state duty will get in the way of.

Others suggest that an end to austerity could reverse the rise in knife crime. The Labour Party argues that cuts of 73 per cent to youth services since 2010, and the closure of 750 youth centres since 2012, are one of the main reasons why life for young people is ‘worse in many ways than it was for previous generations’. This is echoed by the children’s charity Barnardo’s, with its oft-repeated and pessimistic line that young people today endure a ‘poverty of hope’. More resources and better local services would certainly be welcome. But this is a distraction from the deeper causes of knife crime.

We need to understand better why young people are still being drawn in increasing numbers into violent crime. And we need to look beyond the usual suspects of austerity, social media, drill music and the mental-health crisis. We need to have serious discussions about what is actually going on in our communities.

One thing is clear, however. The failure of the authorities to hold the line has contributed enormously to the recent deadly rise in crime.

Dave Clements is a writer, adviser to local government and founder of the Academy of Ideas Social Policy Forum.

Dave will be chairing the session ‘Is knife crime a public health problem?’ at Battle of Ideas Festival this weekend. Get tickets here.

Picture by: Getty

To enquire about republishing spiked’s content, a right to reply or to request a correction, please contact the managing editor, Viv Regan.


Linda Payne

31st October 2019 at 8:28 pm

It is mainly black youths who are the victims and perpetrators of knife crime so I agree with stop and search; it seems ironic that those who oppose it for being racist are not considering the victims and their families and the police have in the past were more concerned about being seen as racist than in doing something to stop these killings; if it works do it but there are deeper problems to consider such as lack of jobs lack of aspiration and lack of self worth amongst black youths that are leading too many into danger

Danny Rees

4th November 2019 at 9:42 pm

If you talk to the vicitms’ families most back stop and search. It’s just unrepresentative campaign groups and politicians who are against it.

jessica christon

31st October 2019 at 7:49 pm

London politicians like repeating platitudes about ‘public health’ because it’s clinical sounding and absolves the perpetrators of any blame, but I can’t see that working in London as it did in Glasgow.

In Glasgow, the ‘support’ carrot was backed up by a very big and very hard stick. It meant harsher sentences, it had mum and the other kids thrown out of the council flat because the 21 year old son was dealing drugs out of it, and so on.

But Glasgow is a different population. I just can’t see that happening with knife crime in London where it its main participants are Black and ethnic minority young men. London will do the teachers and ‘joined up support’ and fluffy bunnies, but there’ll be no big stick behind it so it will be ineffective.

Jim Lawrie

31st October 2019 at 10:45 pm

They are not young men. They are vicious, cowardly animals.

Jerry Owen

31st October 2019 at 2:20 pm

A very PC photo with this article .. but it’s what we have become used to seeing now.. sheer unashamed racial sexist ageist classist prejudice against young white working class males.

Danny Rees

4th November 2019 at 9:43 pm

Er it’s a black youth being stopped and searched.

The police are not stopping and searching white males.

Marvin Jones

31st October 2019 at 1:23 pm

So, they give us this phoney crap about stop and search working. A few days ago, an Ethiopian migrant was caught with a loaded gun on the underground. He got 5 years, probably out in about 2.
Is that a deterrent?

Danny Rees

4th November 2019 at 9:44 pm

Huh bet he cried racist to get a lighter sentence .

Forlorn Dream

31st October 2019 at 12:51 pm

Who would have thought it? Who knew that searching youths in violent areas to ensure they’re not carrying weapons would lead to a reduction in youths carrying weapons?? This must be a breakthrough, a revelation.

Maybe we could go a step further. What if we were to look at the relevant statistics to determine which ethnic group carry out most violent attacks and maybe concentrate our efforts on that group?

Dominic Straiton

31st October 2019 at 12:14 pm

Stop and search goes up the murder of young black men goes down and the moaning of racism by James OBrian goes up. Stop search goes down and the murder of young black men goes up and David Lammy has no answers.

Ian Wilson

31st October 2019 at 11:06 am

Bad parenting is surely the main cause here.

Linda Payne

31st October 2019 at 8:30 pm

It takes a village to raise a child, we are all responsible

Jim Lawrie

31st October 2019 at 10:55 pm

We no longer live in villages.
We can all play a part, but that is a matter of choice, and does not equate to responsibility.
I have no say over whether a woman has a child or how she raises it, and am in no way responsible for it.
I have no interest whatsoever in BAME, and help only my own.

Jim Lawrie

31st October 2019 at 10:56 pm

Single parenting in almost all cases.

Lord Anubis

1st November 2019 at 10:07 am

While I am not sure of the UK figures. I do recall reading that in the US, single Motherhood amongst Black Women is pretty well endemic. The reasons are stark. Young Black Men (The figures I saw were for LA) tend to be either in Gangs, In Prison or Dead.

The Gene pool of available eligible, educated and law-abiding Black Husbands/Partners is really very small. And this is exacerbated by the fact that, of that already small gene pool, successful, educated and law abiding young Black men will typically flee their neighbourhoods, at the earliest opportunity, for the suburbs where they surround themselves with White friends and eventually make home with a White girl. (What I have described as “Black Flight”) Black Women who want children have a very hard time of it. Black Women who actually want to actually marry a non-criminal Black husband and have a normal traditional family life find it almost impossible. A lot of Black women actually try to use dating sites to meet White men as an alternative, but white Men typically are not interested (Which is why dating sites are under heavy pressure to become “Colour Blind”)

The children born into these single mother households in deprived areas will have as their only role model for success being those of the successful local criminals, and so the rinse and repeat continues. How one breaks this dismal cycle of deprivation, I really do not know.

Jim Lawrie

2nd November 2019 at 2:41 am

Lord Anibus then they should be moved to their own societies as they have comprehensively rejected ours. Except for the handouts.

No-one has to give reasons for turning someone down. Lesbians are being branded transphobic for turning down men who “identify as women”. To in any way suggest that someone be nudged into a relationship against their will is the most fundamental breach of the right to freedom of association.

Lord Anubis

31st October 2019 at 10:26 am

I have always felt that the people who have the most to gain from a rigorous random “Stop and Search” policy are actually the Black community. Activists should be supporting it rather than complaining. It is almost as if the “Blacktivists” actually want young Black people to kill one another. after all, like in the US, most violent crime is intra-racial. In the US for every Black suspect shot by a cop (At least half of which are actually fully justified), perhaps 20 or more are killed by another Black person. I am not surprised that Police on both sides of the pond utterly despair at the situation.

Jerry Owen

31st October 2019 at 12:08 pm

Trevor Phillips would agree with you no doubt.

Jim Lawrie

31st October 2019 at 11:11 pm

“perhaps 20 or more are killed by another Black person”. What do you mean “perhaps”? Either it is or it is not.

Noteworthy is that Blacks are no more likely to be shot by a White officer than by a Black Officer. When in the wake of #BlackLivesMatter white officers were murdered in cold blood, the likelihood of blacks being shot dead by white officers lessened as their commanders refused to send them into certain areas, and the number of them being dead shot by those who matter rocketed.

Jerry Owen

1st November 2019 at 8:45 am

Jim Lawrie
I find it disgraceful that night in America when five police officers were shot dead is forgotten history and never ever mentioned. It was one of the most shocking and disturbing incidents against the police I have ever known which in turn led to violence against English police officers in my capital.
Forgotten, just like Lee Rigby, Charlotte Downs Chris Donald and many others .. but they all have one thing in common of course, their skin colour.
Stephen Lawrence meanwhile …

Jim Lawrie

1st November 2019 at 10:19 am

Jerry Owen I lived in London at the time of the Lee Rigby murder, close to the mosque where those murdering immigrants trained and where their handlers still hold sway. I saw large numbers tun up for Friday prayer, way beyond the normal Friday, sit in the middle of Lewisham High St, 200m from a major hospital and 600m from a fire station, refusing to move for ambulances and fire engines, organised to do so. The guys in charge were telling the Black thugs “Look at how weak these people are”, meaning the police who were doing nothing. His murder could have been prevented.
These same Muslims now have events in the local park and are slowly taking over the place, having installed a permanent tartan track type cricket wicket right across an area where football used to be played. They never use it. It was just an act of dominance that The Council let happen.
51°26’47.6″N 0°00’38.8″W

Lord Anubis

1st November 2019 at 10:46 am

I say “perhaps” because I do not, immediately to hand, have access to the current statistics regarding either the current homicide rate amongst AA nor the current numbers regarding suspects shot by Police officers. (And, in any case, the numbers vary from years to year) However I am confident that the one figure is many many times the other. And yet the smaller figure is the only one that actually attracts any media attention. Suffice it to say, The typical AA is far, far, more like to be killed by a fellow AA than by a Cop, and even that risk can be dropped almost to zero by keeping his hands away from his pockets and doing as he is told and not being a jerk. (If you feel your civil rights have been violated, get your lawyer to deal with the matter later. Getting yourself shot by being uncooperative over it is dumb!)

Jim Lawrie

2nd November 2019 at 2:20 am

Lord Anibus I checked. Your memory is fine. Last figures I could see were 19 to 1.

Ven Oods

31st October 2019 at 9:55 am

The police are also likelier to stop and search a youngster in a hoodie than a granny with a shopping trolley, so that must be ageist, too.

Jerry Owen

31st October 2019 at 9:51 am

The vast majority of knife crime is committed by black teenagers. It never used to be, the question is what has changed for them. Austerity absolutely no way, the black community was never wealthy. Poor white communities don’t behave this way. I would be interested to know what proportion of those committing knife crime were born in this country. Could it be the case that the black teenagers committing this crime are not the ‘indigenous black teenagers’ as we assume but indeed migrants.
I ask this because I have seen a video report whereby black teens born in London are ‘learning’ about new weapons from black migrants, are we talking about two different groups here?
BTW one reason why deaths from knife crime are falling is simply because of the better technology available to the emergency services now, unfortunately learnt from sheer experience !

Steve Roberts

31st October 2019 at 10:20 am

Jerry Owen, you may be correct or incorrect regards which particular sections of the community are disproportionally responsible for carrying knives and committing knife crimes. But the point is ,as Clements alludes to, that the debate and potential reasons and solutions cannot be heard objectively because of partisan and ideological virtue signalling especially from the cynical mainstream, from Khan to May et al they display cowardice that is costing lives . They, the established order are a very large problem for all of us, and they will all soon be playing the crime and order nonsense to grab votes after their attacks on democracy itself, you couldn’t make it up.

Jerry Owen

31st October 2019 at 12:13 pm

Steve Roberts
I am right in that black people are the majority offenders by a considerable margin, some 80% or so. A husband of a client of mine is a London based Judge and he stated some years ago that well over 80% of those brought before him for rape gun and knife crime were black.
My points raised are perfectly valid.

Jim Lawrie

1st November 2019 at 12:22 am

Jerry Owen it has to have been a number of years ago since we are no longer told these things in case we “interpret them the wrong way”. Given the 75% rise in the black population of London from 12% to c.17%, we would expect their share of crime to rise from 55% when it was last reported to c.78% now.
The table of the 10 most violent Local Authority Areas in England and the ten most black are virtually interchangeable.

Jerry Owen

1st November 2019 at 8:46 am

Jim Lawrie
We live in times where the truth is an offence !

Lord Anubis

31st October 2019 at 10:55 am

I have always tried to point out in these discussions that the “Effective” UK homicide rate is not just 2 0r 3 times what it was 50 years ago It is probably an order of magnitude higher or even more as a result of improved medical technology. I also maintain that we should have a “Virtual Murder” charge that applies when a victims injuries would have certainly proved fatal but for medical intervention. I have always felt that it is wrong that Murderers should get away with a lesser charge/sentence simply because their victims were fortunate enough to have good doctors!

jessica christon

31st October 2019 at 11:18 am

The attempted murder charge also covers those kind of situations. The difference is the life sentence is maximum, not mandatory like it is for murder – so maybe that’s what needs to change.

Lord Anubis

31st October 2019 at 11:26 am

But all to often “Attempted Murder” charges are not made. More often it is dropped down to GBH or assault (Etc). Whether this is because the CPS feels that full on “Attempted Murder” charges are unsustainable or whether it is a way for the government to massage the stats to give the impression that the UK Homicide rate is lower than it actually is I do not know. But my Foil Hat says the latter is a definite possibility!

Lord Anubis

2nd November 2019 at 9:51 am

5 people stabbed in London last night apparently. It is hardly even news any more! No fatalities for now, but I wonder how many of those people would have died 50 years ago?? Like with motor accidents, whether or not you actually die is mostly down to random chance. Using “Fatalities” as a measure of policy success or failure is a very poor metric.

jessica christon

31st October 2019 at 7:47 pm

I think what’s changed is decades of seriously flawed social policy rewarding bad choices and being conditioned of into believing that their failures are always the fault of the system. It’s same pattern as the one they followed in the US – with even worse results.

Michael Lynch

31st October 2019 at 9:49 am

Khan has blood on his hands and history will not be kind to him. He’s even worse than that Commie crackpot, Livingston and I always thought he was the bottom of the barrel!

jessica christon

31st October 2019 at 10:33 pm

Kahn is simply out if his depth and has no idea what he’s doing and he isn’t the only one. Even worse than political correctness, in my view, is the mediocracy that runs behind it. Kahn, Dick of Dock Green, Teresa May, all promoted way beyond their abilities because it (whatever ‘it’ is) has to be a woman or a person of colour, regardless of whether they’re capable or not.

jessica christon

31st October 2019 at 10:34 pm

*out of his depth…

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