Stop and search surge during lockdown

By Owen Sheppard, Local Democracy Reporter

The Met Police’s use of stop and search has dramatically increased during the lockdown, with the vast majority of cases related to drugs.

Across London, there were 30,608 uses of stop and search in April, compared to 23,787 in March – a rise of 22 per cent.

While crime has fallen since the lockdown, Scotland Yard said street-level drug dealing and gang activity have become “more visible,” and that increased use of stop and search has been based on intelligence.

This year’s figures on the use of stop and search vary dramatically from 2019, when there was a 20 per cent drop between March and April, while April 2018 saw only 13,085 searches – less than half the number of searches in April 2020.

Suspicion of carrying drugs was the reason officers gave in 66 per cent of all stop and search cases since February.

The Met’s data also shows how many searches have been happening in each of London’s 32 boroughs.

Hammersmith and Fulham and Kensington and Chelsea had the biggest spikes.

The former saw 588 cases in March, which rose to 1,330 in April. And in Kensington and Chelsea, London’s wealthiest borough, searches jumped from 339 in March to 731 in April.

In South-east London, Lambeth had 1,148 searches in March compared to 1,825 in April. Harrow in north-west London, went from 308 cases to 477 cases over the two months.

The only borough which saw a slight drop in the number of searches was Hackney.

A Scotland Yard spokesman said: “The use of stop and search in response to intelligence about criminal activity and the threat of violence remains an important tactic for front line officers tackling crime and protecting the public.

“The reduction in emergency calls and operational demand due to coronavirus, and the ‘stay at home’ instruction making suspicious activity on the streets more visible, has meant that the Met has been even more proactive around preventing street-based violence and drug dealing. There have also been more officers assigned to front line duties, and this has resulted in an increase in the use of stop and search.

“Stop and search results in drugs and dangerous weapons being taken off the streets as well as acting as a deterrent in itself, and officers will continue to use this tactic lawfully and ethically, where there are grounds to carry out a search.”

Anyone with concerns about drug dealing in their area can call the non-emergency 101 phone number to contact their local police.

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