Hundreds of people protested about ‘Stop and Search’ clampdowns on Saturday – but the area’s top cop has said it is crucial in keeping people safe from drug and knife crime and robberies.
Streatham MP Bell Ribeiro-Addy was among the protesters in Windrush Square on Saturday amid tensions over figures which show more black people than white have been targeted with the dual measures during lockdown.
But Commander Colin Wingrove, of Southwark and Lambeth, said the boroughs needed more patrolling officers than usual amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
“We need to patrol violent crime hotspots and where our intelligence tells us there is knife crime and burglaries,” he said.
“The additional officers can use their powers in the usual way. We have seen more people on the streets as the lifting of lockdown progresses.
“Knife crime fell because people were in their homes – but also because the police were patrolling.
“Stop and search increased before lockdown because of rising violence and a public desire to see police responding. We do this for the community – so people can feel safe.
“We know dealing and supplying drugs contribute hugely to knife crime and robbery. So we take decisive action on drug suppliers.
“In the last few weeks we have used intelligence from Operation Anonda to tackle it.
“Of the 33 people arrested in Lambeth and Southwark, there were 100 drug supply charges. We need to work with the community to protect young people from the risks of county lines operations.”
Mr Wingrove has been taking part in community engagement events to promote extra patrols.
“I participated in a Southwark council event with up to 80 young advisers,” he said. “Young people have told us how they feel about being stopped and searched.
“But we have to identify offenders and take knives off the streets. It has to be done with respect and we have to explain why we are doing it – and be mindful of the current context.
“We always listen. And we give community feedback to officers. The vast majority of officers involved in stop and search use body video.”
Orders under section 60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act allow officers to stop and search with no grounds for suspicion.
In London, black people are four times more likely than white people to be subject to a stop and search.
This rises under section 60 orders, to more than 11 times in London and higher elsewhere.
Ms Ribeiro-Addy said at the protest: “The current level of Section 60 stop and search is not only unfair but clearly counterproductive.
“In our country we are supposed to have a proud tradition of policing by consent.
“At a time when policing practices are under the spotlight and community confidence has declined in the police more generally, it’s disappointing to see an increase in this discriminatory policy.
“An effective police force works within the community, not against a huge section of it. Rather than ramping up stop and search, we should be focussed on tackling the underlying causes of crime.
“Abolishing Section 60 stop and searches would go some way towards restoring the black community’s confidence and trust in the police.”
Pictured top: Streatham MP Bell Ribeiro-Addy (centre) leads the anti-stop and search protest in Windrush Square, Brixton on Saturday
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