Changes to stop and search powers ‘won’t make any difference’ to Sheffield’s knife crime epidemic

The founder of a campaign to reduce knife crime in Sheffield believes the changes to stop and search powers won’t do anything to reduce the epidemic sweeping across the city.

By Sam Cooper
Tuesday, 02 April, 2019, 10:55

Anthony Olaseinde, who set up the Keep Sheffield Stainless project, said the government had announced the changes to ‘make it look like they were taking action on knife’.

Home Secretary Sajid Javid has lifted two conditions introduced in stop and search guidance rolled out in 2014 when Theresa May was home secretary.

Sajid Javid. Picture: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

Previously, officers above chief superintendent rank were only able to authorise the use of stop and search powers.

Officers had to reasonably believe that serious violence would take place.

Under the changes announced this weekend, which initially apply to seven forces, including South Yorkshire, inspectors can now authorise the use of stop and search.

A police cordon on Gayton Road, Pitsmoor, last month after a man was stabbed in the face.

The degree of certainty required has been lowered, so that the authorising officer must reasonably believe serious violence ‘may’ occur.

But Mr Olaseinde said: “I don’t think it’s a good thing and I think, at the minute, police make reasons to stop and search people anyway so I don’t think it’s going to make a difference.

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“I think the government are doing things to make it look like they are doing something when actually they aren’t.”

Mr Olaseinde said police needed to work to build relationships with communities in an attempt to reduce knife crime.

He added: “I would like the police to build bonds up with the community more and get to know what the issues are.”

Eight people were fatally stabbed on the streets of Sheffield in 2018, including two fatal stabbings of teenagers in just three days in May 2018.

There has not been any fatal stabbings so far this year but police have dealt with a number of knife attacks in the last few weeks, including an incident in which a man was stabbed in the face in Pitsmoor.

Mr Olaseinde said: “I don’t think there has been a drop in knife crime. You only get to hear about the reported ones so, for me, there hasn't really been a spike – it's never fallen.

“I don’t think the police has enough money but we need to do things differently. There is a lot of work that doesn't cost anything such as getting to know communities.”