Massive ‘stop and search’ increase as police warn of even greater numbers in future

Numbers of stop and search checks conducted on the streets of South Yorkshire have quadrupled in the space of just 12 months, but police expect numbers to grow even higher in future.

By Paul Whitehouse
Friday, 14 June, 2019, 13:44

In April last year, officers conducted 246 searches but by April this year numbers totalled 978, with searches carried out on both individuals and vehicles.

However, when those statistics are boiled down it has emerged that on a typical night shift in Sheffield, the current monthly total could equate to just one stop and search in the city.

Senior officers believe there remains significant room to increase numbers the practise, which is being re-introduced nationally following earlier Home Office guidance to cut back on the tactic, reaches its natural saturation point.

They point to the success rate, which has remained at around 25 per cent as numbers of checks have increased, as an indicator that stop and searches are being targeted correctly.

Despite the increase, the police action has not generated complaints or resulted in community tensions.

Details of the increases were presented to South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner Dr Alan Billings at his Police Accountability Board, where he holds Chief Constable Stephen Watson to account, and he said stop and search was well supported by residents at public meetings he attended, because mothers saw it as an effective means of helping to keep younger people safe.

Assistant Chief Constable David Hartley told the meeting: “We are still some significant way from me, or the organisation, having concerns about the levels of stop and search.

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“The activity we see is producing no complaints and no community tension.”

There will be 60 or 70 officers on duty in Sheffield on a typical night, he said: “What would the public expect? The ratio is one (stop and search) per tour of duty, one stop and search taking place across the whole city.”

Mr Watson added: “I confidently predict we will see these figures continue to increase.

“There is a chance the positive outcomes ratio may subtly drop off, but they triangulate with public complaints. I want very positive, pro-active policing, but done lawfully and respectfully.

“The amount of stop and search carried out two years ago doesn’t reflect what was needed to protect people. We will see figures continue to increase, but they will always be carefully monitored,” he said.

The most common items found during searches are drugs, stolen goods and weapons, with 144 of the searches carried out in April focused on vehicles rather than individuals.

Numbers of positive outcomes fluctuates month by month but in January rose to almost 30 per cent, from the 806 checks carried out.