Within this essay I will be evaluating the pros and cons of stop and search within today’s contemporary society, using reliable research and statistics from multiple resources. In order to determine whether or not stop and search is useful. I will be operationalising the usefulness of stop and search by looking to see if stop and search does, in fact, reduce and prevent the number of crimes committed within the UK. To further my knowledge and understanding of stop and search, I will also be looking to see who is more likely to be stopped by police, and who is more likely to commit crime, in order to establish whether, there is a pattern or a specific group or subculture within a community who is more likely to be stopped and searched. Once evaluating the usefulness of stop and search in preventing crimes taking place within the community, I will finally be coming to a conclusion as to whether or not stop and search is, in fact, useful within today’s society.
Stop and search is carried out by police officers within the community, it has become a routine feature to police responses to a variety of problems. A police officer has the authority to stop and search a member of the public if they have reasonable grounds to suspect that an individual may be carrying illegal drugs, a weapon, stolen property or something that could be used to commit a crime. Stop and search is used within communities to make sure that the public remains safe and also to prevent crimes from taking place. If a police officer does ask to stop and search an individual they might ask for the individual’s name, what they are doing in the area and where they are going. However, the individual does not have to stop and answer any questions and this cannot be used as a reason to search and arrest an individual. Although stop and search is useful in preventing crimes from taking place it does cause problems amongst individuals within a community who may be stopped and searched for no apparent reason. For example, young people within the UK get stopped by police on a regular basis, national stop and search statistics show that on average in 2013-14, there were 142,121 under 18’s stopped by the police, however, less than 11% of individuals were arrested, this is roughly 13,265 arrests. This can cause young individuals to form a negative attitude towards the police. This, therefore, could be a reason as to why stop and search, in some cases, is not useful in preventing crime.
Amongst some individuals within the community, stop and search is not used fairly, particularly amongst young BAME (black, Asian and minority ethnic) individuals within the community. Statistics show that black people are six times more likely to be searched, this has risen when compared to previous years when it was only four times more likely to be searched, and three-quarters of this community say that they are unfairly targeted by police when out and about within the community. Statistics show that a third of BAME individuals aged 16 – 30 believe that the police did not use reliable information to decide who they stopped and searched. An example of ethnic minorities being targeted by the police is the death of Stephen Lawrence. At the age of 18 Stephen Lawrence was murdered in an unprovoked, racist attack. Police who investigated the case were seen to be incompetent and racist. Due to the poor performance by the police when trying to solve this case lead to the Macpherson report being introduced. The Macpherson report was brought in due to police not behaving appropriately during the case. The report later confirmed that the Metropolitan police was in fact institutionally racist. This went on to create a zero-tolerance approach towards racism and its aim was to make the police more accountable for acts of a racist nature. Although the case did not involve the police carrying out a stop and search this case provides evidence that in the past police officers may have targeted ethnic minorities, and although the Macpherson report was introduced to get rid of racism within the police force, the statistics show that racism may still be present within the police force due to the high volume of black individuals being more likely to be stopped and searched. However, the overall number of stop and searches have fallen from 1.2 million to 380,000 over the last five years within the UK. Overall, those from all ethnic minorities are four times more likely to be stopped than white people within the UK, however, although the increase in certain ethnic minorities being stopped and searched has led to the police within the UK being viewed as racist. Statistics do show that during previous years only 1% of stop and searches led to an arrest. This has however increased to 17%. These statistics, therefore, provide evidence for the usefulness of stop and search within the UK. Research and statistics from www.stop-watch.org show that from April 2016 to March 2017 the police within South Wales conducted 5,328 stop and searches under PACE section 1. This has fallen by 26% compared to previous years. There were also zero stop and searches under section 60 Criminal Justice and Public Order Act, a power which doesn’t require an individual to have reasonable suspicion. However, in previous years, April 2015 to March 2016, the police conducted 7,224 stop and searches under PACE section 1 with South Wales. This was a reduction of 32% from previous years.
Although carrying out a stop and search seems to be resulting in more arrests within the UK it does not seem to tackle all types of crimes. The main reason for an individual to be stopped and searched by a police officer is drugs. The most recent figures from the home office show that the majority of stop and search is targeted at low-level drug possession rather than other crimes such as weapon-related crimes. 62% of all stop and searches take place on the basis of drugs, this is a negative of stop and search as police officers seem to be failing to target violent crimes and also failing to stop and search individuals who have committed a crime. Stop and search seems to be useful when it comes to these types of crimes, however, other crimes such as cyber hackers, emotional and physical abuse within the home etc. will not be affected by stop and search due to these crimes not being seen by police within the community. Therefore stop and search is not useful in stopping or preventing these types of crimes.
Most police officers within the UK are still failing to obey the rules, which have been put in place to prevent abusive behavior during a stop and search. This fear of receiving abusive behavior from individuals who are being stopped and searched has led to many police officers feeling reluctant to enforce their stop and search powers, as they are wary of the backlash that they may face. Due to the lack of police officers carrying out this act of an efficient stop and search, there has been a sharp increase in knife crime. Statistics from July 2017 show that on average knife crime had jumped by a fifth compared to knife crimes in 2016. In total, there have been 34,703 reported knife related incidents, including burglary/robbery and sexual assaults. This is the highest it has ever been over seven years. This increase in knife crime provides evidence for the usefulness of stop and search within the UK. Due to police officers feeling as though they may be deemed to be racist or fearing the abusive behavior they may receive from individuals who are being stopped and searched, the rate of knife crimes has rapidly increased whilst the number of stop and searches being carried out had drastically decreased. This provides evidence for the usefulness of stop and searches within the UK. If the number of stop and searches being carried out by the police were to increase then we would expect the rate of knife crimes to drastically decrease, however, in order for this to happen the police need to become more confident in carrying out a stop and search on an individual.
The usefulness of stop and search within the UK is largely taken for granted. Police officers view stop and search as a powerful tool to combat violence and weapon-related crimes, and the government has granted the police with new stop and search powers by extending the level of intrusion. In 2013, Theresa May voiced her opinion that stop and search is one of the most important powers that the police hold due to the successfulness in combating gang-related crimes and drug offences. The increase in government support may lead to an increase in police confidence when it comes to carrying out a stop and search. It could also improve the number of stop and searches being reordered and reported by police, statistics show that there is vital information being left out when stop and searches are being recorded and reported, the information being left out includes the ethnicity of the individual being stopped, the ground for the search and the date, time and place. Therefore, the increasing support from the government and other members of the community could lead to more stop and searches being carried out and could reduce the amount of crime taking place within the community and make communities across the UK safer. The support from the government and other members of the community proves that stop and searches are in fact useful. However, on the other hand, when police carry out a stop and search, they have the authority to make a legal decision, if this decision is carried out with little reason then this can cause a negative effect on the public. This is one of the main reasons as to why stop and search may be deemed to not be useful within the community as it can cause a negative relationship between the individuals being stopped and the police.
After looking at multiple pros and cons from a number of reliable sources I have come to the conclusion that, overall, stop and search is useful to a certain extent. Statistics show that stop and search is useful in preventing drug-related crimes within the community. However, on the other hand, stop and search does not seem to be useful when tackling weapon-related crimes or crimes which take place within the home. This could, therefore, be evidence as to why the use of stop and search is not useful within today’s community as there are more and more crimes happening on a daily basis other than drug-related crimes. In order for stop and search to be useful in preventing all types of crimes, there need to be changes made towards the views that police officers hold towards carrying out a stop and search within the community.