The number of stop and searches being carried out by police in Croydon have increased dramatically since the riots in August, according to figures released by Scotland Yard.
Statistics for Croydon show that the total stop and searches under Section 60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 rose from 45 in July to 331 in August.
There was increased police presence during the riots and in the weeks after the disorder up until September. According to the Metropolitan Police “normal service has since been resumed’’.
During August people identifying themselves as black were five times more likely to have been stopped and searched than white people. The statistics also showed that 40 per cent of people stopped were between 18- 24. These statistics are reflected in London wide figures.
The figures were released at the same time as the release of a new film which revives questions about the effectiveness of stop and search and whether young people and those from ethnic minorities a disproportionately targeted.
The film, ”Is Croydon Racist” was shown as part of a series of anti-racist events organised by the Runnymede Trust in Croydon town centre and examines the experiences and opinions of people in the area towards racism.
For many young people in Croydon, the use of stop and search powers create antagonism between police and communities. Miles Edward, 23 from Croydon, draws an explicit link between a shooting and a stop and search. He said: “It makes people aggressive; it makes people do things that shouldn’t have been done in the first place. One officer was shot a few weeks ago, why do you think that is?”
Jonathan Tetsill, the producer of the documentary, said: “I spent 4 months working on the film this summer and I interviewed over 70 people from across the borough. The most alarming thing was the amount of young people that had been stopped and searched on a daily basis. It seemed like the people were being stopped just on their way to school or shopping in the high street.”
“People’s opinions here have suggested that in Croydon institutional racism seems to be a problem, particularly regarding young people’s relation to the police,” said Vicky Butler, public affairs manager of Runnymede.
One Croydon police officer, Sergeant Simon Harris, who attended Runnymede’s discussion on stop and search and knife crime in the borough, said the routine use of the powers as necessary in preventing violence. He said: “I would be happy to stop ninety people if it would prevent one person from getting stabbed.”
But for Kam Gill, police researcher and policy analyst at Runnymede, such an approach would be counter-productive.
He said: “Police in Croydon do have some serious issues and young people’s experiences seem to be overwhelmingly negative of the police. You’re actively disillusioning the community that you’ll then rely on to prevent knife crime. Stop and search isn’t preventing knife crime. It is actually inhibiting your efforts.”
At the meeting it was said that police find it difficult to address the treatment of young people in relation to stop and search, as the majority of individuals who make complaints to the police are middle-aged – despite the fact that over 40 per cent of people stopped in Croydon are under 25. “Most complaints don’t go anywhere,” said Gill.
For others a factor triggering antagonism is a perceived lack of transparency on the part of the police, with the feeling that a complete record of the numbers of people subjected to stop and search in Croydon is not kept.
Andrew Brown, director of the Croydon youth organization Elevating Success, and vice chairman of Croydon Community Police Consultative Group, told EastLondonLines: “Although the police should always document every stop and search they carry out this is not always the case. Some police officers will not always do the paper work following a stop and search, leaving it up to the person to ask who might not realise – especially if they’re young. That’s another stop and search not shown up on the records.”