Jay Collins, a 24-year-old black Goldsmiths student was walking home after a night out at Goldsmiths Student Union in New Cross last year when he was stopped by two police officers.
The two officers questioned Collins in “relentless fashion”, asking him where he had been that night and where he was headed to, before accusing him of stalking the female friend he had just walked home from the Union. They also alleged that he was involved in a house burglary in the area the previous night.
“I felt incredibly angry,” Collins said: “They didn’t believe who I was and that I should be helping a white girl home from a club late at night as a young black man. The worst part is the girl told me they went to her house, after speaking to me, and asked her if she was alright and whether I had scared her.”
The officers confirmed his identity on the spot and when he said he wanted to complain they responded in a dismissive way. He heard nothing further from the police.
For many young black and Asian men in east London, statistics show this experience is not out of the ordinary.
Figures for stop and searches in the EastLondonLines boroughs over the last 12 months show a decrease mirroring the national picture of a decline from 1.22m in 2010-2011 to 1.13m in 2011-2012, but the number of black and Asian people being stopped and searched is vastly disproportionate to the number of ethnic minorities living in the boroughs.
And last week, a nationwide report by the Equality and Human Rights Commission claimed that black people are 29 times more likely to be stopped and searched than white people. While Asian or other ethnic minorities were nearly six times as likely to be stopped and searched as white people.
The graph below shows that, although Asian people make up around 41 per cent of the population in Tower Hamlets, they are twice as likely to be stopped as white people, who make up 45 per cent of the population. The rate of arrest as a result of stop and search on Asian people, 9.60 per cent, is lower than that of other races, which is 15 per cent for both black and white people.
According ONS census, Tower Hamlets’ population consists of 45.2% white, 41.1% Asian, 7.3% black and 6.4% other. Pic: Taku Dzimwasha
Rachel Taylor, a lawyer from stop and search watchdog, StopWatch, said: “The over-representation of Asian people being stopped and searched in Tower Hamlets is cause for grave concern. Although Stopwatch do not accept that the arrest rate is an adequate measure of the effectiveness of stop and search, this over-representation is particularly concerning.”
Stop and searches in Croydon have noticeably decreased over the last 12 months, however, black people again make up the majority of stop and searches yet they only make up 20.2 per cent of the population.
According ONS census, Croydon’s population consists of white 55.1%, Asian 16.4%, black 20.2% & other 8.4%. Pic: Taku Dzimwasha
In Hackney, black people make up 23.1 per cent of the population compared to white people who make up 54.7 per cent. However, black people are stopped at a higher level than white people. Significantly, the rate of arrest, 21.67 per cent is lower than white people (23.87 per cent) and lower than the borough average of 22.25 per cent.
According ONS census, Hackney’s population consists of white 54.7%, Asian 10.5%, black 23.1% & other 11.7%. Pic: Taku Dzimwasha
Lewisham has a high level of stop and searches compared to all other boroughs except Tower Hamlets. Black people make up 32 per cent of the population but they are more likely to be stopped compared to white people, who make up 57 per cent of the population. The rate of arrest is 17.17 per cent, which is higher than that of white people, 13.03 per cent.
More than half of the stop and searches were carried out under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. Taylor explained: “The grounds commonly relied on by police officers in carrying out such stops, such as being able to smell cannabis, are highly subjective and particularly difficult to challenge.”
According ONS census, Lewisham’s population consists of white 57%, Asian 8%, black 32% & other 3%. Pic: Taku Dzimwasha
The number of arrests made as a result of stop and searches averages around 15.29% of the total across the EastLondonLines boroughs. The arrest rate for Asian people in Tower Hamlets is 9.60%, the lowest of all the boroughs, but as the graph shows, they are the group most likely to be stopped and searched in all four boroughs.
Taylor added: “Inappropriate and over-use of stop and search, and its disproportionate impact on ethnic minority groups. This is particularly so in view of HMIC’s report on police stop and search powers, which concluded that 27 per cent of stop and searches were carried out unlawfully.”
Mark Hammond, the chief executive of the Equality and Human Rights Commission said: “Much work has taken place over the last few years by some police forces to address racial imbalance in their use of stop and search. However, the overall disproportionality in the use of the powers against black, Asian and mixed race people remains stubbornly high.”
Critics of the system say the statistics do not reveal the emotional and psychological damage caused to young minorities by stop and search.
Jenny Jones, Green Party London Assembly member, said: “Young people complain that they find stop and search very intrusive, many feel humiliated by the police and they don’t like the way the police speak to them.”
According to a 2012 poll by the Safer London Foundation, the official charity for the Metropolitan Police, half of the young people questioned said the relationship between the police and young people was negative and only 17 per cent said that it was positive.
Collins echoes this view: “I believe they are a positive force but targeting certain races and social classes has become endemic to the system. This method doesn’t work as it only breeds a negative mentality in the minds of the young people.”
The Metropolitan Police declined to comment.