Parts of Croydon and Tower Hamlets among highest London boroughs for stop and search

Policemen on the streets. Pic: Connor Danylenko/Pexels

Parts of Croydon and Tower Hamlets have had some of the highest number of stop and searches in London this year, a study of official data shows.

Broad Green ward in Croydon had 669 stop and searches recorded making it the fourth highest in London, while Croydon’s Fairfield ward had 503 between July and September 2020, putting it in eighth positon. In Tower Hamlets, Whitechapel ward had 485 stop and searches, in ninth place.

Both areas have a high proportion of BAME communities. Young black males in London are 19 times more likely to be stopped and searched, the study also found. They are also 28 times more likely to be stopped on suspicion of carrying weapons than the general population.

Tension between the police and the Afro-Caribbean community over stop and search has been a long-standing issue, brought to light by the recent Black Lives Matter movement following the death of George Floyd in the United States. In July this year, the BBC reported that the Met Police are four times more likely to use force on black people compared with the white population.

Local authority wards with the highest number of stop and searches. Pic: Caitlin Tilley

Half of searches between July and September 2020 took place in just 9 per cent of neighbourhoods, the research by University College London’s Institute for Global City Policing found.

Of London’s 33 boroughs, the most searches in July to September 2020 took place in Westminster (4,550 searches), Newham (4,018) and Southwark (3,430), while the fewest took place in Richmond upon Thames (691 searches), Bexley (697) and Sutton (727).

The local-authority ward with the most searches between July and September 2020 was West End ward in Westminster, in which there were more searches than in 12 entire boroughs. In third place was Broad Green ward in Croydon, where there were 669 searches.

Since 2010, the number of searches has been decreasing, but has increased over the past two years.

The study found the success rate for stop and searches had fallen, from 28 per cent in 2018 to 22 per cent between March and September this year.

Searches are also concentrated in deprived areas – 69 per cent took place in neighbourhoods that were more deprived than average. In particular, 80 per cent of searches for weapons under section 60 occurred in the most-deprived half of neighbourhoods.

Weapon searches under section 60 can only take place in areas in which an inspector believes “incidents involving serious violence may take place”. Of the 910 no-suspicion searches under section 60 from July to September 2020, more than half (54 per cent) took place in six boroughs.

The study said: “being male and aged under 35 are more powerful predictors of a group having a higher search rate than that group being non-white. The reasons for these differences are likely to be complex…  there are longstanding issues of bias and stereotyping among police and in society.”

Labour MP Dawn Butler was stopped by police in earlier this year, and said it was the third time in recent years she has been stopped by police while her male friend is regularly stopped. She was not searched, but told The Guardian “the system needs to change”.

Athlete Bianca Williams was stopped and handcuffed by police alongside her partner and baby son in July this year, and said the experience left her feeling like “being black is a crime”.

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