Use of stop-and-search by Suffolk police doubles in a year

Police said the increase in use of stop-and-search reflected the force’s proactive approach to ident

Police said the increase in use of stop-and-search reflected the forces proactive approach to identifying and preventing potential crime and disorder Picture: ARCHANT - Credit: Archant

Use of stop-and-search powers by Suffolk police doubled in a year, according to latest figures from the constabulary.

In the year ending October, police carried out 4,981 stop-searches, compared to 2,455 in the previous 12 months and 1,734 in 2017/18.  

About 70% were carried out in search of drugs ­– but just 13% resulted in arrest, while 61% resulted in nothing being found and no further action.

People of black, Asian or minority ethnic background were about 3.3 times more likely to be stopped and searched than white people on average.

Suffolk Constabulary said the overall increase reflected its approach to proactive policing.

A peak during the first quarter of the year, when police carried out 1,654 stop-searches, was attributed to the impact of proactive policing during the first Covid-19 lockdown.

Use of stop-and-search rose in 2019 for the first time since the introduction of the Best Use of Stop and Search (BUSS) scheme in April 2014, when the government set out new guidance to achieve greater transparency, community involvement and a more intelligence-led approach.

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At the latest meeting of the police and crime commissioner's (PCC) accountability and performance panel, Assistant Chief Constable Rob Jones called stop-and-search a "totemic" subject in terms of public confidence, adding: "I've been involved in debate on the efficacy and effectiveness of stop-and-search many times.

"My strong belief is that it's vital tool when done well.

"Drugs are an exceptional problem for all communities, and the harm caused by them, especially cannabis, is often underestimated.

"I make no apologies for being really active and encouraging officers to look for drugs. It's important officers feel confident and supported.

"During the first lockdown, officers found that, with overall demand going down, they could get out there and get hands in pockets with intelligence-led policing.

"Demand for other services has since increased, and without that spare capacity, we've not been able to keep up such high levels of proactivity. That said, we still have specialist teams like the Scorpion and Sentinel teams still getting exceptional results."

PCC Tim Passmore said it was important for the process to be held up to the scrutiny of independent organisations like the Stop and Search Reference Group, which meets every two months to analyse and discuss examples of stops carried out across the county.