Home Secretary Amber Rudd has said she will back police using ‘stop and search’ tactics after the massive surge in knife and acid attacks seen after the Tories rolled back the practice in 2014.
Ms Rudd risks being seen to contradict the prime minister, who oversaw the number of checks falling from more than a million a year to fewer than 400,000 during her time as home secretary, claiming black youths were singled out.
The U-turn comes after UKIP attacked Theresa May for showing “weakness and inconsistency on Stop and Search” in their 2017 manifesto, insisting her actions had “cost lives”.
The document appeared to question Tory claims that searches were “undermining relations with ethnic minority communities”, adding: “UKIP warned this would lead to an increase in knife crime and, sadly, we have been proved right.”
London, 2017 😟 https://t.co/DQH0Tl7MGR
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Ms Rudd and Cressida Dick, the Metropolitan Police commissioner, have both expressed alarm at a surge in acid attacks, knife crime, and other street violence.
Since the reforms under Mrs May, the number of people arrested after a stop and search has risen slightly, leading to politicians claiming they are now more “targeted”.
In an article for The Times published Wednesday, the Home Secretary said searches would still be targeted, but insisted officers who use the tactic appropriately will receive her backing:
“This includes using stop and search to confront the use of acid as an appalling weapon of violence. It is a vital tool to keep the public safe, and officers who use the power correctly should have the full support of the public and their commanding officers.”
She also claimed, however, that “changes in 2014 to the way the police stop and search members of the public… [were] long overdue” and said, “the government and the police had to recognise concerns that people from black and ethnic minority communities…”
Saudi Embassy Issues London Travel Warning to Citizens Over Acid Attacks
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According to The Times, criminologists have blamed the decline in stop and search for contributing to a rise in violence.
This includes knife crime shooting up in 37 of the 44 police force areas in England and Wales. It rose by 20 per cent from 28,800 incidents to 34,703 in the year to March, the highest in seven years.
Acid attacks in the capital increased from 261 in 2015 to 458 last year, and senior police officers have linked the crime wave to organised crime gangs.
Senior officers have also voiced alarm that the police will be accused of misusing the power or of deploying it disproportionately.
An insider said: “Among troops on the front line there is a real reluctance to use the power unless they have to.” A senior source added: “This is a signal to the public and to officers that this is a legitimate tactic.”
Also writing in The Times, Ms Dick said: “I want officers to feel confident to use this power. It must, of course, be lawful, done courteously and subject to proper scrutiny.
“I will support my officers if the number of stop and searches rises in the fight against knife crime and street violence. I believe the vast majority of the public will too.”