Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on Tuesday that the government will seek to empower police with the ability to stop and search people, part of a package of measures to tackle the country’s knife crime epidemic.
Introducing the Beating Crime Plan, Mr Johnson said that it will not be possible to “level up the country” when crime ravages the poorest areas and “draws the most vulnerable into violence”.
“That is why my government has remained unstinting in its efforts to protect the British public and this plan delivers a fresh commitment, as we emerge from the impacts of the pandemic, to have less crime, fewer victims and a safer society,” Mr Johnson said.
A key pillar of the strategy will be to permanently relax restrictions on the use of section 60 stop and search powers, to give powers to the police to take more knives off the streets of Britain.
Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Mr Johnson defended the move, which critics on the left have claimed disproportionately impacts black people.
He said that “giving police the backing that they need in law to stop someone, to search someone, to relieve them of a dangerous weapon” is not a “strongarmed” approach but rather a “loving” approach.
“The people who often support stop and search most passionately are the parents of the kids who are likely themselves to be the victims of knife crime, so I’m not going to give in on that,” he said.
Apart from the increased police powers on the streets, the government is also proposing to expand the use of electronic monitoring tags for convicted thieves and burglars to track their location constantly after they are released from prison.
The government also plans to make unpaid work for those who have committed anti-social and other offences more visible, by having offenders clean up streets, alleys, estates, and open spaces in bright reflective outfits.
“Somebody’s anti-social crime may be seen as a minor crime, but it can be deeply distressing for those who are victims,” Johnson said, adding: “If you are guilty of anti-social behaviour, I don’t see any reason you shouldn’t be out there in one of the florescent-jacketed chain gangs, visibly paying your debt to society.”
"We've got to make sure we arm our police".
PM Boris Johnson says he "disagrees" with the opponents of stop and search, saying that it's not "strong arm tactics", but a "kind and loving thing to do".
— Sky News (@SkyNews) July 27, 2021
Home Secretary Priti Patel said of the crime plan: “I am absolutely determined to cut crime and deliver a safer society for the public, and the Beating Crime Plan shows how the government is going to do just that.
“We’re putting 20,000 new police officers on the street, equipping them with new powers to catch criminals and take away knives, and shutting down drug gangs who exploit children and the vulnerable to make money.
“This plan sets out a clear path for a better future for the British public – one with less crime, fewer victims, and a safer society for all.”
Stop and search police powers were restricted in 2014, by then-Home Secretary Theresa May who bowed to pressure from leftists who claimed that the policy was “racist” because more black people were being stopped.
Since then, knife crime in the county has more than doubled, with 50,019 instances of a crime involving a knife or a sharp weapon being recorded in the year leading up to the first Chinese coronavirus lockdown. This is compared to the 23,945 offences recorded in 2014 when the policy was still in full effect.
Khan’s London: Machete Murder Victim’s Family Want MORE Police Stop and Search https://t.co/8oo3Wi6d6O
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) August 12, 2020
The announcement was met with derision from left-wing figures in the UK, however, with Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer branding the plan a “ridiculous gimmick“.
Others have gone further, with the Twitter verified Black Lives Matter UK account saying: “We know that the police will never keep our communities safe and this policy will not reduce knife crime. However, we are sure of the fact that it will lead to an increase in state violence against black people and working-class communities.
“They would rather criminalise and traumatise young people rather than invest in their future. Regardless, just as generations before resisted SUS laws, we shall resist this and we will work towards a future where Black people are free from all forms of violence. #AbolishThePolice”
The Tories have been in power for ten years and violent crime has gone up and up. Britain has no party of law and order. https://t.co/35Oz8NxqIZ
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) February 26, 2021
Follow Kurt Zindulka on Twitter here @KurtZindulka