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Large drop in Northumbria Police stop and searches

Northumbria Police carry out fewer stop and searches.
Northumbria Police carry out fewer stop and searches.

Northumbria Police stopped and searched 35% fewer suspects last year, marking a significant move away from the policy despite a national focus on knife and drug crimes.

But only 31% of the searches led to any further action, with the majority of suspects found to be carrying nothing of interest. Home Office figures show that stop-and-search powers were used 2,814 times by the force last year, 35% fewer than in 2016. Just 26% of searches led to an arrest or a summons to court.

In nearly half the incidents (46%), people were searched on suspicion of drug possession. Of those suspects, 21% were arrested or summonsed to court and 5% were given drugs possession warnings.

Suspicion of carrying offensive weapons, such as knives, accounted for 552 searches in 2017, with 30% leading to an arrest or court summons. A further 29 suspects were searched for firearms, with eight arrested or charged.

Other potential outcomes from stop and search include the suspect being given a police warning, the issue being resolved on the spot, or, most often, no further action being taken.

Last month, the shadow home secretary, Diane Abbott, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that stop and search had been ineffective in combatting violent crime.

She said: “The truth is, when stop and search was at full throttle, the main thing they found were small quantities of drugs.

“Evidence-based stop and search will always be an important weapon against all types of crime. But random stop and search has poisoned relationships between the police and the community, and in the end we need the cooperation of the community to deal with the issues.”

A spokesman for the Home Office said: “We have been clear that stop and search is a vital policing tool, and officers will always have the Government’s full support to use these powers properly.”

Across England and Wales, 38 forces reported details of their stop-and-search incidents for 2016 and 2017. Among them, there were 17% fewer stop and searches in 2017.

The figures also showed the extent to which black people are disproportionately likely to be the subject of stop and searches. Officers identified suspects as black in one in four cases, despite black people making up just 3% of the population in England and Wales in the 2011 Census.

Data source: https://data.police.uk/data/