Knife crime and violence is a serious concern, which has been exacerbated by police cuts and austerity. However, the Government's announcement to extend the pilot scheme regarding stop and search powers under section 60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994, and its potential impact on BAME communities, is contentious.
Section 60 allows police officers to stop and search anyone within a designated area without reasonable grounds for suspicion, if it is anticipated that serious violence will occur. The extension removes safeguards under the best use of stop and search scheme introduced in 2014.
Stop and search is not effective in reducing serious youth violence or acting as a deterrent against crime. Only two percent of section 60 searches conducted between April 2017 and March 2018 resulted in an arrest for an offensive weapon.
The Government's extension will serve to further erode already tenuous relations between BAME communities and the police. According to the Home Office, black people in England and Wales faced a forty percent higher chance of being searched under section 60, than white people. The extension will heighten mistrust and increase the perception of the police as discriminatory.
An alternative, more holistic approach to tackling knife crime and reducing offensive weapons on our streets is required.
(BAME Labour Representative, Justice and Home Affairs Commission)