Suella Braverman demands police stop and search more. This is how effective it really is

Britain's Home Secretary Suella Braverman leaves for a Cabinet meeting at 10 Downing Street in London, Tuesday, June 13, 2023. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)
Home Secretary Suella Braverman has urged police to ramp up their use of stop and search. (AP)

Suella Braverman has told police to increase their use of stop and search tactics in order to "prevent violence and save more lives".

The home secretary made the comments in a letter sent to the police chiefs of all 43 forces in the country, giving her full support to police ramping up their use of the controversial powers.

“Carrying weapons is a scourge on our society, and anyone doing so is risking their own lives as well as the lives of those around them. This dangerous culture must be brought to a stop," she said in her statement.

“My first priority is to keep the public safe, and people who insist on carrying a weapon must know that there will be consequences. The police have my full support to ramp up the use of stop and search, wherever necessary, to prevent violence and save more lives.”

Stop and search: What's the evidence?

The practice has long been criticised by human rights campaigners, with government statistics showing Black people are disproportionally targeted by police carrying out stop and search tactics.

“Every death from knife crime is a tragedy,” Braverman said.“That’s why I also back the police in tackling this blight in communities which are disproportionately affected, such as among young Black males. We need to do everything in our power to crack down on this violence.”

Just last year, the Independent Office for Police Conduct released a report detailing the "trauma" suffered by people

“Our report this year highlighted the impact stop and search can have on ethnic minority groups, in particular the negative effect it can have on public confidence in policing, so the positive response we have received means police forces can take advantage of this window of opportunity for generational change.

Home Secretary Suella Braverman walks outside 10 Downing Street in London, Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2022. Former Treasury chief Rishi Sunak became Britain's first prime minister of color after being chosen Monday to lead a governing Conservative Party desperate for a safe pair of hands to guide the country through economic and political turbulence. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)
Suella Braverman said she believed the controversial use of stop and search would curb violence. (AP)

“It’s vital frontline officers feel supported with the appropriate training so their delivery of this policing tactic is with care and precision. It's through this refreshed approach that policing can break the cycle and rebuild bridges with those communities who feel marginalised.”

Statistics released by the Home Office show 99 people were killed in knife crime incidents in the UK in the year to March 2022, of whom 31 were Black.

A Home Office spokesman said the statistics suggest "Black males are, therefore, disproportionately more likely to be killed by violence and knife crime".

"Though the government recognises Black males are more likely to be stopped and searched, our first priority must be on prevention and public safety."

However, while Braverman is keen to stress that stop and search will be increased in order to prevent violence, statistics show the controversial practice has limited impact on preventing crime.

According to a House of Commons research briefing on police searches, released in July 2022: "Most searches result in officers finding nothing. Officers found nothing in 74% of searches in 2020/21, whilst 20% resulted in an outcome linked to the search, a similar proportion to the number 2019/20 (the only available comparable data)."

The report also showed that in 2020-21, just 1% of Section 60 searches (stop and search) resulted in the discovery of a weapon, while since 2009/10 the find rate for weapons during such searches has never exceeded 3% - despite knife crime being cited as one of the key reasons behind Braverman's move.

It added: "There is little evidence to suggest that stop and search provides an effective deterrent to offending. The use of stop and search appears to cause only marginal positive effects on levels of some crime types. Stop and search may be more effective at detection than deterrence, but most searches result in officers finding nothing and have no linked criminal justice outcome."

A February 2001 analysis by His Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services of 9,378 police searches showed that police had "strong recorded grounds" for searches in 21% of cases, which yielded a find rate of 40%; had "moderate grounds" for searches in 42% of cases, with a find rate of 22%; "weak grounds" for search in 33%, with a find rate of 17%; and “reasonable grounds that were not reasonable" in 14% of cases, with a find rate of 14%.

The analysis also showed that drug searches on Black people had a "higher rate of weak recorded grounds than equivalent searches on white people, and fewer drug searches of Black people resulted in drugs being found".