Steven Swinford, The Telegraph, June 16, 2018
Police should increase the use stop-and-search to tackle soaring tackle knife crime and violence in London, the former head of Scotland Yard who oversaw a huge decline in the use of the powers has said.
Lord Hogan-Howe, the head of the Metropolitan Police between 2011 and 2017 when Theresa May was Home Secretary, believes that the surge in violence means “we now need to increase the amount of stop and search again”.
Nearly 50 people have been fatally stabbed in London since the start of the year, while the overall number of knife offences in the capital rose by more than 20 per cent last year to 14,680.
He also linked migration and higher birth rates in parts of London to increased violence because it means that there are growing numbers of young men.
He said that “London is getting younger” that there is a “high correlation” between areas which have seen a significant rise in the number of young men and violence.
Speaking in the House of Lords last week, he said that one of the “large problems” in London is that so many people carry knives, meaning that “too often an argument is turning into murder”.
The use of stop and search peaked in 2008 when Boris Johnson was Mayor of London in response to a significant rise in violence.
The powers were used 600,000 times in that year, but reforms introduced by Mrs May led to a dramatic decline in the use of the powers.
In 2015/16 they were used 160,000 times. It came after Mrs May introduced changes in 2014 that meant police were only allowed to stop people when there were “reasonable grounds for suspicion” amid concerns that the policy was alienating black and ethnic minority communities.
Lord Hogan-Howe said: “In my time as commissioner, we reduced stop and search very significantly. I cannot blame the present Prime Minister for this, because I believe it was the right thing to do.
“Yet even though we reduced stop and search over the succeeding four years by 60 per cent, we arrested more people — rising from 43,000 to 45,000 people — and we saw crime reduce by 20 per cent, including knife crime and violence.
“I think we now need to increase the amount of stop and search again, but it must be intelligently targeted or its risks will outweigh its benefits.”
He said that the Home Office must help produce new scanning devices to make it easier for offices to find knives on people or in cars.
He also called for the development and role out of facial recognition technology to make it easier for police to identify suspects.
He called for more front-line police in parts of the capital which are struggling to cope with increasing levels of violence, linking the trend to increased birth rates and migration.
He said: “London getting younger is contradictory to what is happening in the rest of the country; there are contradictions, too, within London.
“It is in the north-east of the capital where we are seeing more young people. This is caused by higher birth rates and migration.
“Research shows us that where there are more young men in society we tend to see an increase in crime generally and an increase in violence in particular.
“If we look at a heat map of the violence in London during the past 18 months to two years, we see a high correlation between the increase in the number of young men and the increase in the incidence of violence.”