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Fireworks, guns and false alarms: What a year of stop and search in Barking and Dagenham looks like

PUBLISHED: 07:00 28 January 2020

Stop and search incidents have concentrated on Barking Station and increased dramatically over 2019. Picture: Alex Shaw

Stop and search incidents have concentrated on Barking Station and increased dramatically over 2019. Picture: Alex Shaw

Alex Shaw

The number of people subjected to on-the-spot searches in Barking and Dagenham has almost doubled in a year. Here are the outcomes.

Metropolitan Police officers used their powers under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1989 to search people 4,587 times in Barking and Dagenham in 2019 - compared to just 2,408 searches the year before.

In more than 70 per cent of cases police found nothing of interest on the person who was searched and no further action was taken.

But 494 incidents, or 10.7 per cent of searches, led to an arrest and around 200 more people were hit with a penalty charge or court summons.

Officers caught 918 people in Barking and Dagenham with drugs in their possession and 59 more were caught with knives or bladed weapons. On six occasions, the person searched was carrying a gun.

Police responding to an incident at Barking station. Picture: Jon KingPolice responding to an incident at Barking station. Picture: Jon King

A Met Police spokeswoman said: "Tackling violence is the number one priority for the Metropolitan Police Service. One homicide, one stabbing, one violent incident is one too many.

"The rise in stop and search is a response to the increase in levels of violence and is part of our ongoing efforts to prevent crime, reduce injuries and save lives."

In March last year Stephen Thompson MBE, chair of the Barking and Dagenham safer neighbourhoods panel, had issued a call for stop and search to be increased in the borough.

At the time the borough was ranked fourth worst in London for victim satisfaction and, Mr Thompson said, officers "should have the conifdence to do more".

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Across London uses of stop and search by the Met have soared from 151,509 in 2018 to 268,432 in 2019: a dramatic increase after 10 years of steady decline in use of the controversial power.

But at the same time, it became less effective. In 2019 75 per cent of searches led to no further action by police, compared to 71 per cent the year before.

Katrina Ffrench, CEO of UK-wide charity StopWatch, said the organisation was "concerned" by the rise.

She added: "In reality [stop and search] is mostly used for low-level drugs offences.

"Police are adamant that stop and search saves lives, but we have argued that actually when over-used, it breaks down trust and confidence in communities."

In Barking and Dagenham, 4,226 - or 92 per cent - of people stopped by police in 2019 were male and the most-targeted age bracket was teenagers aged 15 to 19.

A total of 2,192 of those searched were described as white, 1,353 as black and 871 as Asian.

In more than 75 per cent of cases where someone was stopped, officers were looking for drugs or weapons.

But police also searched 529 people suspected of carrying stolen goods and 216 people they thought were "going equipped": carrying tools for criminal purposes.

As a result of searches in Barking and Dagenham 110 people were suspected of theft or fraud, and eight of possible immigration offences.

Three people also were rapped for carrying fireworks and another three for carrying "psychoactive substances".

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