Boris Johnson and Theresa May clashed over how to tackle knife crime this week, after the former mayor of London called for stop-and-search measures to be extended to deal with a rise in fatal stabbings. There were 300,000 stops last year, compared with 1.2million in 2009 (Telegraph, March 22, 2018).
As mayor, Mr Johnson, a strong advocate of stop-and-search, presided over a fall in knife crime and overall murder rate, despite a rising population. But in 2014, Mrs May, as Home Secretary, curbed the use of these powers, claiming it was unfair, particularly to young black men, who were stopped more frequently than others.
The two had a ‘robust and frank’ discussion at a meeting of senior ministers this week. Mrs May reportedly challenged the Foreign Secretary’s call for the power to be more widely used, warning that stop-and-search should be employed only when necessary and not as a ‘blanket tool’.
Current Home Secretary Amber Rudd recently told police they should not be afraid to use stop-and-search powers if they are ‘targeted and proportionate’, but how to make it ‘targeted’ as well as ‘proportionate’ in inner city areas? Perhaps, to ensure a ‘proportionate’ approach and deflect accusations of unfair discrimination, the police should stop and search people in wheelchairs, little old ladies and babies in prams.
It should go without saying that in inner cities with a high proportion of non-white citizens, a high proportion of crime is carried out by the non-white population – but their victims are more likely to be non-white too. Are we to turn a blind eye to these victims, and the majority of the population, both white and non-white, who live in fear of knife crime, because we fear to offend professional offence-takers? If, as in so many other areas of concern, the 2010 Equality Act is trumping common sense, the police should be allowed to trust their instincts, and trust that public opinion, both black and white, will support reasonable action to prevent crime.
The Conservatives used to be known as the party of law and order, but Mrs May is on record as saying she wants to dispel the image of the ‘nasty party’; if only it was as easy to stop killing as it is to stop stop-and-search. In her capacity as Prime Minister she enjoys the protection of bodyguards, but in her anxiety to be perceived as ‘nice’ she is responsible for placing ordinary law-abiding citizens in danger of being murdered. And that is pretty nasty.
Progressive criminologists maintain that the high crime rate among some communities is caused by racism and ‘deprivation’; their answer is to take a softly-softly approach, but clearly that only emboldens the badly behaved of all racial backgrounds, who do not employ an equal-opportunities approach to victims when it comes to depriving them of their lives and property. The ‘nice’ approach simply encourages more crime and, as reported elsewhere, police are now taking days to respond to 999 emergency calls.
The best solution would be to recruit police stop-and-search teams to reflect the backgrounds of the local population in areas of high knife crime and wait for crime to fall; for how can any sensible observer see a high rate of deaths among young black man as a triumph of race relations?