(This is the second part of Simon’s article on stop and search – part one can be read here)
A much favoured statistic of liberal criminal justice reformers is that black men are six times more likely to be stopped than white men. But what these lobbyists ignore is that while there were indeed 27 stops for every 1,000 black people (2014), this rate is still significantly lower than stop and search rates for young white men in Greater Glasgow.
I was co-director of the Boxing Academy, a school for excluded teenagers in Haringey, during the 2008 knife crime surge. Some of our students were gangsters or ‘hoodies,’ caught in the spiral of violence. Mostly black, they lived in a hidden world of ‘postcode’ wars, mugging, drugs and violence.
Some had knife wounds or had stabbed others and some had friends who had been killed. Out of curiosity I once asked one of the tougher students how easy it was to buy a gun. He said ‘used or unused?
The crime statistics reflect this reality.
In 2010 the Met Police took action against 18,091 people suspected of violent offences. Among street crime suspects, 54 per cent were black, for knife crime 46 per cent and for gun crimes 67 per cent though the black population of London was just over 12 per cent.
Diane Abbott MP bravely spoke out on this. She noted that : ‘Sadly 80 per cent of gun crime in London is “black on black”, often involving boys in their teens.’
Instead of addressing this human tragedy, recent governments have adopted the liberal orthodoxy, which believes that such over-representation of minority groups in the criminal justice system is due to racism and inequality.
The cult of victimhood, grievance and blame has spread and it feeds on denial. Under this pressure policy is adjusted to produce the figures that satisfy politically correct sensibilities. The trickledown effect is such that the Metropolitan Police is now unwilling to use stop and search because of their “anxiety about the potential consequences”, as a recent report revealed.
This in turn is why young black men are still being murdered in London. Yet the proof exists that strong police intervention in Scotland, Merseyside and Salford has saved and is saving the lives of young white men.
There is also an argument that stop and search won’t work because it leads to few arrests. This fails to understand the principle of deterrent. The inconvenient truth is that police are no longer a deterrent in parts of London, which leaves young people vulnerable to the threat of being robbed, injured or killed by gangs, which is why, in turn, that – in a final irony – so many young men feel they need to protect themselves by carrying knives.
There is another broader but critical factor in cutting street crime which should not be forgotten. When in 2012 recorded crime fell 8 per cent in England and Wales, experts were left baffled. London saw a 38 per cent fall in youth violence, a 20 per cent fall in knife crime and a 20 per cent fall in gun crime. Why?
The explanation was the 2011 riots after which politicians responded to public outrage by supporting the criminal justice system to work as it should.
Just a week after the riots ended the Met had arrested 1,733 suspects and charged 1,005. The remand rate went up to 64 per cent when normally only around 10 per cent of suspects go into custody, and prison sentences were longer than normal.
So with hundreds of violent repeat offenders off the street, crime-hit communities had a respite – they could breathe again.
In 2014, the Journal of Economic Research published evidence showing that swift, tough punishments sent out a message of deterrence that lowered crime.
Sadly, this crackdown didn’t last long. Of the 3,914 people charged and prosecuted after the riots, 1,593 had reoffended by 2015. Their offences included 12 murders, 54 sex offences and 180 violent attacks.
84 convicted rioters had records of 50 or more previous offences including gun and knife crimes.
Last month, after a spate of violent ‘moped muggings’ in London, a police official wearily said “Some of these young people have been arrested 60, 70, 80 times…You arrest them…the court won’t do anything substantive with them. It is a cycle.”
The continual release of violent repeat offenders is a well-known ongoing scandal.
I hope that the new Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Cressida Dick, and other senior officers will continue to support stop and search, given also the public support for it. There is no reason not to. Body cameras, which are proven to reduce complaints against the police, are being rolled out across the country, while a further 80 officers have been re-deployed in London to fight knife crime.
But the forces of denial are always busy. In 2015, just as violent crime hit record lows in Scotland, stop and search was cut there too. The United Nations said it may be a contravention of human rights. Sadly, evidence is already emerging that street crime has begun to go up again.
The truth is that slashing police numbers, reducing stop and search and allowing violent repeat offenders to remain on the streets have meant taking serious risks with public safety. It has cost lives. Yesterdays news, reported on the front page of the Evening Standard, that all London schools are to have knife checks is testimony to the damage such policies have done.
Violent crime has gone up, more in London than elsewhere, where it is disproportionately among the young black community. Politicians know it, the police know it and kids too terrified to walk the streets know it. But evidence has been ignored or deliberately misread and tough decisions have been sacrificed for political fashion. Our government is responsible – for a scandalous failure in their primary duty to keep us safe.
(Image: West Midlands Police)