Tories tell police to ramp up ‘stop and search’ as knife crime tsar warns weapons are being sold to teens on TikTok

15 May 2024, 00:16 | Updated: 15 May 2024, 09:22

Policing minister Chris Philp (L), Met Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley (R)
Policing minister Chris Philp (L), Met Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley (R). Picture: Alamy/LBC
Kieran Kelly

By Kieran Kelly

Police have been urged to increase their use of ‘stop and search’, with the policing minister Chris Philp insisting it is a ‘vital tool’ and not discriminatory.

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Mr Philp, the MP for Croydon in south London, said the controversial policing practice is not being used enough to combat knife crime.

He told LBC this morning: "I'd like to see officers of course use the power lawfully and also respectfully, but it does need to be, I think, used more to protect the public and particularly the kind of young men who often end up being victims of knife crime.

Chris Philp on live facial recognition cameras

"Asked about the communities who could be disproportionately affected by stop and search, he said: "The sad truth is that young black men are disproportionately victims of knife crime and we're doing this as much to protect them as anything else."

"He said the success rate of stop and searches are typically 25% to 30%.

"That percentage is pretty much the same across something to within 1% across all ethnicities so that gives me quite a high degree of confidence that police are not unreasonably picking on particular parts of the community," he said.

Mr Philp also spoke about knife crime rates in London compared to the rest of the country.

"One of the reasons why London is doing worse than the rest of the country I think is the fact that the stop and search has gone down in London, and we need to reverse that."

“The police must use the powers available to them without fear or favour. I want to see them take a robust approach and this starts with increasing the use of stop and search,” Mr Philp wrote in The Telegraph.

“In today’s climate police stop and search is the best foot forward, we know this. What we can’t do is tiptoe around using these powers in an aim to appease.

“The first priority must always be prevention and public safety.”

Met Commissioner to ramp up Stop and Search

It comes amid warnings that underage teenagers are being sold knives on social media apps, including TikTok, Snapchat and Instagram.

The national lead for policing knife crime, Commander Stephen Clayman, said: "It's still a really concerning picture in terms of the accessibility of knives online."

Official figures show that knife crime rose by 7% in the year to December 2023. In the year to March 2023, 82% of teenage homicide victims were killed with a knife, compared to 73% in the previous year.

Read More: Met police to increase stop and search, with announcement coming 'in next couple of months', commissioner says

Read more: 'It makes our job incredibly difficult': Police surrounded by cameras on protests as they make ‘on the hoof’ law changes

The Met has already revealed plans to increase stop and search, with the Met commissioner Sir Mark Rowley telling LBC's Nick Ferrari at Breakfast earlier in May an announcement would be made within months.

Sir Mark told LBC that the controversial search tactic "does work" in reducing violent crime.

Responding to a call from a black police officer who is in favour of the tactic, he said that stop and search had "been falling over the last two or three years", with some of that down to "officer confidence".

He added that his officers "fear complaints and the investigation they get and whether they feel supported behind it".

Sir Mark told Nick: "We’re looking at ways to increase our stop and search and we’ll make some announcements on that in the next couple of months".

Man Attacks People With Sword In North East London
Man Attacks People With Sword In North East London. Picture: Getty

The Home Office announced on Tuesday that it would give £3.5 million additional funding for research and development of new technologies which would allow knives to be detected from a distance when a suspect passes through two points.

An additional £547,863 will also be given to the Metropolitan Police to fund four more live facial recognition camera vans.

Laws around zombie knives, machetes and swords are to be tightened up from September, giving police greater powers to seize weapons found in private properties.

Anti kniife crime campaigner Patrick Green told LBC’s Ben Kentish tonight that the new funding will make “little difference”.

“If it leads to the development of technologies that can detect knives that have been taken onto the street…then obviously, that’s a very, very good thing,” Mr Green told LBC.

“It’s not just about taking knives off the streets. They shouldn’t be on the streets and they shouldn’t be carried in the first place.

“It’s the ‘why’ we tend to miss.”

Ben Kentish speaks to knife crime campaigner

The policing practice became particularly controversial during Theresa May's tenure as home secretary.

Ms May admitted in 2014 that as many as 250,000 street searches were probably carried out illegally in 2013, prompting reform of the practice.

There are concerns it is used to disproportionately target people from ethnic minorities.