No, stop and search isn’t the solution to gang violence

The Daily Mail’s front page on a police crackdown isn’t all it seems.

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The Daily Mail ran with an exclusive story on its splash today, headlined: “BEAT GANG VIOLENCE WITH MORE STOP AND SEARCH”.

But it’s not the full story. Here’s what you need to know:

This isn’t a “blueprint” for tackling crime

The front page story is based on what is described as a “major report” and a “blueprint”, but is simply a paper by former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith MP’s right-wing think tank, the Centre for Social Justice.

Think tanks bring out reports all the time, which reflect the political leanings of the organisation and those who run it. They might have money for in-depth research, but their policy proposals are far from impartial.

As LBC’s James O’Brien points out, reporting a think tank’s report as “news” is a bit of a stretch – though of course it happens all the time across our media’s political spectrum, and it’s the aim of think tanks to make news with their policy ideas.


There have not been 100 killings from gang crime this year

The article suggests London’s mayor Sadiq Khan will be under pressure from this report – which calls for a “US-style crackdown on gang leaders” – because the number of killings in the capital has reached 100.

While London has seen 100 people murdered this year so far, it’s not all from gang crime, stabbings and shootings. The i has a very helpful list here of the circumstances of each murder in the capital this year.

Increasing stop and search won’t help

There is no evidence that the level of police stop and search powers has an effect on killings. A College of Policing study of Metropolitan Police boroughs looking at ten years of data from 2004-14 found that stop and search had no effect on the levels of violent crime.

In fact, in New York, since police reduced their use of equivalent stop and frisk powers, the murder rate has fallen to a record low.

The race element of stop and search is not a “myth”

“The myth of racial disparity in stop and search must be challenged,” declares the report, which puts the stark figures showing the racial disparity in who is stopped and searched down to flawed methodology.

But in reality, black people are far more likely to be stopped and searched than white people, and the gap has widened in the most recent year we have figures for – they were about eight times as likely to get stopped and searched as of 2016/17.

Four in 1,000 white people were stopped and searched in 2016/17, compared with 29 in 1,000 black people. But whether someone being searched is white or not makes no difference to the rate at which police find what they’re looking for. “Positive outcome rates” (searches that result in action being taken) are similar whatever your ethnicity is.

Sadiq Khan has already said he’ll increase stop and search

While calling for more use of stop and search, and trying to pile pressure on the London mayor, the story ignores the fact that Sadiq Khan already announced in January this year that there would be a “significant increase” in targeted stop and searches by police in London.

He repeated this in April, urging police officers to be “confident” to stop and search those they suspect of carrying a weapon.

Care, not crackdown, reduced Glasgow’s violence

While the Mail’s report focuses on increased enforcement in Glasgow – where a Scottish police taskforce set up in 2005 called the Violence Reduction Unit halved the murders in what was once Europe’s “murder capital” – it was actually a public health approach that changed its fortunes.

This is described in the Guardian as “caring people into change” – and is advocated by the Centre for Social Justice report as having worked in Boston and Cincinnati too. Far from being a “crackdown” on the symptoms of violent crime, this Group Violence Intervention approach tackles the causes of violent crime. Knife crime in Glasgow was treated as a health issue, with police working alongside health, education and social workers to tackle the problem.

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.