Stop and searches rise sharply in Nottinghamshire during knife crime crackdown

Knives collected by Nottinghamshire Police in a recent amnesty.
Knives collected by Nottinghamshire Police in a recent amnesty.

The number of stop and searches carried out in Nottinghamshire has risen sharply – in part because of the police’s targeted campaign to tackle knife crime.

In 2018/19, there were 3,023 stop and searches – an increase of 58 percent from the year before, when there were 1,908.

More than half of the searches (54.4 percent) resulted in further action being taken, with 15.4 percent of people arrested on the spot.

Others received cautions, summonses and drug possession warnings.

Some of the searches – and arrests – were carried out by Nottinghamshire Police’s knife crime team, the only dedicated unit of its kind outside London.

In total, there were 83 arrests for possessing knives and firearms, compared to 58 the year before.

A force report said this figure “illustrates what a vital crime fighting tool these powers offer and how they can be used to protect the public by removing weapons from the streets”.

Both the chief constable and the police and crime commissioner welcomed the figures at a meeting held at Gedling Civic Centre, and said they were a reflection of the force’s drive to tackle both drug and knife crime.

Black people and young Asian men were statistically more likely to be searched than white people, although this disproportionality has decreased from the year before.

In searches of people who identify as Asian, a prohibited item was found in 44.9 percent of searches. This is higher than the average for all ethnicities, which was 39.6 per cent.

In searches of people who identify as “black”, fewer prohibited items were found than the average – 35.9 percent of searches resulted in a ‘find’’ – compared to the 39.6 per cent average.

Drugs accounted for the majority of illegal items found.

A report on the issue discussed said: “The reason for this high volume of (drugs) searches begins with the fact that cannabis is easy to smell and therefore formulating lawful grounds (to stop and search) is much easier than for other offences like the carrying of knives.

“Equally, there are a number of searches conducted following reports of ‘items being handed between people’, by CCTV operators and the public; as well as reports being made by door-staff working during the night-time economy.”

On the issue of knife crime, the report said: “Violent knife crime is increasing nationally, an increase that is reflected in Nottinghamshire.

“There has been an increased focus on using stop and search powers to help deter, disrupt and detect criminal activity by taking weapons off the street and thereby reduce violent crime.

“The use of intelligence supports the proactive nature of the teams’ efforts and offers the ability to identify prolific and habitual knife carriers.

“Nottinghamshire Police established the knife crime team in January 2016.

“Since its inception, the team has seized more than 290 weapons.

“These weapons have been recovered through intelligence-led stop and search encounters.

“This is not as a result of the indiscriminate use of these powers, but from using information given by the public to target those who are believed to be carrying knives and other weapons.”

Paddy Tipping, police and crime commissioner for Nottinghamshire, said: “I used to boast that the stop and search rates in Nottinghamshire were among the lowest in the country.

“But given the real concern about knife crime, there’s been a concerted effort to do more about this.

“The important thing is to search the right people, and in terms of positive outcomes – arrests, drug warnings, identifying weapons – our performance is double the next best (force).

In the meeting, Craig Guildford, chief constable of Nottinghamshire Police, acknowledged stop and search was contentious, but said he was confident sufficient checks and balances were in place, and that the policy remained a useful tool.

He said: “I’m really pleased with the increase and the positive feedback we get from the community, and the continual supply of community intelligence, which leads to this.”