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Camden police use stop and search more than 30 times a day, new figures reveal

Inspector says tactic saves lives but critics question how young people are selected for searches

18 July, 2019 — By Samantha Booth

Inspector Richard Berns is a ‘huge advocate’ of stop and search

THE use of stop and search has soared in Camden, prompting concerns around its effectiveness and the impact it has on young people.

The number of searches has gone up since August last year, peaking in March when 999 stops were made – which equates to 32 searches a day and double that of the same month in 2018. This was in the month before 22-year-old Calvin Bungisa was murdered in Gospel Oak.

New figures, however, show that 74 per cent of searches have resulted in no further action being taken over the past two years.

Katrina Ffrench, chief executive of stop and search monitoring charity StopWatch, said: “With nearly three-quarters of stops resulting in nothing being found, it would suggest that stop and search is not being used intelligently.”

She added: “I have grave concerns that children and young people are increasingly having interactions with the police unnecessarily and, depending on the quality of the encounter, these interactions can be incredibly damaging for individuals and wider community.” Police say the increase is to tackle violent crime in the capital and defended their use of the controversial tactic.

Camden’s Inspector Richard Berns said there had been a 50 per cent reduction in under-25s who had been injured with sharp weapons since the increase in stop and search last year.

Insp Berns said: “I am a huge advocate of stop and search and encourage all my teams to use their powers where grounds exist. Officers make decisions to use their powers based on suspicion, and not prejudice.”

He added: “The reality is that stop and search saves lives and that is why officers use the power. They want to keep all the people of London safe, including those they stop and search.”

Mohammed Walji, a youth services manager at Queen’s Crescent Community Association, said: “Whilst most people in the community understand the rationale behind stop and search, I feel that the police need to communicate and spend more time in community engagement activities to help the community feel like the police are there to keep them safe.”

Figures shown at a council-run event around disproportionality in the justice system recently revealed 65 per cent of stop and searches in Camden over the past two years were on black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) people under the age of 25.

Abdul Hai felt ‘humiliated’ when he was stopped and searched

Cllr Abdul Hai, the council’s chief for young people and cohesion, said there was a barrier between young people and the police, particularly when BAME young people “who just feel they are being discriminated [against] and that disproportionality has to stop”.

Cllr Hai, who previously led the borough’s stop and search monitoring group, was stopped and searched as a young man in King’s Cross and said it felt “humiliating”.

John Kilvington, chairman of Camden’s stop and search monitoring board, said: “The concern is not so much about numbers but about whether the reason for searches are intelligence-led rather than just deterrents.”


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