Stop and searches in London up 423% as police try to get grip on violent crime

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The number of stop and searches under enhanced police powers has increased by 423% in a year in London as Scotland Yard tries to get a grip on violent crime.

Metropolitan Police Deputy Commissioner Sir Steve House said searches under Section 60 of the Public Order Act 1994 leapt from 1,836 in the 2017/18 financial year to 9,599 in 2018/19.

The number of Section 60 orders authorised went up by 219% in the same period, he told the London Assembly Police and Crime Committee on Tuesday.

The powers allow officers to stop and search anyone in a designated area for a limited time.

"I think we use it far more assertively than before, but I think it is an appropriate use," said Sir Steve.

"They are authorised either in anticipation of serious violence or immediately after serious violence."

He told committee members that homicides are down around 30% year on year, while knife injuries for under 25-year-olds are down nearly 20%, although knife crime as a whole has remained flat.

But he said he did not want to appear "complacent" after a 33-year-old man died of his injuries two days after being stabbed in the leg in north London in the early hours of Saturday morning.

Earlier this year, Home Secretary Sajid Javid made it possible for thousands more police officers to authorise the enhanced stop and search activity after ministers relaxed rules on the tactics as part of efforts to tackle the knife crime crisis.

Under the changes, which initially apply to seven forces, the rank at which a Section 60 can be approved was lowered to inspector.

Asked if he thought the current powers are sufficient, Sir Steve said: "I think we are seeing, due to the use of stop and search, a greater awareness amongst people who might be likely to carry knives, that they might be stopped and searched and therefore I do hope they would leave the knife at home and stop carrying knives.

"That's the motive behind stop and search. I believe we have what we need at the moment."