Stop and search checks double with arrest rate rising, police confirm

Checks: Police have doubled their stop and search numbers in South Yorkshire
Checks: Police have doubled their stop and search numbers in South Yorkshire

Numbers of stop and search checks by police in South Yorkshire have been increasing every month, with a “significant proportion” resulting in weapons and drugs being found.

Senior officers are confident their tactics are contributing to the campaign against knife crime which, particularly in Sheffield, has increased in line with the national trend.

The latest figures available show more than 400 people were stopped and searched in September, with Sheffield accounting for the largest proportion of those, followed by Doncaster, Rotherham and Barnsley.

Chief Constable Stephen Watson told a meeting of Police and Crime Commissioner Dr Alan Billing’s public accountability board that officers were applying a more sophisticated approach to identify targets for stop and search checks.

“One of the most practical things we do is increase the chances of being stopped and searched,” he said.

“Numbers are starting to lift and I can predict they will continue to grow.

“Very pleasingly, the number of arrests are also going up, so we are obviously targeting the right people.

“Complaints continue to plummet. We are targeting the right people, politely and professionally. That is what people want to see,” he said.

Stop and search checks a year ago were less than 200 in a month, meaning the chances of being stopped has more than doubled.

Levels of knife crime in South Yorkshire have now started to reduce, though they are still above the levels recorded five years ago.

The problem is subject to aggressive attention by police and other agencies, resulting in arrests and convictions for some of the most high profile incidents, which happen predominantly in Sheffield.

Education work has been stepped up and the county has recently been award grant cash from the Government to pursue that work through two projects, one focused on Sheffield and the other on the rest of the county.

Police recorded 977 incidents involving knives or sharp weapons in the year leading up to June, down slightly on the previous year’s total of 986 incidents which is set against a national trend of increasing figures.

Stop and search checks have, historically, proved controversial because some elements of the community have faced the greatest likelihood of being challenged by police and national guidelines were issued advising forces to reduce reliance on those tactics.

However, that advice has now been withdrawn with South Yorkshire Police actively encouraging officers to conduct such work but to do so following careful guidance.