Letter: Crime and race

Sir: Stephen Forde's claim (letter, 13 August) that police stops and searches are an effective way of reducing street crime by black offenders is difficult to reconcile with the evidence. Before the Stephen Lawrence inquiry, only 11 per cent of stops and searches in London led to an arrest and few of these arrests were for street robbery.

Comparative figures for other police areas suggest that stopping and searching large numbers of black people does little if anything to deter street robbery. For example, in 1997-1998 Greater Manchester Police stopped and searched proportionately twice as many black people as West Yorkshire Police. There were 116 stops for every 1,000 black people aged 10 or over in Greater Manchester, compared with 56 in West Yorkshire. Yet twice as many robberies were recorded in Greater Manchester as in West Yorkshire: 244 per 100,000 population compared with 128.

The evidence from London's new stop and search pilots is encouraging. The pilot areas have cut the number of stops and searches, reduced the racial imbalance in the use of these powers, and have simultaneously increased the proportion of arrests following stops and searches. In other words, a more targeted and less discriminatory approach produces better results.

The racially based use of stop and search which has persisted for far too long does nothing to cut crime.


Director of Policy, Nacro

London SW9