Despite the huge increase only 13 per cent of those stopped were arrested - an increase of 15 per cent from the previous year. The number of incidents of people having a firearm rose by 95 to 435 in 1993.
There was also an eightfold rise in the number of road checks due largely to anti-terrorist measures taken in the City of London, figures in the Home Office report showed.
Of the 55,900 arrests in England and Wales almost 20,000 were for stolen property and drugs offences. There were about 175,000 searches for stolen goods and 135,700 for drugs - an increase of about one-third on the previous year.
There was also a large increase - 33 per cent - in the number of people searched for having firearms and being equipped to commit a crime. There were 3,550 arrests for having an offensive weapon.
In 1993, there were 3,560 road checks. Almost 50,000 vehicles were stopped, compared to 31,500 in 1992. Only 952 people were arrested.
The number of people stopped is expected to rise in the next few years as a result of the announcement in April that police will be given new powers to search people and vehicles for weapons.
Under the forthcoming legislation, contained in the Criminal Justice Bill, officers will be able to search anyone where they believe violence is likely to break out - this is expected to include areas around football grounds, pubs, and public demonstrations. The move was immediately attacked by civil liberty groups who believe it may contravene human rights laws and will lead to black people being victimised.
At present under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act police can stop and search a person or a vehicle only if there are reasonable grounds to suspect that a prohibited article will be found.
Yesterday's report also revealed a 14 per cent increase - to 459 - in the number of people detained for more than 24 hours and later released without charge. About 300 warrants were granted - up from 230 in 1992 - to detain people beyond 36 hours without being charged. Of these 81 per cent were eventually charged.
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