Monday, April 09, 2007

Why knife crime is out of control

It was so easy a few years ago. A police Officer sees spots a suspicious looking youth, perhaps someone with a conviction for carrying knives, and asks him (usually it is a male) to turn out his pockets. If nothing is found the youth is free to go on his way.

Those days have long gone. Partly as a result of the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry the police are unable to stop and search someone for a weapon without “reasonable grounds” for suspecting they have one. If reasonable grounds exist (and they must seem reasonable to a Court not the police officer) then the PC has to decide under what powers of the law he is legally entitled to carry out the search and inform the suspect. Then a long form will be filled in. It should take eight minutes to do so, but if the suspect is not cooperating, or doesn’t understand English or it is belting down with rain and the paper and biro have got wet the whole thing will take much longer. Then the search. Then when the officer is back at the station the information on the form has to be re-entered onto a computer system. Then the officer responsible for looking after completed stop and search forms must be found, wherever he is, so that the completed form can be handed over to him. Both officers may require signatures to prove this has happened. The nominated officer will have to ensure that the form is passed onto another office where it will be kept handy for 12 months in case the person searched exercises their right to a copy of it. This isn’t all. The entire process of searching form-filling, computer entries, hand over, will all have to be recorded in the Officer’s notebook.

The result is that the phrase “turn out your pockets” is no longer heard. Black youths are being murdered at a horrendous rate on the streets of London, usually by other black youths and nobody appears able to do much about it. The only hope is that the many responsible members of the black community, the youth club workers, church leaders etc stand up and demand an end to the stop and search restrictions which were put in place by white politicians responding to allegations of police racisim and have led inevitably to carnage in the midst of the communities they thought they were helping.


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