It’s about interpretation of the figures and what they mean.
It can be argued (as the government does) that the percentage of positive stops is up, with less stops but more of that reduced number being of people carrying illegal items and that’s all that matters and isn’t the reason we are losing the streets.
However it can also be argued that a positive stop isn’t just about finding things (although that’s nice). It’s also about finding things out (gathering intelligence) and about deterring people from carrying weapons or other illegal items.
Now since stop searches are down 75% if you are thinking about carrying a weapon you know you are 75% less likely to be caught than you were 8 years ago. The government like the “percentage of positive searches are up” line but ignore that the number of arrests is down by 50%.
Here’s a little story for you, just choose your crime as you go.
“Once upon a time there was a man called Billy, Billy was a well known burglar/gang member/drug dealer every Police Officer on the borough recognised him and knew where he lived. If he was seen out and about in a different area/the place he was known to deal drugs/commit robberies/an area with a high crime rate he would be stopped & searched, sometimes he would have something illegal on him & would be arrested or police might find things out from the process like his address has changed or he has a new mobile phone or is hanging around with new people or a new gang is working in the area. If he didn’t have anything on him he would think “thank god I didn’t have anything on me, I’d better not carry at the moment as I’m still getting targeted by the Police because they know I’m a criminal/they are just searching everyone” he would also tell all his criminal mates. However once Mrs May came along & BUSS was brought in Billy realised the Police couldn’t search him anymore, so he started carrying his illegal stuff all the time and told all his mates “the coppers stopped me for a chat, I fed them some BS and they didn’t even search me.” Mrs May then began to wonder why crime was through the roof and said “sod it let’s just lie about what the figures mean, it’s only poor people & ethnic minorities dying/living in places they don’t feel safe” The End”
That may be a little tongue in cheek, but the fact remains that in 2010 17 teenagers were murdered in London out if a total of 124, in the first 3 months & 4 days this year we have had 10 teenagers killed out of a total of 50 murders in london. If that’s replicated for the rest of the year (I think it’s going to get worse) you are looking at 200 murders & 40 dead kids and the deterrent effecct & Intel gathering elements of Stop Search are a big part of the solution. (As are getting our Police numbers and support staff numbers back up.)
The other thing to take into account when the government trot out the “we are searching less innocent people line” is that just because the person who was searched wasn’t carrying when he was stopped doesn’t convert a prolific criminal/habitual knife carrier into an innocent member of the public, they are still a criminal they just weren’t committing a crime at that moment.