By Zoe Kramer
South Wales Police appears to be disproportionately targeting minorities when it comes to stop and search, according to StopWatch, a group campaigning against the disproportionate use of stop and searches. This is consistent with UK trends as a whole, according to a report recently published by the Home Office.
Between April 2017 and March 2018, the number of stop and searches in South Wales had increased by 27%. A majority of these searches were drug-related, but some were also targeted at seizing firearms, criminal damage, stolen property and offensive weapons.
In South Wales for the period 2018-19, there were reportedly a total of 10,555 stop and searches. For every white person that got searched, an average of 6.85 black people, 2.18 mixed-race people, and 1.42 Asian people got searched. Under newly instated, more relaxed stop and search measures, some believe these figures have the potential to get even worse.
In August, stop and search powers created in 2014 were relaxed by the Home Office. Under section 60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act, officers are able to target specific locations and times they believe will be crime-heavy. They also no longer need “serious grounds for suspicion” if they believe a violent incident may occur. Additionally, inspectors and superintendents can approve the searches whereas in the past approval from a senior colleague was needed; these changes come in the light of a recent increase in knife violence.
However, a Home Office report following the Equality Act 2010 show that “UK evidence on the effectiveness of stop and search at reducing crime suggests changes in the level of stop and search have, at best, only minimal effects on violent crime” and that increasing the number of searches has “no significant effect on trends in knife crime or robbery.”
The likelihood of minorities being targeted more often than whites has been steadily increasing, according to the Guardian, rising from 2.8% in 2014/15 to 4.3% in 2016/17 to a staggering 13.8% in 2017/18. South Wales Police state that “Across the UK, black and minority ethnic people are statistically more likely to be stopped and searched than white people. It is therefore crucial to ensure that Stop and Search is continuously monitored to ensure that the power is used in a fair and non-discriminatory manner.”
Despite these assertions, some feel that this new policy has the potential to heighten discrimination and diminish trust in the police both in South Wales and across the UK.