London: UK Home Secretary Suella Braverman on Monday gave her “full support” to police to ramp up the use of stop and search powers to crack down on knife crime and prevent attacks in the country.
The intervention comes days after three separate incidents of knife attacks in England, which claimed the lives of three people of Indian heritage.
A knife attack in north London ended in the fatal stabbing of 27-year-old student Tejaswini Kontham from Hyderabad last Tuesday, the same day as another fatal stabbing in Nottingham of British Indian teenager Grace O’Malley Kumar.
On Friday, 38-year-old Aravind Sivakumar from Kerala was found stabbed to death outside an apartment in south London. Suspects in all three knife crime cases are currently in custody and charged with murder.
“Carrying weapons is a scourge on our society. And anyone doing so is risking their own lives as well as the lives of those around them. This dangerous culture must be brought to a stop,” said Braverman in a statement.
“My first priority is to keep the public safe and people who insist on carrying a weapon must know that there will be consequences. The police have my full support to ramp up the use of stop and search, wherever necessary, to prevent violence and save more lives,” she said.
The UK Home Office also released statistics that show that last year, 99 young people lost their lives to knife crime in England and Wales, and 31 of those victims were black.
It said that black males are, therefore, disproportionately more likely to be killed by violence and knife crime.
It said though the government recognises black males are more likely to be stopped and searched, the first priority must be on prevention and public safety.
“Every death from knife crime is a tragedy. That’s why I also back the police in tackling this blight in communities which are disproportionately affected, such as among young black males. We need to do everything in our power to crack down on this violence,” said Braverman.
The Indian-origin Cabinet minister has written to Chief Constables of all 43 police forces in England and Wales to give her full backing to the “common sense policing tactic” of stop and search.
She urged them to ensure their officers are prepared to use the full powers at their disposal so they can be more proactive in preventing violence before it occurs.
The letter also calls on the police chiefs to use the powers at their disposal to arrest and investigate instances where someone is unlawfully obstructing a stop and search and for police to publish more body-worn footage quickly. The Home Office said this would prevent innocent police officers from being subject to trial by social media over their actions.
The latest stop and search drive comes as new Home Office data claims more than 100,000 weapons have been removed from Britain’s streets since 2019 through a range of tactics – almost half of which were seized in stop and searches, which have also led to more than 220,000 arrests.
The latest data available shows that serious violence has been driven down by 25 per cent since 2019, it added.
Given that stop and search of individuals has often led to controversy in the past, including allegations of racial profiling, the government said it is putting further safeguards in place on such powers to strengthen trust between the police and local communities.
“Too many criminals who carry knives and weapons go on to offend time and again. Our new Serious Violence Reduction Orders aim to help end that cycle by giving the police powers to automatically search those already convicted of knife and offensive weapon offences,” the Home Office said.
The Orders have been piloted by four police forces across England and Wales for two years.