Home Barking, Dagenham, & Surrounding Areas Barking and Dagenham residents praise new Stop and Search, but say ‘CPS must do more’

Barking and Dagenham residents praise new Stop and Search, but say ‘CPS must do more’

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Precision stop and search review

The borough of Barking and Dagenham has seen an increase in knife and violent crime in the last few years and local residents have called for the police and councillors to do more to combat rising crime levels.

The Office of National Statistics reported that between June 2021 and July 2022, stabbings and shootings accounted for 10% of crime in the borough at this time. Surrounding areas have seen sharp increases in such crime, with Havering’s crime rate skyrocketing by 28% last year.

We recently reported that Barking and Dagenham will trial a new ‘precision stop and search’ after the Home Secretary Suella Braverman called for police to ‘ramp up’ its usage, and we’ve seen it in action.

The Met targeted Havering under ‘Operation Snare’, conducting 44 stop and searches which lead to drugs, knives, and stolen vehicles being recovered.

How dDagenham feel about Stop and Search
A bladed article recovered from precision stop and search (Image: Local CrimeBeats)

It is evident from speaking to Barking and Dagenham residents that the community are in favour of the new scheme and increasing police stop and search powers. Some say they do not feel safe letting their children out and about around the borough, given the increase in youth offences in recent years.

The sentencing for knife threats and the impact on the community

Grandmother Dawn Eves says it’s not the police’s fault, but blames the lack of strict knife crime laws on the UK government.

“Knife crime is very frightening and I worry for my grandchildren. Also, all these random attacks you hear about, it’s not the police’s fault, it’s the government ruling of what they can and can’t do.”

Currently threatening someone with an offensive weapon such as a knife carries a minimum sentence of six months in prison, and a maximum of four years, although other factors can alter the sentence.

While 80 new officers have been trained in partnership with the precision stop and search scheme, residents don’t seem very convinced that the extra officers or the scheme will be impactful in reducing knife crime.

Working from the East Area Violent Crime Task Force, these officers will be employed as further officers operating in the borough.

Although the scheme has been met with a positive outlook, local parent Sara Redman recently witnessed a policeman in a foot chase without any back up present.

Jordan Kukabu's stabbing shocked residents
Jordan Kukabus was stabbed near Reede Road, Dagenham, inflaming tensions in the borough (Image: OC)

It appears police resources could be a problem for the area of Barking and Dagenham in combatting knife crime, according to Redman’s account.

Speaking about police resources, she said: “I definitely agree with stop and search but more needs to be done with regards to the Crown Prosecution Service and courts instead of a slap on the wrist if the person is caught. The police don’t get the backup they need from courts or their superiors.”

How else is the council combating knife crime?

Further initiatives have been taken by The Barking and Dagenham Council to reduce knife crime offences committed by youths.

Councillor Darren Rodwell cautioned families that children involved in knife crime or aware of those who are could face eviction from the borough with their families if they fail to cooperate with police in bringing perpetrators to justice.

In addition to the precision stop and search scheme, the borough has set up a Community Safety Partnership Plan to be carried out from this year till 2026. The plan’s goal is to help in “providing a safe environment for residents, businesses and visitors”.

By using local community data, the CSPP will work with residents and organisations to prioritise issues in the area that need tackling, including the rise in violent crime.

The overarching theme from the community seems to be a need for an increase in police visibility, harsher sentences for knife crime and strong deterrents to stop the offenses in the first place.

One young officer based in a neighbouring East London borough who wished to remain anonymous said he would embrace the scheme with open arms if it were to begin to operate in his jurisdiction.

He said: “I welcome the introduction of any new scheme that encourages stop and search. It is a useful tool that acts as a detection method to remove weapons and drugs from the street. It would be helpful to implement this tactic in all East London boroughs and further.”

He added: “Teenage murders continue to occur and this tactic would act as a deterrent to anyone who believes it is acceptable to openly carry a weapon on the streets.”

Almost 60 per cent of those who were murdered in London last year died from knife wounds from stabbings.

However, there is still a worry that new stop and search methods could still induce distrust of the police from ethnic minorities.

Stop and search: how can it affect minorities?

Kevin Blowe, the Campaigns Coordinator for the Network for Police Monitoring (Netpol) believes the method of stop and search alone is a “crude tactic with poor outcomes.” Indeed, there is a sense from Netpol that this new title won’t change anything in relation to making minorities feel safe during stop and search interactions.

Black man being targeted by police powers
Stop and Search has long been criticised for its documented stereotyping and prejudices towards Africans (Image: Corbis)

Particularly, Mr Blowe thinks it will not help in stopping young black men from being targeted, as they are already stereotyped “as criminal” by the police.

He added: “Institutional racism cannot be wished away by training officers to show more empathy or change the fact that humiliating people isn’t often the point of aggressive policing. Or pretending by encouraging people who are stopped to have a ‘dialogue’ isn’t a recipe for officers using it as an extended form of intelligence gathering.”

How necessary is stop and search for the police?

The police officer we spoke to counterargues the scheme is useful and necessary because there aren’t many alternatives.

“I would ask those people what alternative methods do they suggest. I find it ridiculous that people would voluntarily relinquish possession of illicit substances, weapons or stolen items. Otherwise, who is to stop them from dealing drugs, using weapons or stealing? Removing this would only embolden people to increase these activities.”

There is no doubt that at the moment that in the eyes of some residents, police presence isn’t preventing violent crime.

Chadwell Heath was the sight of a knife fight witnessed by hospital worker Rosemarie Humphreys last year.

“I witnessed a mass knife fight in Chadwell Heath just over a year ago. We are constantly hearing of stabbings and muggings.”

Similarly, Tracey O’Neil also witnessed a crime firsthand earlier this year when she was the victim of an attempted break-in. One of the thieves in question had a bag with tools in it, she stated.

She also said she was ‘scared’ to sleep now and that she would feel safer had this not happened to her.

On May 6, in the same area of Chadwell Heath, a dispute broke out between two men at High Road resulting in one of the men being stabbed. The man was found at around 9:34 pm that night by police. Another man was arrested in connection with the stabbing.

In events like this, residents appear to support the police using their power of stop and search, regardless of the precision scheme.

Residents appear to support the police using their powers of stop and search in necessary situations regardless of the precision scheme.

There was not much of a mention from the public on the impact the new programme could have on ethnic minorities in stop and search situations.

A local need

The consensus in the borough is that several factors have affected the resources of police and their visibility on the streets, such as funding cuts, and Dagenham Heathway and Elm Park have called for them bobbies back.

If carried out appropriately with an increase in police visibility, locals do believe the scheme could be beneficial.

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Even so, there is still an acknowledgement that the growing knife crime problem prevalent among young people outweighs the issues posed by such police powers and its potential racism towards ethnic minorities.

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