I was making my notes for this Blog about how we could possibly look differently at the Police Stop & Search practice and switched the radio on. Lo and behold there was a discussion, hosted by David Lammy MP on LBC, about Knife Crime and the police Stop & Search strategies.
A Police Officer called Ian rang in and proposed that Stop & Search should perhaps be used differently, positively, in an effort to keep young people safe on the streets.
I was delighted as it endorsed what I was about to write. Ian didn’t elaborate so I couldn’t really pick his brains further but this is my take – I’m going to call it Stop & Help Plan A because Plan A is usually a plan that can be implemented as an ideal, as a preferred option.
The Stop & Search resource used by Police across the UK is seen by many communities who have experienced it as a very negative one: young people might be stopped several times a week under this resource and there are regular complaints that the practice is unfairly targeted. But what are the Police Officers to do? They have to have a plan, they have to do something? They face criticism whatever action they take.
So What if?: What if, instead of Police Officers targeting individuals, they targeted whole areas. What if, instead of patrolling in pairs, they patrolled accompanied by a member of the Youth Service or Mental Health Team (a “Prevention Worker?) in the role of Prevention Officer? What if instead of stopping people and arresting them if they were found to be carrying a knife, the officers took the knife from the young person and introduced them to the Prevention Worker accompanying the Officers. The Police would explain to the young person that they are there to help and to keep young people safe on the streets and, this first time, they will not be arrested but instead helped to step out of their habit of carrying a knife.
Of course, it would mean nothing if the Police just took one knife from one young person – it would have to be a complete community targeted approach as it would be, for instance, if there was a health epidemic.
Included in this Plan A, would be an accompanying targeted approach, by the Security Services, targeting the adults who exploit these young people via the County Lines practice – because of course, these Adults instill terror in their victims and should be seen and treated as Community Terrorists.
Young People involved in crime or at risk of being groomed by gang-masters are terrorized by these all-powerful adults who often rule whole communities. These young people would, I consider, welcome a group more powerful arriving on force and freeing young people in these communities from their entrapment by or enslavement to the gang.
Will it work? Who knows? Current practices are not keeping young people alive, in or outside of the criminal infrastructure – so a radical, dramatic approach might stand a better chance than the status quo. Only the Police will really know whether it is viable. But if it didn’t work, the very least it means is that there is one more knife off the street.
And Plan B? Keep on doing what doesn’t seem to work.
Eileen Murphy 2019