Stop and search has no impact on crime, new report

Date: 
Thursday, 28 February, 2019

Police stop and search practices have virtually no impact on crime levels, according to the latest briefing out today from the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies.

Does stop and search reduce crime? by Professor Ben Bradford and Dr Matteo Tiratelli explores an aspect of stop and search which has rarely been subject to analysis: the effectiveness of stop and search on crime reduction. The briefing is based on research first published by the College of Policing in 2017 as Does more stop and search mean less crime?

Drawing on London-wide data from the last ten years, they find little evidence of the effect of stop and search on violent crime and non-domestic violent crime. Similarly, the authors found no evidence for its impact on robbery, theft or criminal damage.

Only in the case of drug offences did the authors find evidence of possible impact. But even here, the authors argue their findings are consistent with drug users and suppliers adapting their behaviour, rather than desisting from drug taking.

Speaking today, Professor Ben Bradford said:

While individual stop/searches uncover drugs, weapons and other illegal activity, our research suggests that at an aggregate level the association between stop and search and crime is weak, at best. In line with other studies, we find that very large increases in the number of stop/searches would be needed to bring about even very small reductions in crime, primarily in relation to drug offences. Increasing the use of stop and search is, on its own, unlikely to have much of an effect on crime.

Speaking today, our Director, Richard Garside, said:

If the police based their tactics on the evidence of what works, they would be using stop and searches far less frequently than they currently do.

Stop and search is a crude and ineffective tool, far better at antagonising and alienating members of the public than it is at preventing or reducing crime. The Centre for Crime and Justice Studies will continue to work with others to persuade the police to reduce significantly its resort to stop and search.

Does stop and search reduce crime? is the latest briefing under our UK Justice Policy Review programme of activities.