Does stop and search reduce crime?

Ben Bradford and Matteo Tiratelli
Thursday, 28 February 2019

Does stop and search reduce crime? by Ben Bradford and 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.

Based on London-wide data from the last ten years, the report finds little evidence of impact 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 damages.

Some of the findings include:

  • Drugs dominate reasons provided by police forces for stop and search. The only strong evidence shows that stop and search may have a deterrent effect on drug offences, though this is still unclear.
  • A previous effort to tackle knife crime across targeted boroughs in London - Operation Blunt 2 - saw a large increase in stop and search. The initiative had no apparent effect on police recorded crime and in fact, ambulance calls related to violence fell faster in boroughs where there were smaller increases in searches.
  • Highly targeted use of stop and search as one tool from a wider array of policing tactics may have an effect on crime reduction.
  • It would take a huge increase in stop and search to deliver even a modest reduction in crime levels.