I support the use of stop and search, Home Secretary…

I support the use of stop and search, Home Secretary tells police

The Home Secretary has backed a boost in the use of stop and search to help tackle the deadly spate of violence on Britain’s streets.

Sajid Javid also vowed to prioritise police spending as he offered an olive branch to rank-and-file officers following years of sniping over budget cuts and staffing reductions.

Giving his first major speech since his appointment, Mr Javid said he is “absolutely determined” to put an end to violence that is “terminating young lives far too soon”.

Referring to stop and search, he told the Police Federation of England and Wales’ annual conference in Birmingham: “Some of you don’t feel comfortable using it – and that’s not how it should be.

“I have confidence in your professional judgment. So let me be clear – I support the use of stop and search.

“You have to do your job and that means protecting everyone.”

He said evidence shows that black people are more likely to be a homicide victim than any other ethnic group.

“If stop and search can mean saving lives from the communities most affected, then of course that has to be right,” Mr Javid said.

The recent spate of violence has prompted scrutiny of a sharp reduction in stop and search activity , with use of the powers at the lowest level since current data records started 17 years ago.

In the year ending March 2017, there were 303,845 stops and searches conducted in England and Wales – a fall of 21% compared with the previous year.

The tactics have repeatedly attracted controversy amid criticism that they are unfairly focused on black and minority ethnic individuals.

Reforms were introduced in 2014 by then home secretary Theresa May to ensure stop and search was used in a more targeted way.

But calls for the powers to be used more frequently have intensified amid spiralling levels of knife and gun crime and a wave of fatal stabbings and shootings in London.

Striking a more conciliatory tone compared with the stance of his two Tory predecessors when addressing the federation, Mr Javid acknowledged the increase in demand facing forces.

“I am listening and I get it,” he said.

Pledging to ensure that forces have the resources they need, he said the Government has had to make “difficult decisions” since 2010.

He said that, including funds raised through council tax, more than £1 billion extra cash is being invested in policing now than three years ago.

But he accepted there is a need to “think more about the long-term funding of the police”, adding: “My pledge to you is this: I will prioritise police funding in the Spending Review next year.”

Although “traditional” offending is more than a third lower than it was in 2010, Mr Javid said more crimes, such as sexual offences, are being reported than ever before.

The threat from terrorism has escalated and evolved, while crime is “increasingly taking place online”, the Home Secretary said.

“The internet has emboldened criminals to break the law in the most horrifying of ways, with platforms that enable dangerous crimes and appalling abuse,” Mr Javid warned.

Central government funding to police and crime commissioners reduced by £2.3 billion, or 25%, in real-terms between 2010-11 and 2015-16.

The Government says overall police spending has been protected since the 2015 spending review, but the issue has come under fresh focus amid the rise in violent offending and evolving threats including cyber crime and terrorism.

As of September there were 121,929 officers across the 43 territorial forces in England and Wales – a fall of nearly 20,000 compared with a decade earlier.

Weeks before her resignation as home secretary, Amber Rudd faced criticism after publishing a strategy to tackle serious violence with no reference to officer numbers – despite a leaked paper from within the department apparently suggesting offenders may have been “encouraged” after resources came under pressure.

Mr Javid stressed there was no “single driver” behind the increase in violent crime but acknowledged that “if you haven’t got the resources then clearly that can have an impact”.

Speaking to reporters after his address, he stopped short of drawing a direct link, pointing to a rise in offending around 10 years ago when officer numbers were higher.

He said: “I’m saying that to meet demand you need to consider resourcing. As I look ahead, with all the demands that are now being faced and the gap between capacity and demand, there needs to be more resourcing into policing as we approach the spending review.”

Earlier, Mr Javid was urged by the federation’s chairman Calum Macleod to “learn the lessons your predecessors failed to” – recalling that Mrs May had told the conference to “stop crying wolf” over the impact of cuts three years ago.

Labour claimed the Tories are “still in denial” about the effect of cuts on public safety.

Shadow policing minister Louise Haigh said: “The time for talk has come and gone. The only way Sajid Javid can deliver a fresh start is by putting an end to the Tories’ dangerous cuts to our police.”

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