Children & Young People Now
By Neil Puffett, Thursday 02 May 2013
Police databases of gang members are contributing to young people being stopped and searched based on who they hang out with and the colour of their skin, an academic has found.
Medina has called for more transparency on stop-and-search data. Image: Robin Hammond
Research by Juanjo Medina, a criminologist at The University of Manchester, found that a young person is more likely to be stopped because they are black or associate with people known to the police rather than the frequency or severity of their offending.
Historical data has shown more young black and minority ethnic (BME) men are stopped than their white counterparts, but it was thought that this may be down to a higher BME population in “crime hotspot” areas.
But Medina’s study found that even when demographic factors, area characteristics and the amount of time young people spent on the street were taken into account, young black and ethnic minority people are still disproportionately targeted.
He has called for more transparency on stop-and-search data, suggesting that the location of stop and searches should be published on online crime maps.
“This would allow for greater democratic accountability and public monitoring of the way these powers are used,” he said.
He added that “intelligence products”, such as databases of gang members and associates are subject to little quality or legal control and can result in certain groups being more likely to be stopped.
“These [products] are likely to magnify the disparate treatment of those that have offended in the past or happen to be friends or family members of individuals engaged in offending and known to the police.
“There is indeed clear evidence of ‘policing by association’ in that, in practice, intelligence-led policing means that hanging out with the ‘wrong crowd’ is likely to exacerbate the chances that a young person is going to be approached by the police regardless of their own level of offending.
“Our findings suggest the need to better regulate these intelligence practices and products.”
Stop and search has long been a controversial police tool and its disproportionate use on young black men has been highlighted as a potential factor in the over-representation of black and ethnic minority children in custody.
In January last year the Met Police announced it would take a more "intelligence-led and targeted" approach in an attempt to reduce its use and improve relations with the black community.