Fife police have defended a whopping 600 per cent rise in using stop and search tactics in Levenmouth – claiming it is preventing crime.
In a report to Fife Council’s police transition committee, concerned members heard the force carried out 2408 searches in Fife on suspected criminals from April-June this year
Last year, that figure for the same period stood at a mere 402 but police maintain stop and search powers – which allow officers to look for weapons, stolen goods and alcohol and drugs – is working.
“There has been an increase of 600 per cent but I add the caveat that, in previous years, stop and searches were not always recorded,” said Chief Superintendent Garry McEwan.
He assured committee members that police were not working to overall targets but did pay close attention to results.
“Here in Fife we have an almost one-in-four stop and search success rate,” he said.
“Using the tactic is working well and I am supportive of it, as long as what we are doing is successful and it is not used on individuals who do not merit it – it has to be intelligence led.”
Data revealed the vast majority of stop and searches were carried out in four Fife hotspots – Levenmouth, Kirkcaldy, Glenrothes and Dunfermline – mostly on Friday nights.
Police maintain this action has directly contributed to a reduction in robberies and serious assaults across the region.
Chief Supt McEwan added: “A significant proportion of that figure coming down is doing stop and searches in the right time, in the right place, and to the right individuals.”
Furthermore, rather than fearing the powers could discriminate against communities, members of the public positively welcomed the action.
“At the Glenwood Centre in Glenrothes, some officers were being applauded in the street for their pro-active approach,” he said.
Chair of the police transition committee, Cllr Gavin Yates requested search type, age and ethnicity data in future reports on stop and search.
“The public want to know the police are not acting willy nilly; that stop and search tactics do not demonise a particular community or age group,” he said.
Police officers can deploy stop and search powers without a person’s consent when they have a ‘reasonable suspicion’ that an individual is engaged in specific kinds of criminal activity.
Its use should always be “lawful, proportionate, intelligence-led and respectful to the member of the public involved”.
An officer can request to carry out a spontaneous search on a person who, for example, appears to be drunk and under-age, but that person can refuse to be searched before – or during – the procedure.
Fife police admit they cannot guarantee to conduct a search in a place of privacy but vowed to use locations where it would cause “least embarrassment’’ to the person involved.
Hotspots are defined as places where there is more likelihood of anti-social behaviour, general disorder and violent crime - including murder, attempted murder, serious assault and robbery.