Time To Kick The Home Office (Metaphorically)

Last updated on October 16th, 2023 at 07:36 pm

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A short while ago I found some Met stats that enabled me to quantify the number of weapons that had been recovered as an Unintended Consequence of a Stop/Search for Drugs. The data was well hidden, but it was there, so now it’s time to kick the Home Office (metaphorically)

It was a monstrous sized spreadsheet detailing all of the Stop/Searches by the Metropolitan Police over a rolling 24 month period, and consisted of almost half a million rows of data.

Inspired by this find, I then set about seeking out the national equivalent. We know that the Home Office loves keeping data on Stop and Search, so it must be out there somewhere.

It wasn’t overly difficult to find the latest Home Office report on the subject, updated May 2022. The latest version up to 31st March 2022 is due for release this November.

Appendix B of said report states (amongst other things) “The Home Office stop and search data collection was expanded in the year ending March 2021 to allow for provision of more detailed information on whether an offensive weapon or firearm was found in a stop and search encounter.” and “Approximately 15,800 (2%) of searches in the year ending March 2021 resulted in an offensive weapon or firearm being found. Approximately 4,300 of those weapons or firearms were found when the initial search reason was for drugs.”

My first reaction at that first statement was “Wow, the Home Office have come late to the Weapons party” Didn’t start recording unintended discovery of weapons linked to Drugs stops till last year? Where have they been hiding? Never mind, the second statement tells us that approx 4,300 Weapons were found ‘by accident’ whilst conducting a Drugs Stop/Search, that’s encouraging at least.

The report referenced above contains numerous charts with references to the data table they are taken from, but where is the link to the data table? What is it called?

To be fair, the report does contain some facts, figures and comparisons that I find sort of useful and interesting, but where is the raw data? I have found too many inaccuracies in Home Office reports and Datasets to just blindly accept them.

I found the data I wanted eventually, not exactly hidden, just no pointers as to where it might be found.

For just one year 2020/2021 it contains almost one million rows of data, indicating in a rough and ready way, that the Met conduct approximately one quarter of the total Stops and Searches in England and Wales as their half a million rows covered two years, although the way the two sets of data are laid out mare different so this may not be totally correct.

Back to the data, how good is it? The first thing that struck me was the comparative file sizes. The National Statistics, which include the Met obviously, the file was 5.5Mb. The Met’s data, on it’s own (with half the number of rows of data) was 295Mb (not a typo), which is a sure indicator that the Met’s file (which contains no graphics) contains a hell of a lot more detail than the Home Office file.

I went straight to my point of interest, unintended discovery of weapons during Drugs stops. Out of nearly a million Stop/Searches last year the nearest I could get was that of 462,023 Stop/Searches for Drugs nationally, 6,125 had a positive result for something else, and of that number 150 had resulted in Seizure of Property. What property? Stolen Property? A Weapon? Who knows?

What about Weapons, what does it look like if I examine the Stop/Searches conducted with the intention of finding a weapon?

Of the almost 1 million Stop/Searches carried out last year, 2,590 were carried out for Firearms, of which 595 resulted in an arrest (and I highly commend our fine officers for their collective bravery in that statistic) and 15,029 were conducted for Offensive Weapons, of which 4,289 resulted in an arrest. And I bet you won’t see those figures in the National Press.

What kind of Unintended Consequences do the Stops for Firearms and Weapons produce?

I can tell you that the 3,191 Stop/Searches for Firearms and Weapons combined, that did not prove positive for their objective, 178 concluded in a Warning for Khat or Cannabis. But I still can’t tell you how many ‘accidentally’ found a Weapon? I have no idea where they the got the information for that claim in their report.

I’m afraid that, in my opinion, the Home Office is deliberately short of detail. It is clearly not intended as a tool to inform real world Policing, but designed by Bean Counters for Bean Counters. Quite reasonably it contains a lot of detail relating to Gender, Age and Ethnicity. I don’t have a problem with that, but it should, in my view, contain all of the data which will help Police Forces going forward to reconsider and improve their strategies.

By no means least, the numbers obtained from these encounters should be published in ‘Policing’ form to better inform the public what their local problems are, what the Police are doing about them and the scale of those problems and successes. Why the reluctance to publish good news stories if the dry data supports it? Instead it is published, with hugely negative connotations, to tell us all how many children have been stopped and what the Gender and Ethnicity balance is. Equally as important, is to let our population know the scale of the problems Policing is facing.

The Home Office data is woefully lacking in all of that data, concentrating instead on what I would call Management Information. There is little there to quantify the problems and the scale of those problems across a wider area. I havce to admit I don’t know how much of this type of information Forces share across borders, but beyond totals they won’t learn much from the Home Office data.

The Met’s data is far more detailed and informative, my only concern is that it could be made easier to find, in that format it wasn’t where I would have expected to find it.

I will close with the best piece of Management Information you will see this side of the next Election. I make no comment but the date visible in the background might be significant. Don’t be fooled by the red line though, although the percentage increased the number of folk gracing our Custody Suites went down.

Time To Kick The Home Office (Metaphorically)
Stop Search 2006-2021
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