Some communities in Scotland are being unfairly targeted for stop and search, according to a new analysis by equality group CRER, the Coalition for Racial Equality and Rights.
While there is no evidence of widespread targeting of non-white groups, figures from Police Scotland’s Local Policing Management Information reports suggest that there is disproportionality in some areas.
“Despite the picture of equality that’s being painted nationally, some communities in the west of Scotland are experiencing unreasonably high levels of stop and search. The new local statistics clearly demonstrate this,” commented Carol Young, policy and information officer for the CRER.
The Scottish Police Authority’s May 2014 Scrutiny Review on stop and search found that there was an east/west divide in the use of the tactic, with policing in the west of Scotland more focused on stop and search as a way of reducing crime. The new figures show that the top ten areas with the highest stop and search rates are all in the west of Scotland – across Ayrshire and in Glasgow, Inverclyde and Renfrewshire.
Among the top ten areas, the highest rate of disproportionality for any ethnic group was seen in South Ayrshire. There, black communities are five times more likely to be stopped and searched compared to the average rate. Figures show that there were 6,043 stop and searches per 10,000 people among the black population in South Ayrshire.
In some other areas there was disproportionate targeting of white Scottish residents, but the CRER noted that black communities tended to face worse disproportionality and so ranked higher on the list.
Stop and search is used more widely in Scotland than in England and Wales. There is clearer evidence of inequalities in stop and search south of the border, but the tactic remains controversial.
“Whether the extensive targeted stop and searches are an effective part of evidence-led policing or a human rights violation is contentious,” said Carol Young. She went on to note that the SPA Scrutiny Review concluded that police in Glasgow use stop and search to an unreasonable degree. The city accounts for 19.5% of all crime in Scotland but as much as 35% of stop and search activity.