The prime minister has defended plans to widen police use of stop and search powers, describing it as a “kind and loving” way to get dangerous weapons off the streets.
Speaking as the government set out its new Beating Crime Plan for England and Wales, Boris Johnson said stop and search was not a “strong-arm” tactic and plays an “important part in fighting crime”.
The blueprint includes a permanent relaxing of conditions on the use of Section 60 stop and search powers, which allow officers to search someone without reasonable grounds in an area where serious violence is expected.
“They are not the only tool that we have got to use. They are part of a range of things we have got to do to fight street crime,” the PM said when asked about stop and search during a broadcast pool clip.
“I think that giving the police the backing that they need in law to stop someone, to search them, to relieve them of a dangerous weapon – I don’t think that’s strong-arm tactics, I think that’s a kind and loving thing to do.
“The people who often support stop and search most passionately are the parents of the kids who are likely themselves to be the victims of knife crime.”
Speaking to Kay Burley on Sky News earlier, policing minister Kit Malthouse defended the plans to relax rules on the use of police stop and search.
He said that although it is not a “long-term solution” it can have a “big impact on suppressing knife crime” in the short term.
But human rights organisation Liberty has said easing the restrictions will “compound discrimination”.
Mr Johnson, who made the comments during a visit to Surrey Police headquarters alongside Home Secretary Priti Patel, also said he wanted hi-vis “chain gangs” to act as a deterrent against anti-social behaviour.
The PM said he wanted those who engage in such behaviour to be “properly paying their debt to society”, adding: “Somebody’s anti-social behaviour may be treated as a minor crime but it could be deeply distressing to those who are victims.
“If you are guilty of anti-social behaviour and you are sentenced to unpaid work, as many people are, I don’t see any reason why you shouldn’t be out there in one of those fluorescent-jacketed chain gangs visibly paying your debt to society.
“So you are going to be seeing more of that as well.”
Other measures contained in the government’s plan include the creation of league tables for 101 and 999 call answering times so the public can see how quickly their local force is responding to calls for help.
The initiative will also ensure every neighbourhood in England and Wales is allocated a named and contactable police officer dedicated to serving their area.
But the PM is facing anger from police officers over elements of the plan, as well as a pay freeze.
John Apter, chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales, will deliver a letter to Downing Street on Tuesday.
“Police officers are sick of gimmicks. Sick of underfunding. Sick of mixed messaging putting police at risk. Sick of government contempt for police,” it says.
“It’s time for a total reset of police-government relations.”
The body, which represents more than 130,000 officers from the rank of constable to chief inspector, passed a motion of no confidence in the home secretary last week in a row over pay.
Surrey Police Federation criticised the pair’s visit, with chairwoman Mel Warnes saying: “Our colleagues should not be used as public relations pawns by politicians.
“I very much doubt any of our colleagues will be smiling at the thought of meeting two people who have decided against giving them any sort of pay rise despite everything police officers across the country have done these past 18 months.
“Police officers have given everything. The government has given us nothing.”
Other measures proposed include:
• The 24 hour-a-day monitoring of burglars and thieves using electronic surveillance
• Permanently relaxing conditions on the use of stop and search powers to take more knives off the streets
• Getting offenders to clean up streets, alleys, estates and open spaces
• A new £17m package for Violence Reduction Units to divert individuals away from violence
• Rolling out two further rounds of the Safer Streets Fund including increased lighting and CCTV
• Enhancing the role of Police and Crime Commissioners by giving them the tools they need to drive down crime
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Labour accused the government of being “all talk and no action” on crime and offering “rehashed policies” that “won’t make our streets safer”.
“On their watch, police numbers are down and community policing has been decimated,” shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds said.
“Coupled with an insulting pay freeze, it is no wonder frontline police have declared no confidence in the home secretary.
“There are already targets in place for emergency response times and having named officers in wards is not enough to make up for the devastating scale of Conservative cuts to community policing that drove police numbers down by 21,000.
“Little wonder that, on their watch, anti-social behaviour is rocketing, there are record low convictions for rape, and violent crime is devastating communities across the country.”