Stop and search

The main facts and figures show that:

  • overall, there were 298,949 stop and search incidents in England and Wales in the financial year 2016/17, at a rate of 5 per 1,000 people; down from 23 incidents per 1,000 people in 2009/10
  • rates of stop and search have fallen for every ethnic group since 2009/10 –however, they have fallen at different rates for different groups
  • in 2016/17, there were 4 stop and searches for every 1,000 White people, compared with 29 stop and searches for every 1,000 Black people
  • between 2010/11 and 2014/15, the likelihood of Black people being stopped and searched fell from 6 times that of White people to 4 times that of White people; it then rose again to just over 8 times more likely in 2016/17
  • among specific ethnic groups, the Chinese and Mixed White/Asian groups consistently had the lowest rates of stop and search since 2009/10
  • the Metropolitan Police in London was the police force area with the highest rate of stop and search in 2016/17
Things you need to know

When looking at stop and search rates by area, it’s important to note that a person stopped and searched in a particular area may not live in that area.

Population estimates for police force areas are based on permanent residents of that area, as reported in the 2011 Census, and do not include visitors. It is likely that ethnic breakdowns have changed since 2011 and these changes are not accounted for in the figures. Figures that compare the total population with the number of stop and searches should be considered estimates only.

You can see the number of stop and search incidents by area and ethnicity if you download the data. Differences in the number of stop and search incidents between ethnic minorities in some areas are likely, in part, to reflect the differing ethnic makeup of the population living in those areas. The numbers will also be affected by the ethnicity of visitors to those areas.

Although the person being stopped and searched is usually asked for their ethnicity, the circumstances in which this information is requested may affect the accuracy provided or recorded. This can be seen by the high rate of stop and search incidents for the 'Other' categories within most ethnic groups.

Where a person’s ethnicity was not identified or was unknown during a stop and search, their ethnicity is recorded as 'unreported' in this data.

The overall rate given in this data (presented under ‘All’ in the charts and tables) includes people recorded as ‘unreported’.

The percentage of stop and search incidents assigned to ‘unreported’ ethnicity during the last 11 years is as follows:

  • 2006/07 – 10%
  • 2007/08 – 7%
  • 2008/09 – 6%
  • 2009/10 – 5%
  • 2010/11 – 4%
  • 2011/12 – 4%
  • 2012/13 – 5%
  • 2013/14 – 5%
  • 2014/15 – 6%
  • 2015/16 – 9%
  • 2016/17 – 10%

Estimates of rates per 1,000 people in charts and tables are given to the nearest whole number. Percentage changes over time and comparisons between different ethnic groups have been calculated using unrounded data.

What the data measures

The data measures the 'stop and search rate' for different ethnic groups in England and Wales. It compares the number of people stopped and searched from a particular ethnic group with the total number of people from that ethnic group living in the area, as reported in the 2011 Census, and calculates a rate per 1,000 people.

Stop and search is a police power to stop, question and search a person who is suspected of doing something illegal, such as carrying illegal drugs.

The police have the power to stop and search under the following 3 legislative powers:

  • Section 1 of the Police and Criminal Evidence (PACE) Act 1984 and associated legislation
  • Section 60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994
  • Section 44/47A of the Terrorism Act 2000

The figures don’t include vehicle-only searches, except those made by British Transport Police.

The ethnic categories used in this data

While the population estimates in this data are based on the results of the 2011 Census, the ethnic categories used are those listed in the 2001 Census. This is because these ethnic categories are easier to compare with the categories used when recording stop and search.

The 16 categories listed in the 2001 Census are broadly the same as those used in the 2011 Census, with the following exceptions:

  • the 2001 Census categorised Chinese people within the 'Other’ ethnic group
  • the 2001 Census did not include ethnic groups for Gypsy/Roma, Irish Traveller or Arab people

The 2001 categories are therefore as follows:

White:

  • English/Welsh/Scottish/Northern Irish/British
  • Irish
  • Any other White background

Mixed/Multiple ethnic groups:

  • White and Black Caribbean
  • White and Black African
  • White and Asian
  • Any other Mixed/Multiple ethnic background

Asian/Asian British:

  • Indian
  • Pakistani
  • Bangladeshi
  • Any other Asian background

Black/ African/ Caribbean/ Black British:

  • African
  • Caribbean
  • Any other Black/ African/ Caribbean background

Other ethnic group:

  • Chinese
  • Any other ethnic group

Ethnic groups and how data on ethnicity is collected

Stop and search by ethnicity

Stop and search rate per 1,000 people, and and number of stop and search incidents, by ethnicity

Ethnicity Stop and search rate per 1,000 people Number of stop and search
All 5 298,949
Asian 8 28,893
Bangladeshi 12 5,546
Indian 3 4,377
Pakistani 8 8,627
Asian other 12 10,343
Black 29 54,865
Black African 19 18,445
Black Caribbean 28 16,749
Black other 70 19,671
Mixed 9 10,477
Mixed White/Asian 3 907
Mixed White/Black African 7 1,164
Mixed White/Black Caribbean 11 4,544
Mixed other 13 3,862
White 4 168,783
White British 3 140,502
White Irish 5 2,572
White other 10 25,709
Other 6 5,274
Chinese 1 475
Any other 9 4,799
Unknown N/A* 30,657

Summary

This data shows that:

  • overall, there were 298,949 stop and search incidents in England and Wales (excluding vehicle-only searches) in the financial year 2016/17, at a rate of 5 per 1,000 people
  • White people made up 86% of the total population of England and Wales in 2011 and accounted for 63% of stop and searches in 2016/17
  • among the broad ethnic groups, there were 4 stop and searches for every 1,000 White people, compared with 29 stop and searches for every 1,000 Black people
  • among the specific ethnic groups, the lowest rates were found among Chinese people (at 1 stop and search per 1,000 people), and Mixed White and Asian, Indian, and White British people (all at 3 stop and search incidents per 1,000 people from their respective ethnic groups)
  • the highest rates were found among the three Black ethnic groups - Other Black (at 70 stop and searches per 1,000 people), Black Caribbean (at 28 per 1,000 people) and Black African (at 19 per 1,000 people)

Stop and search by ethnicity over time

Stop and search rate per 1,000 people by ethnicity over time

Ethnicity 2009/10 2010/11 2011/12 2012/13 2013/14 2014/15 2015/16 2016/17
Rate Rate Rate Rate Rate Rate Rate Rate
All 23 23 21 18 16 10 7 5
Asian 34 36 32 24 19 11 9 8
Bangladeshi 64 64 55 37 31 16 16 12
Indian 20 20 17 12 8 5 4 3
Pakistani 35 36 34 28 22 13 10 8
Asian other 41 48 44 33 28 16 14 12
Black 112 112 95 65 55 34 31 29
Black African 67 70 60 40 34 22 20 19
Black Caribbean 148 139 112 74 59 36 31 28
Black other 192 204 187 135 117 74 71 70
Mixed 33 30 29 23 20 13 10 9
Mixed White/Asian 11 9 9 7 7 4 3 3
Mixed White/Black African 26 24 21 17 15 10 8 7
Mixed White/Black Caribbean 48 44 38 32 27 17 13 11
Mixed other 40 39 42 34 28 18 15 13
White 17 17 16 15 13 8 5 4
White British 16 16 15 14 12 7 4 3
White Irish 17 18 18 15 14 8 6 5
White other 32 35 35 31 27 17 13 10
Other 16 19 16 13 12 8 6 6
Chinese 9 8 6 5 6 3 2 1
Any other 22 26 24 18 17 11 9 9

Summary

This data shows that:

  • overall, the rates of stop and search declined during the period studied, from 23 per 1,000 people in England and Wales in 2009/10 to 5 per 1,000 people in 2016/17
  • among the broad ethnic groups, the stop and search rate for White people was lower than the overall rate in every year of the period studied, while the rates for people from the Asian, Black, and Mixed ethnic groups were consistently higher than the overall rate
  • between 2010/11 and 2014/15, the likelihood of Black people being stopped and searched fell from 6 times that of White people to 4 times that of White people; it then rose again to just over 8 times more likely in 2016/17
  • the stop and search rate for White people went down from 17 incidents per 1,000 White people in 2009/10 to 4 per 1,000 people in 2016/17 – a drop of 80%
  • the stop and search rate for Asian people went down from 34 incidents per 1,000 Asian people in 2009/10 to 8 per 1,000 people in 2016/17 – a drop of 78%
  • the stop and search rate for Black people went down from 112 incidents per 1,000 Black people in 2009/10 to 29 per 1,000 people in 2016/17 – a drop of 74%
  • the stop and search rate for people with Mixed ethnicity went down from 33 incidents per 1,000 people in 2009/10 to 9 per 1,000 people in 2016/17 – a drop of 74%
  • the stop and search rate for people from the Other ethnic group went down from 16 per 1,000 people in 2009/10 to 6 per 1,000 people in 2016/17 – a drop of 66%
  • among the specific ethnic groups, the Chinese and Mixed White/Asian groups consistently had the lowest rates of stop and search throughout the period studied, while the Black African, Black Caribbean and Other Black groups consistently had the highest rates

Stop and search by ethnicity and area

Stop and search rate per 1,000 people by ethnicity and area

Police Force Area All Asian Black Mixed Other White
Rate per 1,000 Rate per 1,000 Rate per 1,000 Rate per 1,000 Rate per 1,000 Rate per 1,000
All - including BTP 5 8 29 9 6 4
Avon & Somerset 4 2 15 5 1 3
Bedfordshire 3 3 5 4 1 2
British Transport Police N/A* N/A* N/A* N/A* N/A* N/A*
Cambridgeshire 2 2 9 3 1 1
Cheshire 3 1 9 3 2 2
Cleveland 2 3 5 0 2 2
Cumbria 4 7 24 4 0 3
Derbyshire 2 3 8 4 1 2
Devon & Cornwall 3 4 25 2 2 3
Dorset 4 3 73 8 2 4
Durham 3 3 5 4 1 3
Dyfed-Powys 5 5 16 5 2 4
Essex 2 3 13 3 1 2
Gloucestershire 3 4 29 7 2 3
Greater Manchester 1 1 3 2 1 1
Gwent 2 5 7 7 2 2
Hampshire 5 4 35 7 2 4
Hertfordshire 7 7 24 10 5 5
Humberside 1 1 5 1 1 1
Kent 4 3 25 4 62 3
Lancashire 2 3 8 4 1 2
Leicestershire 1 1 5 2 0 1
Lincolnshire 4 3 14 3 5 3
London, City of N/A* N/A* N/A* N/A* N/A* N/A*
Merseyside 6 5 14 4 2 5
Metropolitan Police 17 13 40 14 9 10
Norfolk 4 5 48 10 1 4
North Wales 2 2 7 3 2 2
North Yorkshire 3 9 11 5 2 3
Northamptonshire 2 2 12 4 2 1
Northumbria 3 3 9 2 1 3
Nottinghamshire 2 2 9 4 1 1
South Wales 4 5 16 6 1 4
South Yorkshire 2 4 8 4 0 1
Staffordshire 4 9 22 8 2 3
Suffolk 3 6 30 9 2 2
Surrey 4 6 28 8 2 3
Sussex 4 8 40 6 4 3
Thames Valley 4 5 13 9 1 3
Warwickshire 4 5 25 9 3 3
West Mercia 4 14 44 10 3 4
West Midlands 5 6 14 7 0 3
West Yorkshire 5 6 8 7 1 4
Wiltshire 2 4 19 4 1 2

Summary

This data shows that:

  • in 2016/17, the biggest difference in stop and search rates between Black and White people was in Dorset, where Black people were 20 times more likely to be stopped and searched than White people, followed by Suffolk, where Black people were 14 times more likely to be stopped and searched than White people
  • the Metropolitan Police in London had the highest overall rate of stop and search, at 17 incidents for every 1,000 people
  • the police forces with the lowest overall rates of stop and search were Greater Manchester, Humberside and Leicestershire, all at 1 incident for every 1,000 people in their respective areas
  • out of the broad ethnic groups, the rate for the Other ethnic group was the lowest in 33 out of the 42 police force areas for which there was data
  • Black people had the highest stop and search rates in every police force area for which there was data, with 2 exceptions (Gwent and Kent)
  • the stop and search rate for Asian people was 4 times higher than the rate for White people in South Yorkshire and West Mercia
  • the stop and search rate for people with Mixed ethnicity was 4 times the rate for White people in Nottinghamshire and Suffolk

Methodology

Methodology

Stop and search data has been collected from the 43 territorial police forces in England and Wales, and the British Transport Police, since 2009/10.

Under the code of practice for the Statutory Powers of stop and search, officers are required to make a record of the details of a stop and search at the time of the encounter. The person they stop and search can ask for a copy of the record, which reduces the risk of a stop and search going unrecorded.

Some police forces are moving towards electronic recording of stop and search to ensure that data is quickly and accurately transferred to their systems. Other forces still use paper records to record encounters, which are more likely to involve errors, or may not be uploaded into force systems in a timely manner.

The use of stop and search, and its subsequent recording, is monitored by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS). HMICFRS carries out regular inspections and produce reports on the inspections. Home Office statisticians also undertake quality assurance checks. Any inconsistencies or unusual trends are flagged with police forces, who are requested to either explain the trends, or resubmit to amend the data. All data is then confirmed by police forces before publication.

Population is based on 2011 Census from the Office for National Statistics broken down by ethnicity using the 16+1 ethnic categories and police force area.

Rounding

Stop and search rates are given to the nearest whole number. You can see more detailed estimates if you download the data.

Related publications

Police powers and procedures, England and Wales, year ending 31 March 2017 (PDF)

Quality and methodology information

Data sources

Source

Policing statistics

Type of data

Administrative data

Type of statistic

National Statistics

Publisher

Home Office

Publication frequency

Yearly

Purpose of data source

Figures on stop and search reported to the Home Office are used to create greater transparency in the use of stop and search in England and Wales. They enhance accountability by enabling the public to monitor police forces at a national and local level.

The data is used to form a national picture of the trends in stop and search. It informs discussions about crime, policing and criminal justice in government and academia, and ensures the public are accurately informed.

Download the data

stops-and-searches.csv

This file contains the following: ethnicity, year, police force area, numerator, denominator, population and rate per 1,000

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