Stop and Search Statistics

Stop and search statistics is a prevalent area of interest. This page shares insightful statistics on the causes and outcomes of these searches and the prominence searches in the UK over the last year.

Number of Stop and Searches in the UK Between 2018 and 2019

In the year ending March 2019, there were a total of 370,454 stop and searches conducted under section 1 of the 1984 Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE) and its associated legislation.

This Act allows police to search individuals for potential drugs, weapons and/ or stolen property if they have reasonable grounds to suspect.

The 2019 figure demonstrates an increase of 32% compared with the previous year, and it’s the first rise in annual figures following a downward trend between 2010 and 2018.

However, the 1984 PACE Act isn’t the only law which permits stop and searches.

In addition to this, police in England and Wales carried out 13,175 stop and searches under section 60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 in anticipation of violence.

This Act allows police officers to stop and search a person in a defined area without the need for reasonable suspicion, in order to prevent violence.

This figure is more than five times the amount of searches in the year ending March 2018 under the same act, when 2,503 stop and searches took place.

Evidently then, the number of UK stop and searches between March 2018 and 2019, have increased largely in comparison to the previous period.

Drug Possession Remains the Most Prominent Reason for Search

Police officers can conduct stop and searches for a number of reasons, including but not limited to: possession of drugs, offensive weapons and stolen items.

The purpose of this search is to enable officers to disregard or confirm their suspicions about individuals carrying unlawful items, without exercising their power of arrest.

As in previous years, the most common reason for carrying out a PACE stop and search was on suspicion of drug possession, as figure 1. demonstrates.

Figure 1.

Generally, the proportion of searches hasn’t changed drastically across any of the areas.

Drug searches accounted for 61% of stop and searches in the 2018/2019 period under section 1 of the PACE act in England and Wales. Comparably, in the 2017/2018 period, drug searches accounted for 60% of searches.

Notably, the proportion of searches led by suspicion of drug possession has increased significantly from 36% in 2001/2003.

There was a small rise in the proportion of searches for carrying offensive weapons which have increased from 14% to 16%. This is reflective of increased policing activity to combat the growing existence of knife crime throughout the UK.

More precisely, the number of searches on suspicion of carrying offensive weapons increased by a significant 54% between the 2017/2018 and 2018/2019 periods, where there were 39,050 and 60,091 searches respectively. The Metropolitan Police Service accounted for 64% of this total increase.

The proportion of searches in the ‘other section’ decreased by 1% in the 2018/2019 period to 4%. Reasons for search intent featured in this category include suspicion of firearm, and criminal damage offences, as well as searches and arrests under Section 43 of the 2000 Terrorism Act.

Figure 2.

Demonstrates the proportion of searches made by reason for search in England and Wales between the periods of 2001/2002 – 2018/2019.

Outcome of Searches

Stop and searches can result in a variety of outcomes including no further actions, advice, postal charge, summons, warning and arrests.

Of the searches for the 2018/2019 period, 58,251 stop and searches led to an arrest. This is an increase of 21% in the previous period.

Despite the increase in the volume of arrests following a Section 1 PACE stop and search, the arrest rate fell from 17% to 16% compared with the previous year.

In 73% of stop and searches, the outcome was ‘no further action’. In a further 15%, the initial outcome was an arrest, and the remaining 12% of cases were attributed to alternative outcomes.

The total number of outcomes for 2018/19 was 383,269. The split of these outcomes is displayed below in Figure 3.

Figure 3.

Number of Stop and Searches
Khat/ Cannabis Warning
Penalty Notice for Disorder
Community Resolution
No Further Action

The graph below compares the principal outcomes of stop and searches in England and Wales between the periods of 2017/2018 and 2018/2019.

Figure 4.

What Percentages of Searches Were Linked to the Outcome?

The Home Office reports that 83,010 searches were linked to outcomes. Percentage-wise, this means only 21.6% of the searches were actually linked to an outcome.

When we split this into categories, the ‘link to outcome’ proportion varies considerably, as demonstrated in Figure 5.

Figure 5.

We can see that drug searches have the highest meaningful outcome, with more than a quarter of drug searches being linked to an outcome.

Offensive weapon searches had the lowest outcome rate, with only 12% of searches being linked to an outcome.

The Prominence of Stop and Search Statistics Over the Years

Figure 6.

Figure 6. is a chart created by the Home Office. The chart shows a clear point in 2010 at which the number of searches started decreasing. The number of stop and searches conducted in 2018/19 was 70% below this 2010/2011 peak.

Figure 7.

The arrest rate however actually went up (as you can intuit from the resultant arrests line crossing over in Figure 7). Until the latest year, the arrest rate had been on an upward trend as the volume of stops decreased.

The 2018/2019 arrest rate is at a similar level to 2015/16, when there was also a similar number of stops compared with the latest year.

The rate of reduction between 2010/11 and 2017/18 in stop and searches accelerated following the then Home Secretary’s decision in 2014 to re-focus the use of such powers. This trend has reversed in the latest year and is in part thought to reflect a willingness to make greater use of such powers as part of the operational response to knife crime.

This has been driven by an increase in the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS), which accounts for 43% of the total increase in stops and searches in 2018/19. Merseyside Police accounted for 12% of the increase in the latest year and Essex Police for 6%.

Figure 8.

Stop and Searches by Age and Gender

The below chart displays data compiled by the Metropolitan Police (London) on Stop and Search statistics by age and gender between October 2018 and September 2019.

Figure 9.

The number of males searched in London was 227,470 according to this research, and the number of females was 16,078,

The below table compares the number of individuals searched within eight age ranges between October 2018 and September 2018.

Age Range
Number of Individuals

Somewhat unsurprisingly, 15-19 and 20-24-year-old males account for the majority of stop and searches.

Our research shows that there are some consistent gender patterns for stop and searches to be aware of. The Metropolitan Police data for searches by gender also shows that women are 2.2. Times as likely as men to be searched for offences relating to theft, counterfeit or fraud. Men, on the other hand, are much more likely to be searched for offences including violence, public order and firearms.

Arrests by Gender

Research shows that the most common offence group related to the arrest, for both males and females, was violence against the person, followed by theft offences.

However, there were some differences in arrest patterns for males and females. For example, females have consistently made up a very small proportion of those arrested for sexual offences (2%) and possession of weapons offences (8%), but a larger proportion of those arrested for fraud offences (22%).

Stop and Search Statistics by Ethnicity

The following table identifies the number of people searched in the 2018-19 period from five different ethnicities.

Number of Individuals

Clearly, there are staggering differences in stop and search rates by ethnicity.

Figure 10 shows that 38 out of every 1,000 individuals in the black population were searched, compared to only 4 out of 1,000 white people. This fact remains even with white people experiencing 27% more stop and searches in the 2018-19 period than the 2017-18 period.

These statistics show that black individuals are 9.7 times more likely to be stopped than those who are white. This has increased from between 4-6 times between 2012 and 2015.

Figure 10.

What areas are people stopped and searched in most commonly?

A basic breakdown of stop and searches by area (as shown in Figure 10.) highlights how London (Metropolitan Police) is dominant with 47% of the stop and searches for 18/19. Other high areas include Merseyside and the West Midlands, each with 5%.

Some of the least stopped and searched areas include Cambridgeshire, Wiltshire, Warwickshire, Humberside. In fact, Wiltshire is the lowest with only 0.15% of the stop and searches across England and Wales for 18/19.

Figure 11.

One of the more interesting statistics on stop and searches by area is the “searches per 1,000 population”. This provides stronger data because it controls for population size.
The London region is naturally a runaway area here with a rate of 21 per 1,000 population. The next highest is Merseyside at 15 per 1,000 population.
There is then a huge gap to the 3rd ranked area (South Wales) at 8 per 1,000 population. So Merseyside stands out quite drastically for regions outside of London in terms of the stop and searching rate.

Figure 12.

Figure 11 shows the arrest rate (resultant arrests/total number of stop and searches) to differ hugely compared to the number of stop and searches in figure 10.

For example, areas like Leicestershire, Cleveland, Durham and Hertfordshire are higher in the rankings in Figure 11, with 25% of stop and searches in Cleveland resulting in an arrest.

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