Police have today defended stopping and searching youngsters as young as eight on the streets of Blackpool.
Over the past two years youngsters on the resort’s streets have been stopped and searched by detectives investigating a host of possible crimes, including going equipped, having stolen property and being in possession of drugs.
A Freedom of Information request by The Gazette has revealed police stop around 300 youngsters a year and, despite only a tiny percentage of those being arrested, officers have today defended their actions and said it is only done when they have “legitimate” reasons.
Chief Insp Ian Mills, of Blackpool Police, said: “Stop and search is a legitimate policing tactic should the grounds exist to stop and search individuals.
“It is used in areas of criminality and high crime where we believe we have reasonable grounds to believe that person is involved in the commission of crime. It is not a discriminatory tactic.”
The figures show in 2011 274 boys under 18 were stopped by police across Blackpool and the Fylde, in 2012 the figure was 318 and in January this year 30 were stopped and searched.
But of those just 18 were arrested in 2011, 14 in 2013 and two in January this year.
Chf Insp Mills said: “It’s very important in our own minds we think the grounds exist to stop and search these people. If they do they do and if they don’t they don’t.
“If we don’t have the grounds we can’t stop and search, it doesn’t matter what we think, we can’t stop and search them because there are quite specific rules.
“A number of the figures will be legitimate policing targets and repeat individuals who have been stopped.”
The number of girls being stopped and searched by police is much lower across Blackpool, Fylde and Wyre, with 26 stopped in 2011, nine in 2012 and none in January of this year.
Of those, just three were arrested in 2011.
Police in Wyre stopped 30 boys in 2011, and arrested three, stopped 96 in 2012 and arrested four and stopped five in January 2013 but didn’t arrest any.
Youth workers said young people must trust the police and respect their authority.
Laurance Hancock, from the Boathouse Youth Project in South Shore, said many young people did not mind being stopped if the officer went about it the right way.
He said: “It is how the officers themselves deal with it and if they explain to the young people what they are trying to do.
“I don’t think it has much effect on the relationship young people have with the police. Police are an authority and stop searches are part of their job.”
Blackpool youth worker Dave Blacker said: “You couldn’t say if stop searches generally are justified because you don’t know what the circumstances are. You’ve got to trust the police, they have a difficult job to do in Blackpool.”
Young people share their thoughts on police attitudes and stop search figures for Fylde coast
Young people have had their say on figures showing hundreds of them are being stopped on the Fylde coast’s streets each year. And the figures have divided opinion. Teenager Ryan Humpage said stop and search can turn young people against police and make them distrust authority. The 16-year-old, from Grange Park, was stopped three weeks ago. He said: “The police officer suspected I had drugs on me. He said he was detaining me, put me in cuffs and up against the wall and searched me. I was very embarrassed. “People getting stopped and searched like me, it will make them think they don’t like the police.” Dan, 18 from Layton, who did not wish his full name to be published, said: “I always get stopped. I’d understand if I’d done something wrong, but I was stopped once because they mistook me for someone else.” But Courtney, 13, from South Shore, said: “If you’re being sensible on the streets then you’re not going to be stopped.”