Gibraltar Chronicle Logo
UK/Spain News

New method credited with better stop and search results

By Flora Thompson, PA Home Affairs Correspondent

The proportion of stop and searches which resulted in illegal drugs and weapons being found doubled after police started using a different method, research suggests.

In 2018/19, 16 forces carried out 3,331 stop and searches using the technique called Project Servator, with 1,232 having a "positive outcome", the research by the University of Leicester claimed.

The findings comes as Leicestershire Police began a trial of the tactic at East Midlands Airport on Monday, the university said.

In forces which took part in Project Servator, 37% of stop and searches resulted in an arrest or the discovery of weapons or illegal drugs - these are described as a "positive outcome".

This is compared to the 17% national average of success across all UK police forces during the same period.

Project Servator - named after the Latin for watcher or observer - was launched in 2014 in the City of London in response to the terrorist threat and sees officers specially trained in stop and search techniques.

The tactic includes "highly visible but unpredictable deployments of specially trained officers", with both uniform and undercover officers taking part in operations to disrupt would-be criminals and terrorists.

Its success relies on support from businesses and members of the public to "create a network of vigilance", the study said.

The method is now being used by 22 UK forces, as well as the Royal Gibraltar Police in Gibraltar and New South Wales Police in Sydney, Australia.

There were an average of 74 arrests a month across the 16 forces under Project Servator and an average of 201 intelligence reports a month received about crime including terrorism, the report said.

The number of stop and searches using the technique which led to suspects being charged or convicted was not included in the results.

Report author Paul Baines, who is a professor of political marketing at the University of Leicester, said: "Project Servator has had a vital role in helping to keep the public safe by helping to disrupt potential terrorist activity, and encouraging the public to remain vigilant and report any suspicious activity.

"As the statistics show, the specialist training received by officers has created a step change in the way stop and searches are carried out by those officers - whether it is someone shoplifting in a town centre to an individual who is planning a terrorist attack and carrying out hostile reconnaissance at an iconic site, the tell-tale signs that bring them to the officers' attention are the same."

City of London Police Assistant Commissioner Alistair Sutherland, who leads the National Police Chiefs' Council work on Project Servator, said: "We know that the approach is effective in disrupting a range of criminal activity.

"However, we are not complacent, and are always seeking to improve and develop our tactics to maximise their effectiveness in keeping communities safe.

Responses to the study included one force which had taken part and said it was not clear whether the method would prevent an incident like a terror attack from happening but its officers did think the technique had made it more difficult for suspects to target a particular location.

More resources would be needed to ensure the success of the project if it were to be rolled out for all forces, the study concluded.