Police should stop criminals not innocent citizens

Marc Wadsworth

We should feel a lot safer in the British capital now there has been a fall in the number of crimes being committed. Londoners must surely be happier that burglaries, robberies and vehicle crime has decreased  — the latest figures show a fall from 850 to 800 a month.

Safer that is if you don't resemble a  'terrorist' in the eyes of your neighbourhood police. The other day I was stopped in my car by three officers (http://www.the-latest.com/do-i-look-like-a-notorious-terrorist), one of whom helpfully said that because I had been sticking precisely to the speed limit and there was a wire she could see in my rear window I might be a terrorist. (The wire powers the heated glass).

Now because of the deadly 7/7 attacks in London and the subsequent foiled bomb plot the public should be pleased about heightened police vigilance. But I would have thought that the legitimate pursuit of suspected terrorists is a sophisticated hi-tech business involving the police, security services and a network of informants.

So, it concerns me that in high crime Southwark  — a hot spot for youth on youth murders  — where I was stopped, valuable police resources are being wasted with three cops on their motorised beat tailing a middle aged man in his BMW. I am black but would not dream for a moment of playing the race card, though my appearance led officers to believe I fitted their identikit image of someone likely to use explosives in pursuit of a political cause.

Poor Jean Charles de Menzes, an olive skinned Brazilian, was mistaken for Ethiopian failed terrorist Hussain Osman and had seven bullets pumped into his head at Stockwell tube station in south London three years ago. What I would like is for the 31,500-strong Metropolitan Police to put the necessary resources into cracking down on the youth on youth crime.

There have been two dozen such murders this year and a Peckham robbery squad detective told me that the theft of mobile phones, music devices and money among teenagers is an insoluble problem. My own 15-year-old son was stabbed, while walking with some friends, at Peckham Rye because he wasn't  'a Lewisham boy'.

Like many black London parents, I would like to see more stop and searches by police of anyone reasonably suspected of carrying a weapon. I know that there would be a huge collective cheer in my area if that happened. Yet police I have spoken with say it won't work because of  'a lack of community support '.

They are terrified of the sort of Brixton uprising backlash that greeted the racially-biased  'Operation Swamp' stop and searches in 1981. But, post the Stephen Lawrence murder and implementation by the Met of the Macpherson inquiry recommendations which flowed from the cause célèbre in which I played a small part, black community and police relations have considerably improved.

It is therefore time for under-employed officers to switch their priority from picking on easy motorist and other citizen targets.