Southwark needs more women bobbies on the beat to stop and search the girls who are carrying knives for their boyfriends, according to a former gang member and the family of a murdered teen.
The police acknowledge girls are carrying blades because they know they are less likely to be challenged by male officers who can only do a “superficial examination of outer garments” of female suspects.
More than two thirds of police officers are men in Southwark, so if an officer suspects a girl of carrying a knife and wants to search more than her shoes and pockets, he would need to take her back to the police station and wait for a WPC (woman police constable) to become available.
Former gang member, Jennifer Blake, who now runs Peckham-based youth charity Safe n’ Sound, said she had been telling the police for years that girls carrying weapons was a serious problem. “They’re not enough WPCs out there to conduct stop and searches, it’s rare to see female PCs out there,” said Jennifer, who said a bigger problem was still the way stop and searches were carried out – sometimes without following correct police procedure.
“They need to be recruiting more female officers and maybe stop and search would be conducted in a more subtle way then anyway,” she added.
The family of murdered teen, Mohamed ‘Mo’ Dura-Ray, have also called for more women bobbies on the beat to challenge girls carrying knives after the sixteen-year-old was stabbed to death in September.
“They don’t check on girls because they think they are innocent so the girls take advantage of that because they know no one’s going to check their bags,” said Mo’s uncle Alan.
“We will definitely need more WPCs to do those regular stop and searches to discourage people carrying weapons,” he added.
Inspector Martin Nicholson said: “Worryingly, I am faced with the problem of young women getting involved in crime, and I have anecdotal reports that girls are carrying knives for their friends, because they are less likely to be searched by my officers.
“This isn’t born out in any of our current intelligence picture, but I believe it is the case. “It’s worrying because statics tell us that if you carry a knife, you are far more likely to be the victim of a knife attack.
“In response to this I have asked a very experienced local Police Sergeant if she can identify and link to local women’s groups and jointly come up with a plan to identify, protect and advise these girls whenever possible.”
London Assembly member, Caroline Pidgeon, who lives in Dulwich, said it was “shocking” if girls feel they can get away with carrying knives because they are less likely to be stopped and searched.
“The MPS need the resources to be able to protect and police communities effectively and to tackle knife crime, one of these key resources is female officers,” she said.