'Bridging gaps': The co-chair's of Camden Stop and Search Monitoring Group

Hafid Ali and Ahmed Yusuf co-chair Camden's Stop & Search Monitoring Group

Hafid Ali and Ahmed Yusuf co-chair Camden's Stop & Search Monitoring Group - Credit: Nathalie Raffray

Two Camden men have set up a stop and search monitoring group to "give voice" to victims of "police aggression".

Hafid Ali and Ahmed Yusuf have both been stopped and searched frequently, whilst growing up in Camden.

The pair, co-chairs of Camden Stop and Search Monitoring Group, have received funding from the Camden Safer Neighbourhood Board which they hope will improve community relations with the police.

Hafid, 26, from Somers Town, said: "We're trying to make the voice of young people heard. We need those voices otherwise they aren't heard, and to be able to work with the police to implement change."

They are currently working with Hackney Account, a youth-led social action project advocating for young victims of trauma, discrimination or injustice.

The challenge is big. Stop and search resulted in 388 weapon seizures across London in May, according to a Camden and Islington police newsletter.

Seized weapons included 106 kitchen knives, 24 Stanley knives, 15 machetes, six swords, 16 hammers, six knuckle-dusters and 11 guns.

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In that month 2,946 weapons searches were carried out across London, 10,644 for drugs.

According to government figures between April 2020 and May 2021, for each 1,000 Black people, stop and search was used 52.6 times, compared to just 7.5 times per 1,000 white people.

Ahmed, from King's Cross, said: "There's mistrust between the community and the police, and we want to bridge that gap.  

"We want to increase community confidence in the police and the only way to do that is to have transparent mechanisms of culpability. So people bring their allegations or complaints to us and we can then advocate on their behalf.

"Ultimately we are committed to improving and upholding standards.

"There needs more engagement from the community and better links with police."

Of his own experience Law graduate Ahmed said: "Some people talk about a police service but all I've ever known is a police force.

"I represent excluded children before independent review panels and disciplinary committees to try and get them back into schools.

"Ultimately that's the start. They drop out of school, join gangs, commit crimes. We are interested in early prevention.

"I was excluded from school and that led me to get into conflict with the police but now I've gone back into education and hopefully, I want others to stop making the mistakes I made." 

A Met spokesperson said in 2021, more than 60,000 "acts of criminality" were detected as a result of stop and search.

"Stop and Search is a crucial tool in preventing and detecting a wide range of additional offences in relation to drugs, stolen property, burglary and much more which impact upon victims.

"It is of paramount importance however that the use of stop and search is conducted fairly and with dignity."

They said Camden and Islington police are "working hard" engaging with youth groups, parents, partners and communities "in listening to their lived experiences and concerns in relation to stop and search."

Responding on the higher number of Black people stopped they added: "We know there is disparity in the use of stop and search in relation to gender, age and race.

"Sadly different crimes tend to affect different groups more than others and it remains a tragic truth that knife crime and street violence in London disproportionately affects boys and young men, particularly of African-Caribbean heritage, both in terms of being victims and perpetrators.

Equally, areas of London with higher crime levels, particularly violent crime, often tend to be home to more diverse communities, both resident and transient.

"We very deliberately are targeting and putting more resources into areas blighted by higher levels of violence and other serious crime.

"The ‘positive outcome rate’, which is the proportion of stop and searches that identify criminality, is broadly the same ranging from 26-27 per cent across the main ethnic groups.

"If it were the case that officers were targeting people because of their ethnic appearance for example, this would significantly lower the positive outcome rates for the ‘targeted’ group

They added: "Stop and Search must never be solely based upon the ethnicity of any person and it must be conducted in accordance with procedures and legislation. We are working hard to engage with all of our communities in an effort to re-build trust and this will be an ongoing process of the utmost importance."

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Visit: http://camdenconnected.com/