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ONE in three black people in Merseyside were stopped and searched by police in a year, new figures suggested today.

Shock new statistics released by the Home Office also show that searches on black people rose by 112%in a year.

Searches on whites were also up, but black people were targeted much more vigorously.

The figures suggest that one in three members of Merseyside's black community were stopped and searched in the year 2002/03. But they do not account the fact that some individuals may have been stopped several times.

Home Office chiefs say the findings of the Statistics on Race and the Criminal Justice System report are frustrating.

And Home Office minister Baroness Scotland said she will do everything in her power to ``aggressively address'' the situation.

Between 2002/03, a total of 2, 246 black people were stopped and searched by Merseyside police.

The black population in the region is around 7, 000, according to the 2001census.

Today's report showed that in total 41, 935 people were searched, of which 37, 879 were white.

Herbie Higgins, chairman of the Toxteth Caribbean Community Centre, said: ``I know the police have been stepping up their stop and searches to look for illegal immigrants.

``But I am not very happy about this. We have been fighting for a change in police attitudes and we thought we were getting somewhere.

``If these figures are correct then the police need to look at why it is happening and look at their attitudes.

``I am very disturbed by this and I will be seeking a meeting with the police.

An action team is now expected to be set up to research how powers are used and advise police forces.

Police in some areas had reduced their use of the tactic in the wake of the Stephen Lawrence report, following claims that it was being used disproportionately against ethnic minorities.

But Merseyside Police chiefs today claimed the figures are outdated and the number of black people being stopped and searched has gone down dramatically in the past 12 months.

They say the use of more intelligence-based policing has had a marked effect on stop and search with the total number of people stopped on Merseyside cut to 19, 601.

Sami al Fughie, 21, from Dubai, is currently living in Kensington and works at a shop in the city centre.

He said: ``I have been stopped on a night out in Liverpool and I carry my passport with me every time I go out just in case it happens again. If the police are going to stop people they should be the same with everybody whether they are black or white. The system needs to be fair to everyone who is living in Liverpool. ''

Mustafa Abdo, 55, originally from Saudi Arabia, is a news agent on the edge of Toxteth and has been living in Liverpool for just over 20 years.

He said: ``I have not suffered myself but I know a lot of the young lads who are not white get stopped by police. If it stops anybody causing trouble then that is fine but stopping and searching should only happen when police think somebody might be involved in crime and it should not be about colour. ''

Gamal Hamed, 19, is studying English in Liverpool and is originally from Yemen. The teenager, who lives in the city centre, said: ``Many of my friends have been stopped but I have been lucky and it has never happened to me.

``The police can stop whoever they want and I really like going out in the city because they make you feel safe and I am glad about that.

``These figures don't bother me and it does show police are doing their job. ''

Talal al-Naggar, 19, from Aigburth, is a student in Liverpool and is originally from Saudi Arabia.

He said: ``I know that I am more likely to be stopped than a white person, but it is something I just have to live with. As long as the police just ask questions and do not bully anyone, then I suppose that is just the way it is. This is a great country to live in but the police need to make sure they not are stopping people just because of what they look like. ''
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Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:Jul 2, 2004
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