Police in East Dunbartonshire use stop and search powers on a higher proportion of
children than in any other
local authority in Scotland.
Official figures show that of all instances of stop and search in the area, 17.5 per cent were carried out on youngsters.
No other local command employs this strategy to the same degree, with both Glasgow and Edinburgh recording a rate of around nine per cent.
Police in East Dunbartonshire deny excessive use of stop and search, despite the growing worries of local parents.
One concerned resident said: “Are the police so stuck for something to do, in an area the statistics show has comparatively less crime than most of Scotland, that they’re searching kids to meet their targets?
“I’ve taught my children to respect the police, they are there for us, to help and protect.
“That’s difficult to sustain if they’re stopped, searched and questioned by officers for the public threat of milling around.”
Welfare groups have warned that stop and search risks alienating young people if not used appropriately.
Tam Baillie, the Children’s Commissioner for Scotland, said: “There is evidence of the potential negative impact of adversarial police contact, such as stop and search, which suggests that it may, in itself, alienate young people and contribute to youth crime.
“As I have said, stop and search is a legitimate police power but it must be exercised with care and discretion.”
Bryan Evans, Children 1st assistant director for the west of Scotland, added: “Children and young people need to be able to build trust and respect with the police. Being viewed with suspicion could undermine their confidence.”
However, the head of policing in East Dunbartonshire has defended the use of heightened stop searches on children, highlighting its role in ‘intelligence-led’ operations.
Chief Inspector Robert Hay, area commander in East Dunbartonshire, views the method is part of a multi-faceted campaign to reduce anti-social behaviour.
He said: “Having a higher number of searches on young people is not a deliberate result of our strategy but is an outcome of our intelligence-led approach.
“We analyse crime data and allocate our tasking accordingly; the last thing on our minds is persecuting youths or making their lives a misery.
“There is always justification and we certainly do not make stop searches for the sake of numbers.
“It’s about a judicious and considered application of a tactic to bring down violence and disorder in our public spaces.
“We’ve seen a number of youth gang-related issues decline significantly over the last few years, a long with a reduction in youth crime generally.”