A Suffolk police officer has said that serious violence and gang-related activity have contributed to a rise in the number of stop searches on Suffolk's under 18s.

New data shows that the county's under 18s are four times more likely to be subject to stop searches than adults.

From April 2022 to March 2023, 4,046 stop searches were conducted across Suffolk.

Of this number, 909 subjects were under 18 – showing a 13% increase from the previous year.

Superintendent Simon Mills said this rise is in line with national trends, adding: "The majority of searches of young people are as a result of intelligence we have received or in response to an incident."

East Anglian Daily Times: Superintendent Simon Mills.Superintendent Simon Mills. (Image: Suffolk Constabulary)

For example, the nine-year-old subject of a stop search had been witnessed in possession of a knife which was then retrieved during the search.

Supt Mills also pointed towards Suffolk Constabulary's increased use of Section 60 powers, which gives officers the power to search people without reasonable grounds.

"There has also been an increased use of Section 60 powers over the last 12-month period as a result of serious violence and gang-related activity," he added.

"Suffolk has a strong process for the authorisation of any search of a person under the age of 18 and this includes the need for a supervisor authority before any search can be carried out."

Alongside stop and search, the officer said there are a number of different ways police keep members of the public safe by removing weapons from our streets.

“Other methods include weeks of action such as Operation Sceptre, which are carried out across Suffolk to help remove knives from our streets and raise awareness of the dangers of carrying a weapon," he added.

Supt Mills highlighted stop and search as an important policing tool while emphasising the importance that it is applied "fairly and responsibly", adding: "We are committed to dealing fairly with all sections of our community and are determined to further increase trust and confidence in policing."