BLACK and minority ethnic people in Hampshire are more than three times as likely to be the subject of a police stop-and-search, figures show.

Police chiefs have in recent days denied that stop-and-search powers are racist, and insisted that they were an essential tool in fighting violent crime.

Data released by Hampshire Constabulary shows that 8,352 stop-and-searches were carried out between August 2017 and July this year, the most recent 12 months for which data is available.

The figures show that in 19.6% of stop-and-searches, the suspects were BME. Just 6.7% of the population in Hampshire identify as BME, according to 2017 population estimates.

Andy Cooke, chief constable of Merseyside Police and National Police Chiefs Council’s lead on organised crime, said that stop-and-search should not be seen as discriminatory, and that the reduction in its use across England and Wales had fuelled violent crime.

He said: “This is about criminality not race. It is about disruption and putting the fear back on criminals: that visible approach to stop-searching those individuals who our communities know are causing the most harm, damage or violence. Those people should regularly be getting stopped and searched on our streets.”

In more than half of cases, suspects were searched on suspicion of drug possession. Suspicion of carrying offensive weapons, such as knives, accounted for 6% of searches. Just 49 searches were for firearms.

Mr Cooke, said: “I think criminals feel safer carrying weapons to cause harm, or weapons to commit acquisitive offences. They feel far safer carrying them now because they know there are less police officers, and even if there are police officers there is less chance they will be stopped and searched for them.”

Across England and Wales, there were fewer than 270,000 stop and searches conducted by police over the last year. Use of the powers peaked in 2008 and 2009, when 1.5 million were carried out each year.

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick said: “When we do stop and search, if we stop a young black man we are equally likely to find something on the young black man as we are on the young white man - a knife or drugs or stolen property. There is no difference there in the likelihood of success.

“If you are a young black man you are about four times more likely to be stopped than a white person, and that does upset people. But what I would say is actually the result, the success rate, is exactly the same, which shows to me that we are in fact using the power intelligently, we are targeting the right people.”