WEST Mercia Police conducted over 1,000 more stop and searches last year, figures show, though fewer led to an arrest.

StopWatch UK said declining arrest rates across England and Wales suggest that relations between the police and the public are deteriorating.

Home Office data shows officers in West Mercia used stop and search powers 6,042 times in the year to March – up from 4,785 the year before.

Despite this rise, the proportion of searches which led to an arrest fell from 18% to 13% over this period.

Across England and Wales, the number of stop and searches rose from 577,000 in 2019-20 to 704,000 in 2020-21.

This means almost 2,000 people were stopped per day on average last year, with figures peaking in mid-May 2020, when there were almost 3,000 searches each day.

But the national arrest rate fell from 13% to 11% – the lowest level since 2012-13.

StopWatch UK said the vast majority of searches cause more problems than they solve.

Habib Kadiri, research and policy manager at the police monitoring organisation, said a fall in arrest rates reflects fears that police-community relations are backsliding.

The figures also show that across England and Wales, black people were significantly more likely to be searched than white people, though slightly less so than the year before.

In West Mercia, they were 10.4 times more likely to be stopped, compared to 10.3 in 2019-20.

Mr Kadiri added: "What is exceptional is how racial disparities persisted even during a global pandemic, proving that the police never stopped working tirelessly to overpolice people of colour.

“We simply would not accept this of any other emergency service profession. The police must do better.”

Across the two nations, 479,000 (68% of all stops) were for drugs – the highest proportion since records began in 2006-07.

In West Mercia, 63% of stop and searches were for this reason – up from 58% in 2019-20.

The Home Office said police used extra officers and resources to tackle drug crime during the coronavirus lockdown, and also removed almost 16,000 dangerous weapons from our streets.

A spokesman added: “No one should be targeted for stop and search because of their race and there are extensive safeguards in place to prevent this.”