HOME Secretary Priti Patel has defended her decision to expand stop and search.

Witham MP Ms Patel said it would empower police officers and she rejected claims black residents in Essex would feel victimised.

Figures reveal black residents in Essex are more than five times more likely to be subject to a stop and search check than white residents.

Statistics show for every 1,000 white residents in Essex, only 3.46 were subject to a stop and search check in the first half of 2019.

But in the same period, that number was 19.26 for black residents.

That means Essex’s black population is 5.5 times more likely to be subject to a stop and search check.

Data also shows the number of stop and searches has soared in Essex in the first half of 2019.

In 2018, policing teams conducted 5,750 stop and search checks.

However, in the first six months of this year, that number was already exceeded, with more than 7,500 being carried out from January to June.

Ms Patel said: “We are expanding our stop and search pilot for good reasons and that is because stop and search works.

“We hear again and again our police need to be empowered.

“As we’re recruiting 20,000 more police officers, we need them to be out making sure that those who want to do harm are prevented from doing harm.”

Iman Mortagy, of Refugee Action Colchester, said at least two of their clients have been stopped and searched by police in the town in the past six months.

She said: “It makes sense because the black minority are underprivileged compared to the white majority so there are reasons why the black community would be more likely to be stopped and searched.”

Ms Patel added: “I just think that’s a poor generalisation around stop and search.

“It is a significant move to protect our people, to protect our communities, our villages, our towns and by doing that it’s important that we empower our police to make sure that they can get on and take those harms and people who want to do harm off our streets.”

Official statistics revealed 70per cent of stop and search checks in Essex from January to June yielded no further police action.

About 12per cent resulted in an arrest and 10 per cent prompted a khat or cannabis warning.