Prime minister also says he wants more ‘fluorescent-jacketed chain gangs’ on the streets
The prime minister also said he wanted to see more “chain gangs” of people found guilty of anti-social behaviour out cleaning the streets in high-vis jackets.
Campaigners have condemned the plan to widen blanket search and search powers, deemed by many experts to be both “ineffective” and racially disproportionate.
But the prime minister insisted that stop and search remained “an important part in fighting crime” – and claimed parents of knife crime victims were among the most supportive of the policy.
Mr Johnson said: “I think that giving the police the backing that they need in law to stop someone, to search them, to relieve them of a dangerous weapon – I don’t think that’s strong-arm tactics, I think that’s a kind and a loving thing to do.”
Speaking to reporters at Surrey Police HQ, the prime minister added: “The people who often support stop and search most passionately are the parents of the kids who are likely themselves to be the victims of knife crime.
“I disagree with the opponents of stop and search … They are not the only tool that we have got to use. They are part of a range of things we have got to do to fight street crime.”
The government’s new crime plan, launched on Tuesday, will ease restrictions on stop and search powers for police with the aim of tackling a rise in knife crime.
The plan includes a permanent relaxing of conditions on the use of section 60 stop and search powers, under which officers can search someone anyone – without reasonable grounds – in an area where serious violence is expected.
The Criminal Justice Alliance (CJA), a network of 160 organisations, claimed section 60 searches had led to “thousands of innocent people being unnecessarily stopped and searched every year”.
The CJA also said it was an ineffective power – pointing to statistics showing 99 per cent of section 60 searches do not not find any weapons.
Mr Johnson also said he wanted to see more hi-vis “chain gangs” doing unpaid work on the streets to act as a deterrent to people getting involved in anti-social behaviour.
“I don’t see any reason why you shouldn’t be out there in one of those fluorescent-jacketed chain gangs visibly paying your debt to society. So you are going to be seeing more of that as well.”
Mr Johnson also defended his proposal to make sure all victims of crime have a named police officer – saying his government “plans to back the police but also to back the public”.
The prime minister said: “What you need is somebody who understands what’s going on in your neighbourhood, who understands who the likely miscreants are, who understands whether the thing you are reporting – the crime that you are experiencing – is a one-off or part of a trend.”
Labour has dismissed the pledge as a “gimmick”. The opposition claimed there was nothing significantly new in the idea, or the wider plan – accusing the government of being “soft on crime and soft on the causes of crime”.
The Police Federation, the body representing rank and file officers, has also attacked the government over the recent pay freeze, passing a motion of no confidence in home secretary Priti Patel last week.
But Mr Johnson defended the resources being put into the police. “What we are doing is investing massively in the police,” he said on Tuesday.
“When I stood on the steps of Downing Street two years ago I said I wanted another 20,000 officers on the streets of our country. We are now almost half the way there.”