Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick has told Sky News that stop and search operations could be stepped up in problem areas of the capital after a huge rise in knife crime.
Thirty people have been stabbed to death in London so far in 2017, a rise of almost a third from 23 during the same period in 2016.
In the last four weeks alone, there have been 14 deaths.
A record 300 knives were seized in seven days by officers across the capital.
Scotland Yard has set up a specialist task force to combat the problem, with community leaders claiming some children as young as six are carrying knives.
On a week in which there were three knife killings, Sky News gained exclusive access to the Met’s elite gang units, tasked with getting knives and other dangerous weapons off the streets.
Plain-clothed officers in south and west London targeted known gang members and made several knife-related arrests.
Ms Dick said one of her biggest challenges as the UK’s most senior officer was tackling knife crime, and indicated the likelihood that stop and search might have to be increased in the worst areas.
She told Sky News: Stop and search is a very important tactic – it’s a very important power for officers and has been hugely powerful in the fight so far against knife crime.
Thousands and thousands of people have been stopped and successfully searched, where a knife has been recovered.
So of course I want it to continue and if it increases, because that is the best way that people are finding to reduce knife crime, and to stop young people suffering life-changing injuries, or even being killed, then I will absolutely support it and explain why we’ve had an increase.
The Commissioner vowed to get to the root of knife crime as she visited a youth centre, where she met the family of 20-year-old Lewis Elwin, who was stabbed to death in Tooting, south London, in 2016.
His killer has not been caught.
His eldest brother, Byron Douglas-Letts, said: It’s frightening knowing someone can commit such an offence, such an act of violence, but yet no one has been caught, and this is just one case – these cases are popping up everywhere now.
Byron and his twin brother Aaron are now actively involved in community outreach work, helping mentor youngsters and showing them positive alternatives to crime.
The Metropolitan police in particular is more than aware of the sensitivities surrounding the use of stop and search.
The force has been criticised in the past for an overzealous approach in the use of the tactic, with claims minority communities are often unfairly targeted.
A police officer has powers to stop and search someone if they have ‘reasonable grounds’ to suspect they are carrying weapons, illegal drugs or stolen property.
Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary says black people are four times more likely to face a stop and search.
Temi Mwale, who runs the 4Front community project to steer youths away from gangs, said: Stop and search has been an issue for the black community for decades. A police officer may say that they’re not intentionally stopping young black people, but this is the context and history we have got.
While officers may not be trying to single out young black people, the reality is that, as an institution, the Metropolitan Police does single out young black people and that is a problem.
But Scotland Yard commanders say the wider public perception around the use of stop and search is changing, partly due to a more targeted use of the tactic, but also because of real community concerns about the level of knife crime and gang violence.