By Jennifer O'brien, London Free Press

London police conducted street checks last year at a rate more than triple that of police in Ottawa and Hamilton and more than five times that of Windsor, figures from the cities suggest.

London police ride bikes along Dundas Street. The force’s rate of street checks has come under scrutiny. (MIKE HENSEN, The London Free Press)

London police conducted 8,400 such street checks — or carding, as it's popularly known — in 2014, meaning at a rate of about 23 checks for every 1,000 people.

In Hamilton and Ottawa, by comparison, both larger cities, the rate worked out to seven or fewer checks per 1,000 people, while in Windsor it was 4.5.

While those numbers are adding more fuel to the fire of Coun. Mo Salih, who's calling on the police services board to review its policies about street checks, police Chief John Pare says he isn't concerned about the apparent differences in use of the information-­gathering tool in London and other cities.

"I don't know what their practices are. I can only speak to ours," Pare said Thursday. "It is used by officers to document information. We use it for intelligence, for public safety."

Pare said it may be that other cities are gathering the same data differently than London does.

Street checks — known as carding, because historically the information was kept on contact cards — is the police practice of recording and storing information about people, vehicles and locations that aren't involved in criminal investigations, to help build up a database police can draw upon later.

The controversial practice has come under a harsh spotlight in Ontario, especially in Toronto where critics say too often racial minorities are stopped for routine carding and profiled. The provincial government is moving to standardize how police forces can gather such information.

Last year, London police conducted about 8,400 street checks, involving 14,000 people.

By comparison, Ottawa police ran about 6,000 checks and Windsor police fewer than 1,000.

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