This article uses data from the Offending Crime and Justice Survey, a representative survey of young people in England and Wales, to estimate the factors that affect the likelihood of police-initiated contacts. Although official data clearly show that members of ethnic minorities are disproportionally approached by the police in their use of powers to stop and search, we have only a partial understanding of the relevance of ethnicity net of other factors. Our findings suggest that even when we control for other sociodemographic factors, self-reported illegal behaviour, area characteristics and degree of street presence, ethnicity still matters. Our findings also support previous research suggesting that the police focus their gaze at a population of the 'usual suspects'. © 2013 © 2013 Taylor & Francis.