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Last Updated: Thursday, 21 October, 2004, 15:10 GMT 16:10 UK
Gun crime figures show fresh rise
Home Office figures show a rise in gun crime
The number of firearms offences in England and Wales has risen in the last year, according to Home Office figures released on Thursday.

There has been a 3% climb in gun crime, following a 2% rise the previous year, the figures show.

The statistics also show a 35% rise in crimes involving imitation weapons.

But the figures, which cover the 12 months to June this year, also show a 15% drop in the number of shooting-related deaths.

The prospect of 20 years in prison could deter people
James Murphy, Dorset, UK

Home Secretary David Blunkett said police and the government would target particular areas affected by violent crime linked to drugs.

They would tackle the problem in London, the West Midlands, Greater Manchester and Nottinghamshire, Mr Blunkett told a news conference in London.

"We have a situation where crack and guns go together and because crack is a dangerous drug, that stimulates violence," he said.

Training needs

Shadow Home Secretary David Davis said the government had let gun crime get out of hand.

"No amount of government spin will hide the fact that violent crime is out of control," he said. "We now have record levels of gun crime, rocketing sex offences, a further 14% increase in violent crime and overall crime is nearly 750,000 higher than 1998."

Jan Berry, chairman of the Police Federation, called for more and better trained armed police to counter gun crime.

She said: "We urgently need more trained armed police officers throughout England and Wales to tackle the growing menace of gun crime, otherwise lives will increasingly be put at risk."

BBC home affairs correspondent Andy Tighe said the government was interpreting the 3% rise in gun crime as "acceptable and predictable".

Fatalities: 70 (-15%)
Serious injuries: 430 (no change)
Total firearms offences: 10,590 (+3%)
With replica/ imitation gun: 1,350 (+35%)
With handgun: 4,910 (-10%)
Source: Home Office recorded crime figures. Comparisons are with year to June 03

But he said the rise came on top of a "quite substantial increase" in firearms offences in recent years.

"Main cities such as Manchester, London, Birmingham and Nottingham do have special units targeting gun crime and the drugs trade, and they are having a significant amount of success."


Separate quarterly crime figures compiled for the Home Office in the British Crime Survey on Thursday showed that general crime was down by 7%, according to householders interviewed for the study. Crime figures recorded by police also showed a 5% fall.

The government was keen to stress that the risk of being a victim of violent crime is at its lowest for nearly 25 years.

The recent murder in Nottingham of 14-year-old Danielle Beccan has stirred fresh concerns about levels of gun crime.

She was killed in a drive-by shooting on her way home from a funfair almost a fortnight ago.

Danielle Beccan

A 20-year-old Nottingham man, Mark Kelly, has been charged with her murder, while a second man aged 23 has also been charged with murder. He was due to appear in court on Thursday.

A gun amnesty is being planned for the city and a campaign to reassure the public is being brought forward.

Earlier in the month, six people were shot in the space of an hour during incidents in London and Bristol. Two people were killed in the London incident.

Smaller rises

But the Home Office figures show firearms-related deaths are comparatively rare.

Last year the number fell to 81 from 97 in the previous 12 months.

The small rises in gun crime for the last two years compare with a 34% increase recorded in 2002.

In 2003, the Home Office introduced a mandatory five-year minimum prison sentence for anyone caught in possession of an illegal firearm.

Government officials claimed there was anecdotal evidence from the police that the move is having a deterrent effect, but that it was too early for this to be reflected in Thursday's figures.

The statistics on imitation weapons come a day after figures emerged from a survey by police in Manchester which showed that more than 70% of callouts from the city's armed response units dealt with fake guns.

The government has previously ruled out a wholesale ban on imitation firearms, saying it was too difficult to find a legal definition for replicas.

CHANGE IN CRIME RATES: Q2 2003 - Q2 2004
England and Wales. Overall crime: BCS -7%, recorded -5%; Burglary: BCS -2%, recorded -23%; Violent: BCS -6%, recorded +11%; Vehicle: BCS -12%, recorded -18%
The British Crime Survey is based on interviews with the public
Recorded crime represents incidents reported to the police

Why gun crime is a continuing problem in the UK

Police face surge in gun crime
10 Jun 04  |  Nottinghamshire
Gun legislation 'faces overhaul'
12 May 04  |  Politics


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