Page last updated at 06:18 GMT, Wednesday, 30 September 2009 07:18 UK

Police warn girls on hiding guns

Guns on a table
Young women are being warned they will face the same sentences as men

Young women are being warned not to hide guns for their boyfriends, brothers or male friends in a new campaign by the Metropolitan police.

It is aimed at the growing number of teenage girls in London who, the Met says, are being persuaded to store weapons for male gang members.

Police are primarily targeting black girls aged between 15 and 19.

People caught hiding a gun for someone else can expect to receive a five-year prison sentence.

The series of radio, cinema and billboard adverts with the message: "Hide his gun and you help commit the crime" is being launched by Trident, the Metropolitan Police's anti-shooting unit.

'Fatal consequences'

Claudia Webb from the Trident Independent Advisory Group says vulnerable young women are sometimes pressured into storing or transporting weapons by the men they know.

"We are deeply concerned however, that this involvement seems to be increasing and those who are involved seem to be younger and younger," she added.

The number of women charged with firearms offences in London has increased six-fold in the past year - 12 women have been charged since January.

Seven of the women were teenagers, including a 16-year-old arrested after a 9mm Browning self-loading pistol was found in her bedroom.

The head of Trident, Det Ch Supt Helen Ball, says people who store and carry guns for others are partly responsible for crimes committed with them.

"The consequences for them, their families and their friends are not worth thinking about," she warns.

The campaign is targeting Trident's six priority London boroughs: Brent, Hackney, Haringey, Lambeth, Lewisham and Southwark.

Officers will visit nail salons and hairdressers with the message that women carrying or storing firearms will face the same sentences as men.

Boris Johnson, Mayor of London, says gun crime has blighted the lives of people in the capital for too long.

"Anyone who carries or conceals a firearm needs to realise that this is not something to be taken lightly, because the consequences can be fatal," he said.

Police in Manchester and Birmingham say they are also dealing with these sorts of cases, but not in enough numbers to warrant a specific campaign.

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