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Last Updated: Thursday, 16 October, 2003, 13:11 GMT 14:11 UK
Firearm crime continues to rise
Officers arrest a suspect in Islington on Wednesday
The figures come a day after a London operation against gun crime
Gun crime in England and Wales is still rising according to Home Office figures released on Thursday.

The number of crimes involving firearms increased by just under 3% in the 12 months to March 2003, to 10,250.

It was well below the 35% rise in the previous year, when gun crime leapt from 7,362 firearms offences to 9,974.

Home Office minister Hazel Blears said: "The risk of a fatal shooting in England and Wales is still one of the lowest in the world."

She added: "But every crime involving a firearm is a serious concern and every life lost to gun crime is a terrible tragedy."

Violent crime - excluding robberies and sex attacks - increased by 12% between April and June this year, according to the British Crime Survey quarterly results, also released on Thursday.

Shadow home secretary Oliver Letwin said the statistics presented a "confusing" and "alarming" picture.

"One thing which no amount of statistical manipulation can disguise is that violent crime has doubled in the last six years and continues to rise alarmingly," he said.

Mr Letwin blamed the increase on young hard drug addicts and called on the government to provide better rehabilitation for them as well as putting 40,000 more police officers on the streets.

The firearms data, which has been brought forward from its normal publication time in January, includes the number of deaths from firearms incidents and the number of offences in which no-one was injured, a Home Office spokesman said.

Early release

"Due to the heightened public interest at present around the issue of gun crime we are making this summary information available now," a spokesman said.

About 17% of offences using firearms resulted in physical harm, the majority of which involved only minor injury.

Last year there were 80 fatal incidents compared to 95 the year before - a reduction of around one sixth.

Gun

Paul Cavadino, chief executive of the crime reduction charity Nacro, warned the rise in gun crime could not be tackled by "get-tough measures" like the mandatory five-year sentence for gun possession.

"We can only tackle it effectively by measures to reduce the supply of illegal weapons and a demand fuelled by a macho, glamorised gun culture," he said.

Overall crime rates remained "unchanged" according to recorded crime figures, but the number of offences reported by interviewees in the British Crime Survey, which excludes crimes against children and businesses, fell by 5%.

The British Crime Survey, which includes crimes not reported to police, also found:

  • Overall crime fell
  • The risk of being a victim is the same as in 1981, at 26.9%
  • There were 5% fewer violent crimes reported to the survey in the 12 months to June 2003
  • Recorded robbery fell 7% in April-June 2003 compared to same period last year

The latest firearm figures were released a day after more than 500 officers carried out raids in north London in what police described as a "pre-emptive strike" against gun crime.

Eleven addresses in Islington were searched by police in full body armour using battering rams.

Armed officers led teams of police, dog handlers and immigration and customs officials.

Twenty-three people were arrested on suspicion of drugs and firearms offences during the raids, which began at 0400 BST on Wednesday.

They followed a 60% increase in calls from residents reporting guns being fired or people carrying guns over the past six months.

The borough's chief superintendent Barry Norman said the raids were intended to stop people bringing guns into the area.

Recorded crime in London has fallen by 7%, the Home Office figures show.





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The BBC's Peter Lane
"When looking at the numbers, it's easy to forget the real victims"



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