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 Sunday, 12 January, 2003, 11:02 GMT
Gun crime soars by 35%
Gun haul
Every day there were 27 firearms offences
Gun crime has risen by 35% in a year, new Home Office figures show.

There were 9,974 incidents involving firearms in the 12 months to April 2002 - a rise from 7,362 over the previous year.

Overall crime: 9.3%
Gun crime: 35%
Robbery: 14.5%
Domestic burglary: 7.9%
Drug offences: 12.3%
Sexual offences: 18.2%
Source: Home Office
That represents an average of 27 offences involving firearms every day in England and Wales, with guns fired in nearly a quarter of cases.

Overall crime in the year to September was up 9.3%, with domestic burglary up 7.9%, drugs offences up 12.3% and sex offences up 18.2%.

Home Office officials insisted, however, that the new system of including all crimes, whether there was supporting evidence or not, was responsible for some of the increases.

When that new recording system was taken into account, overall crime rose by 2%, they said, with burglary up 5%.

Home Office Minister John Denham also pointed to new data from the British Crime Survey - which includes crimes not reported to the police - which he called the most reliable indication of trends.

The survey put all crime down 7% in the year to September.

"The British Crime Survey shows crime has been falling since 1997 and the risk of being a victim is very low - around the same as 1981," he said.

The statistics come after the government this week announced a crackdown on gun crime with a series of plans to tighten firearms law.

And they are released ahead of high level talks with police, customs and community leaders on Friday about how to tackle gun crime, hosted by Home Secretary David Blunkett.

Open in new window : Graphic guide
Crime at-a-glance, crunching the numbers

The latest gun crime figures are more than double the 4,903 firearms incidents recorded in 1997 when Labour first took power.

Vigil for teenagers
The community remembers the victims of the shooting
The biggest increases are in the large metropolitan areas.

Robbery was up 13% on the adjusted figures.

But it did fall by 10% between July and September when the government's new efforts against street crime kicked in, said officials.

Earlier this week the government unveiled plans to introduce a five-year minimum jail sentence for anyone illegally possessing a firearm.

That was followed on Wednesday by plans to ban anyone carrying a replica or air weapon in a public place without a good reason, as well as new age limits.

Opposition parties have accused ministers of mounting a snap response to the New Year shooting in Birmingham in which two teenage girls died.

Brocock ME38
There are worries about replica guns being reactivated
Conservative shadow home secretary Oliver Letwin dubbed the new recorded crime figures "truly terrible".

Mr Letwin said: "The only word for this is failure.

"The government's response of knee-jerk reactions and initiatives is not working and confused signals on sentences for burglary will not help either."

Mr Denham denied the government had rushed into new plans against gun crime.

How can guns be made less accessible?
The Government should go for a complete ban on the import of all replica guns

Nick, UK

He said said rising gun violence was only a small part of overall crime but was "desperately worrying", especially for the worst-affected areas.

Liberal Democrat spokesman Simon Hughes said the gun figures meant tougher targeting of gun-toting gangs was needed.

Mr Hughes added: "The overall crime picture is not a cause for complacency, but it is mercifully not a reason for shock headlines."

Speaking on Radio Five Live, Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith said some inner city areas were almost "lawless" following the growth of a gangs and guns culture.


And he said the rise in gun crime was linked to "the huge increase in the drugs culture that's taking place in the cities that's literally ripping apart the inner cities, breaking this fabric down".

Hundreds of people gathered on Wednesday for a candlelit vigil in Aston in memory of cousins Charlene Ellis, 18, and Letisha Shakespeare, 17, who were gunned down in a hail of bullets nearly a week ago.

Also on Thursday, a coroner opened and adjourned an inquest into the death of Charlene.

Mr Duncan Smith joined calls for people with information about the shootings.

"We do need co-operation with the police because we have got to catch these killers," he said. "They have committed an appalling crime."

  The BBC's Niall Dickson
"Most people in Aston want tougher penalties for gun crimes"
  Paul Kelly, Greater Manchester Police Fed.
"The government's plans are too little, too late"
  Simon Hughes, Lib Dem home affairs spokesman
"You have to do a lot more than just pass laws"

Key stories


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