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Last Updated: Monday, 27 March 2006, 19:04 GMT 20:04 UK
Call for crackdown on gun crime
The charity is focusing on people on the fringes of gun crime
A campaign is being launched aimed at reducing gun crime in Wales.

The number of firearm offences in north Wales was almost six times higher in 2004-2005 than the previous year, according to Home Office figures.

In south Wales, gun offences have more than doubled. There were smaller rises in Gwent and Dyfed-Powys force areas.

Crimestoppers Wales is asking anyone with information on people who own guns or imitation guns being used in crime, to let them know anonymously.

The total number of firearm offences in Wales - excluding those involving air weapons - rose from 169 in 2003-2004 to 288 in 2004-2005, according to the Home Office.

Incidents in 2003/4 and 2004/05
North Wales: 11 to 60
South Wales: 47 to 104
Gwent: 74 to 84
Dyfed-Powys: 37 to 40
Source: Home Office

Neale Evans, chairman of the independent charity Crimestoppers Wales, said: "We are focusing on people who are on the fringes of gun crime - relatives, friends of people who are being pressurised to get involved in crime and use a gun, or an imitation gun."

As part of the anti-gun campaign, the charity will be distributing posters and leaflets across Wales.

Mr Evans said anyone who may have information about people who may have guns that are being used in criminal activity should call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111. The information will then be passed on to the police.

'Innocent bystanders'

He added: "By doing this your anonymity will be preserved and you will be playing your part in protecting the community in which you live.

"Crimestoppers does not trace or record any information about any caller and you will not have to give evidence in court."

The charity said it was not just the criminals who were affected, but "innocent bystanders who can be caught up in this ruthless violence perpetuated by criminals who do not care who gets in the way".

It said the growth of imitation firearms over "real firearms" is no less worrying, as criminals use them as blunt instruments or to intimidate and threaten people.

However, the publicity Crimestoppers has generated about imitation firearms has not found favour with everyone.

Tim Wyborn, spokesman for a pressure group linked to a simulation game called Airsoft which uses imitation guns, said the publicity presented replica firearms in a poor light.

But he stressed their games players were against any sort of gun crime.

"Owning an imitation firearm is perfectly legal and there are many legitimate uses of imitation firearms in the UK," he said.

The games players fear they will be adversely affected by impending legislation to ban the sale of replica guns.

"As the bulk of crime with replicas is by 13 year old children with cheap replica BB guns, a better way of tackling the problem (of those crimes) would be education," Mr Wyborn added.

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