Police winning battle against inner city gun crime

Firearms offences are 40 per cent down in less than a decade, figures will show

Firearms offences have fallen by more than 40 percent in less than a decade, with the rise of “gun culture” in Britain’s inner cities apparently reversed because of improved police intelligence.

Figures out next month are expected to confirm the long-term decline in gun crime which resulted in 39 people shot dead in 2011/12 compared with a high of 96 ten years earlier.

A series of high-profile shootings - including the New Year’s Day 2003 shooting of teenagers Charlene Ellis and Letisha Shakespeare in Birmingham in a drive-by attack – had fuelled political concerns about a tide of gang-related violence using extreme and indiscriminate violence.

But improved intelligence-led operations, poor quality guns and munitions, better community links to divert gang activity, and improved surgery for gunshot victims have all contributed to reduced deaths from gun violence, according to experts and police.

A comparative shortage of guns in circulation has triggered a price spike in the underworld firearms market, according to detectives. A study for the Home Office in 2006 found that around £1,000 will buy a “new” semi-automatic handgun with ammunition.

But a gang of British soldiers due to be sentenced this week for smuggling five handguns into the country from Germany were hoping to sell the weapons to the London underworld for up to £3,500, a court heard.

Police in the West Midlands have reported the emergence on the streets of more antique weapons using home-made ammunition and more sharing of weapons between gangs to counter the shortages.

The decline in UK gun crime follows the establishment of a series of units focused on gang crime following a surge of ‘Yardie’ gun violence at the end of the 1990s.

Police in England and Wales recorded 5,911 firearms offences in 2011/12, a reduction of 42 percent compared with nine years earlier, according to the Office for National Statistics.

Previous hotspots, like Hackney in east London, have seen major drops in gun crime with police using tactics including number plate recognition which has made it harder for criminals to move around with their guns, said DCI John Crossley, of Scotland Yard’s Trident team. “They will look at using girlfriends, they will use and abuse friends and younger kids on the estates to hold their weapons,” he said.

The Government last year announced its intention to introduce a new offence as part of a strategy to go after “middle-men” and armourers who rented out weapons.

Police who raided one criminal quartermaster’s house in Manchester, in 2011 found a cache of weapons including a machine gun that had been used in five crimes across the North West in five years.

The planned legislation followed lobbying from the National Ballistics Intelligence Service (NABIS) that suggested going after the suppliers was key to keeping gun crime low.

NABIS said the planned new law of “possession with intent to supply” is expected to affect 10 to 20 offenders a year.

Gavin Hales, a research fellow at Essex University and one of the authors of the 2006 Home Office study, said interviews with 80 gangsters showed that guns were often used and sold back into the market. Prices for hiring weapons depended on if they had been used in previous crimes and “deposits” were lost to the armourer if they had been fired. “That marked a break in tradition,” said Mr Hales. “In previous decade a gun used in a shooting would have been disposed of immediately.”

The shortage of weapons has seen criminals turn to stun guns for use in burglaries, robberies and disputes between drug dealers with 500 seized in the past three years, according to a Freedom of Information request by the BBC.

Detective Superintendent Joanne Chilton, head of gangs and organised crime unit at West Midlands police where gun crime deaths have gone down from nine in 2002-03 to two in 2011-12, said: “I don’t think they (guns) are as prevalent as the community thinks, which is why we see them passed between people.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Property
pets
Arts and Entertainment
tvThe C-Word, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Sport
Danny Jones was in the Wales squad for the 2013 World Cup
rugby leagueKeighley Cougars half-back was taken off after just four minutes
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
Life and Style
The original ZX Spectrum was simple to plug into your TV and get playing on
techThirty years on, the ZX Spectrum is back, after a fashion
News
Tiger Woods and Lindsey Vonn are breaking up after nearly three years together
peopleFormer couple announce separation in posts on their websites
Sport
football
Life and Style
Google celebrates Bartolomeo Cristofori's 360th birthday
techGoogle Doodle to the rescue
Arts and Entertainment
Haunted looks: Matthew Macfadyen and Timothy Spall star in ‘The Enfield Haunting’
tvThe Enfield Haunting, TV review
News
news
News
The Mattehorn stands reflected in Leisee lake near Sunnegga station on June 30, 2013 near Zermatt, Switzerland
news
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk