The Daily Telegraph: 'Untrained police sent into gun hot spots'

Wednesday, 26 December, 2007

The number of police officers trained to use firearms has fallen, despite a rise in gun crime, new figures show.

According to the Conservatives, it means that ill-equipped police teams are being dropped into regions regarded as "gun hot spots.''

The number of authorised firearms officers has fallen from 6,738 in 1997 to 6,584 last year. But in the last five years the number of crimes recorded that involved guns rose by 11 per cent, from 10,023 to 11,084.

David Ruffley , the shadow police minister, said: "These statistics show that in gun crime hotspots the number of authorised firearms officers has fallen. Poor ministerial planning means police officers are being thrown into gun hot spots without being properly equipped.''

The Tories have identified three regional danger zones. In Merseyside the number of firearms officers has fallen by 15 per cent in the last decade, to 129 last year.

But the number of people found guilty of possessing or distributing a weapon rose by from 24 in 1997 to 68 in 2005. And the number of firearms offences soared from 299 in 2002 to 485 in 2006.

In Avon and Somerset the number of officers dropped by 29 per cent from 165 in 1997 to 129 last year, and in Northamptonshire firearms officers numbered 165 in 1997, but fell to 117 last year.