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Police use of firearms on the rise

27 July 2017

THE HOME Office has published the latest official statistics on police use of firearms in England and Wales, which showed an increase in the number of occasions that police discharged a firearm.

The release contains statistics on the total number of police firearms operations, including operations involving Armed Response Vehicles (ARVs); incidents in which police firearms were discharged; and armed officers in the year ending 31 March 2017. 

The statistics show that in the 43 Home Office funded police forces in England and Wales there were a total of 15,705 police firearms operations in the year ending 31 March 2017. This represents an increase of 1,056 (7%) police firearms operations when compared with the previous year.

In addition, 84% of firearms operations involved Armed Response Vehicles (ARVs), compared with 85% in the previous year. There were ten incidents in which police firearms were discharged, which is up from seven incidents in the previous year. 

The Home Office also confirmed that the number of armed officers now stands at 6,278, which represents an increase of 639 (11%) year-on-year. 

Commenting on the figures, police minister Nick Hurd said: “This Government has taken action to strengthen our response to the terrorist threat we face, by increasing cross-government spending on counter-terrorism by 30 per cent, giving the police and intelligence agencies the powers they need to keep people safe and providing £144 million to deliver an uplift in armed policing so that it can respond more quickly and effectively to a potential attack
“There are now almost 6,300 armed officers across England and Wales, which is more than 600 higher than 12 months ago – with this figure expected to rise above 7,000 by the end of next year, the highest since records began.”

Police Federation for England and Wales firearms lead Che Donald explains that incidents involving firearms discharges remain low but the nature of criminality is changing, he said: “Firearms discharges remain low, down to the excellent decision making shown by our officers, demonstrating that we are still the best trained and most restrained policing service in the world.

"Undoubtedly the increase is down to the world we now live in. Recent crime statistics show that knife crime has increased by 20% and gun crime by 23%. In addition, this period covers the Westminster terror attack, and after that we had Manchester and then London Bridge with multiple loss of life to innocent members of the public.

"Policing has changed significantly over recent years, not just around the types of crime we are dealing with and greater use of technology, but also the threat, harm and risk to the public and to officers themselves."