Police want the public to help them tackle armed gangs in South Yorkshire – as they admit they do not know how guns are getting into the county.
Assistant Chief Constable Rachel Barber said the force is aiming to ‘cut the supply’ of illegal weapons used in shootings by getting people with information about where guns are being stored to come forward. She said the information could potentially save lives by restricting the ability of organised gangs to get hold of guns.
It comes as a new police report reveals there are 105 organised crime groups in South Yorkshire, with 27 involved with firearms.
The report admits there is an ‘intelligence gap as to how firearms enter the county’.
But it adds: “Gangs who are linked to firearms are being prioritised for intervention due to the risk that they pose to the public.”
It says gangs include inner-city groups in Sheffield as well as gangs linked to ‘travelling communities’ around the Doncaster area.
Operation Zeus was set up at the start of the year to tackle armed gangs and ‘the increase of inferred firearms on the streets of South Yorkshire’.
ACC Barber said it is ‘difficult to say’ how many guns are on the streets of South Yorkshire, with many weapons involved in criminal activities ‘recycled’ to be used in other offences.
“I don’t think anywhere has a true picture of what there is. That is what we are trying to build up,” she said.
“If we can cut the supply, it reduces the risk of somebody being injured by a firearm.”
She added: “We know how guns get into the country from a national perspective.
“But there is a gap of getting some real details about who is bringing them into the county and who is storing them.”
With many gang members typically not storing weapons in their home, ACC Barber said she would like members of the public to report ‘anything suspicious in places like woodland’.
The police are also appealing to people involved on the periphery of gangs to come forward – either directly to them or anonymously through Crimestoppers.
ACC Barber said: “I appreciate it is difficult for those involved and living within those communities to come forward.
“But we can work to support people and we can put things in place to protect people.”
While asking for the help of the wider public, she said people should not be alarmed as gang violence is typically directed at rival criminals.
“We don’t want people to have sleepless nights about this,” she said.
“We are aware of what’s happening.
“Things are very rarely directed at innocent parties.
“But we need to work together to drive this kind of criminality out of our communities.”