Armed police deployed across South Yorkshire after "explosion of violent crime" and threat of terrorism

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Armed police were deployed more times in South Yorkshire last year than at any other time in the last decade, as the number of armed officers reached a ten year high.

An "explosion in violent crime" combined with the threat of terrorism has left officers routinely "fearing the worst", according to the Police Federation of England and Wales.

This has led to them routinely calling for armed assistance when faced with the violent incidents.

The latest Home Office figures show that South Yorkshire Police conducted 742 armed police operations in the twelve months to March 2018.

This was an increase from the previous year, when armed officers attended 674 operations, and an increase of 38% from a decade ago when current records began.

The number of armed police officers has also increased, rising from 98 in 2017 to 115 as of the end of March this year.

According to the National Police Chiefs Council, recruitment drives for armed counter-terrorism officers have been ongoing in the areas of England and Wales most at risk from terrorism.

However, many forces have struggled to recruit the numbers they need.

Across England and Wales, the number of armed police operations in the year to March reached 18,746 - the highest number since 2010-11.

Ché Donald, Vice Chair and Firearms Lead for the Police Federation of England and Wales, said: “There has been an explosion in violent crime over the past year, with knife crime up by 16%, murders by 12% and gun crime by 2%.

"In this current climate, if officers are called to a violent incident the preferred option is to deploy properly-trained firearms officers to contain the situation.

“All this is set against a backdrop of increased awareness because of recent terrorist events, such as the London Bridge attack and Manchester Arena, which fall into the timescale of this report.

"As a result, there has also been a heightened presence of firearms officers at events and public gatherings around the country to ensure people are kept safe."

A spokesman for the Home Office said that the Government is providing £144 million to increase the numbers and capacity of armed police.

He continued: “The policy in this country has long been that the police should not generally be armed and the number of police operations where firearms are discharged remains low.

“It is for Chief Officers to determine the number of armed officers in their areas.

"The total number of armed officers has risen over the past year, which likely reflects our investment in the armed policing uplift programme.”