Gun crime hits record high in South Yorkshire and police chiefs admit 'more needs to be done'
Gun crime hit a record high in South Yorkshire during the first year of the coronavirus pandemic, figures show.
Lockdowns and other coronavirus restrictions contributed to gun crime dropping nationally in the year to March, but police forces across England and Wales still logged thousands of offences, with South Yorkshire Police recording its highest number since records began.
Home Office figures show South Yorkshire Police recorded 295 crimes involving firearms that year – the highest number since police force level records began in 2007-08.
Since then, the force has dealt with 2,539 offences involving guns.
There were 21 firearm offences for every 100,000 people in the South Yorkshire policing area in 2020-21 – up from 19 the year before.
The data covers crimes involving lethal firearms like shotguns and handguns and non-lethal weapons such as stun guns, but excludes offences involving air weapons.
It shows weapons were discharged or fired 141 times during incidents recorded by South Yorkshire Police last year.
Nationally, more than 1,000 people were injured and dozens died as a result of gun crime in 2020-21, when forces in England and Wales tackled 5,700 firearms offences.
Robberies and violent attacks made up more than half of all gun crimes, with offences most common on the streets.
The largest proportion of crimes involved handguns, while weapons were fired in more than half of the incidents recorded. Victims were most likely to be in their 20s.
A Government spokesman said it is recruiting 20,000 extra police officers and has given forces greater powers to stop and search people, in an effort to tackle the issue and remove dangerous weapons from the streets.
He said the country had some of the toughest gun controls in the world and that firearms offences made up a small proportion of recorded crime, adding: “We know that everyone in Britain deserves safe streets, homes and communities.”
Gun crime dropped nationally by 14 per cent compared to 2019-20 and has fallen significantly over 13 years – last year, it was 42 per cent lower than in 2007-08.
South Yorkshire Police logged 202 gun crimes in 2007-08, 46 per cent fewer than last year and the equivalent of 15 for every 100,000 people.
Detective Superintendent Paul Murphy, the force’s lead for armed criminality, said: “Sadly, as a force, we are all too aware of the consequences and impact that armed crime can have on individuals and families, and the repercussions of armed crime can cause a great deal of fear and intimidation in our local communities.
“Like many of our policing colleagues across in the country, gun crime continues to be a priority for us, and our officers work tirelessly to tackle offenders.
"Over the past year we have conducted a variety of operations to target and arrest violent criminals across South Yorkshire. These operations have led to the arrest of known offenders, and we are continually looking to adapt and improve our approach to tackling armed crime.
“We rely heavily on the support of the public in tackling armed crime within our communities, so if you have any information in relation to the illegal use or possession of weapons, please get in touch to tell us what you know.
"You can report to police through our online portal, or by calling 101. If you would rather not speak to police, you can remain completely anonymous by passing information anonymously through Crimestoppers, either via their website or by calling 0800 555 111."
A spokesman for the NPCC said any loss of life or injury from offensive weapons is “one too many”, adding: “These figures reflect important on-going work by police and our partners to reduce the number of deaths, injuries and other serious incidents due to armed criminality.”
Last month the charity Crimestoppers launched a campaign in Sheffield for anonymous information about recent and historic shootings.
The campaign is in response to a spate of firearms attacks in the city – some of which have been fatal.
Crimestoppers says many are linked to rival drug gangs and drug dealing, but innocent bystanders have witnessed attacks too.