Numbers hurt in criminal shootings quadruple in just 12 months, new police statistics reveal

A stark increase in the use of guns by crime gangs to attack their targets have been exposed in new figures released by South Yorkshire Police – with numbers of people hurt in shootings having quadrupled in the space of a year.

Wednesday, 27th February 2019, 10:43 am
Updated Wednesday, 27th February 2019, 10:47 am
Shootings: Increasing numbers hurt by criminal gunfire in South Yorkshire

Statistics compiled by the force and released to South Yorkshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Dr Alan Billings, show the numbers of incidents where a gun was fired were up by 94 per cent between 2017 and last year.

But the number of incidents where people ended up hurt soared from five in 2017 to 20 last year.

The gun crime problem is at its worst in Sheffield, which accounted for 15 of the 20 people hurt in firearms incidents, with four in Rotherham and one in Doncaster.

Those statistics suggest Sheffield criminals are more willing to pull the trigger, because police believe Sheffield and Doncaster have similar numbers of serious organised criminal gangs with access to guns, with ten in each area and slightly more gang members in Doncaster at present.

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By contrast, Rotherham is known to have only five crime gangs able to use guns, but there were four people hurt by gunfire in that area last year.

A report to Dr Billings’ Public Accountability Board, where the force is held accountable, said police had now “mainstreamed” Operation Zeus, a specialist unit which investigates incidents where guns are fired by organised crime gangs, without resulting in deaths.

It states: “Notwithstanding the increased reactive investigative capability of Zeus, the criminal use of firearms poses a significant threat to the force locally and regionally.

“2018 saw a total of 65 firearms discharges, compared to 33 in the preceding year, an increase of 94 per cent.

“Recoveries of firearms by the force increased incrementally too, with 45 weapons seized, compared with 37 in 2017.”

Police are now focusing more attention on burglaries, at homes and commercial premises, where licenced guns are kept.

Despite the rise in figures for both guns being fired and people hurt as a result, police believe many incidents are a result of “criminal vendettas”, with shotguns being fired in the street, at empty cars or at houses rather than people.

Deputy Chief Constable Mark Thomas said such incidents were “concerning and something we take incredibly seriously.”

“A good proportion of the increase is about discharging a shotgun at a house or unoccupied car.

“You do see firearms used for what right thinking people would regard as trivial matters.

“When firearms are there, they are available to be used,” he said.

An added advantage for police is that the South Yorkshire force’s firearms officers are trained to tackled armed criminals, which can “prevent them posing the threat they otherwise might do,” Mr Thomas told the PCC.