Gun crime in Merseyside at highest level for five years, figures show

Merseyside Police investigated 210 offences involving a firearm between April 2017 and March 2018
Merseyside Police investigated 210 offences involving a firearm between April 2017 and March 2018

Gun offences in Merseyside are at the highest level for five years, police figures show.

Merseyside Police investigated 210 offences involving a firearm between April 2017 and March 2018, according to the Office for National Statistics.

That is the highest number since 2012-13, when there were 211 cases.

The incidents counted are offences where a gun has been used. Nationally the most common crime category involving a firearm was violence against the person, followed by robbery.

Across England and Wales, gun offences are at their highest level since 2010-11.

Peter Squires, a criminologist and member of non-profit group the Gun Control Network, said his research showed an "increasing supply of illegal firearms coming in through Europe".

He said guns were getting into the UK "through fast parcel service, internet based orders and regular smuggling coming in through confinements of drugs".

“A particular concern has involved the rising use of antique firearms, being recycled for criminal use, and shotguns being stolen from farms and sawn down and used by criminals,” he added.

According to the ONS, the most common firearm used nationally was a handgun.

The figures also show the number of offences involving a knife or sharp object.

In 2017-18, Merseyside Police recorded 945 cases with knives or sharp weapons.

That's a 43% increase on four years earlier.

There are 67 knife offences per 100,000 people in Merseyside, slightly lower than the national average which is 69 per 100,000.

Across England and Wales, the number of fatal stabbings hit the highest level since comparable records began, more than 70 years ago.

Diana Fawcett, chief officer at charity Victim Support, said: "We're now witnessing the highest ever number of knife-related deaths and it's deeply troubling that these rises are being driven by a huge increase in the number of young people whose lives are being lost to this epidemic.

"These figures further highlight the need for all agencies to come together to tackle this increasing crisis which is destroying lives and shattering communities."

The number of homicides in Merseyside dropped last year, from 21 cases in 2016-17 to 29 in the latest period.

A homicide is a murder or manslaughter. Across the North West, the number of homicides increased by 43% over the last year, to 136 cases.

Policing and fire minister, Nick Hurd, said: "Tackling the impact of violent crime remains a government priority and it is crucial to stamp this out."

Mr Hurd explained the Serious Violence Strategy targets early intervention against possible offenders.

"We are investing a further £220 million in community early intervention projects and have made clear that all public bodies need to treat serious violence as a priority," he said.

Mr Hurd added that the Government has proposed "the biggest increase in police funding since 2010".