Police target crackdown on air weapons

Air rifle sightings are on the rise in rural St Helens
Air rifle sightings are on the rise in rural St Helens

St Helens youngsters have been warned about the dangers of firing air weapons after a surge of incidents.

Officers from Merseyside Police’s Firearms Unit visited De La Salle School to talk about gun and knife crime but focused on air weapons after a number of sightings in rural areas of the borough.

The incidents are strongly believed to have been people in possession of air weapons en route to target practice and hunting locations, but have nonetheless caused concern to members of the public, and can result in an armed response from police.

Carrying air weapons in public is a criminal offence, and weapons can only be fired during organised shoots at pre-approved locations.

Constable Doran from the Armed Response Unit led the discussion, which covered a variety of issues, including a demonstration of how police respond to firearm incidents, and the tragic consequences of carrying knives for protection.

St Helens Acting Inspector Vicky Holden, said: “These events are an important way of communicating with our young people and educating them on the harm that gun and knife crime can cause, as well as advising people on the correct and lawful use of air weapons. Hopefully each and every student has taken something from the talk.

“Locally, people who own air weapons need to understand that it is illegal to carry them around the streets, but to be also be considerate of the fear and alarm that they cause to residents. Farm owners and other landowners who organise events involving the use of firearms simply need to call 101 in advance and register the location and date, which enables us to better assess calls which come in, and so provide reassurance.”

St Helens Area Commander Louise Harrison said: “This event was a great success, and will hopefully be the first of many. We know from experience that young people can easily become involved with criminal gangs for a variety of reasons, and often with tragic consequences. We are not trying to scare anyone, but issue a powerful reminder how dangerous firearms and knives are, especially when put in the wrong hands, and to discourage young people from this path. One person affected by gun and knife crime is one too many, and education is a massive part of how we can and do make a positive impact.”

Commander Harrison added: “Our young people are masters of their own destiny and the choices they make can change lives. Anyone who picks up a gun or carries a knife may be throwing away their life and destroying that of others. In St Helens we have a specific issue, with residents continuing to report sightings and sounds of high-powered air weapons, which are often high-powered and dangerous in their own right. We need to know where and when events are taking place, to advise local people who call us, and save everyone time and worry.

“As with all crime, we cannot take positive action without help from our communities and I welcome people’s vigilance in reporting these incidents. Information from the public is vital and we will act appropriately on all that we receive, so talk to police if you have any concerns about crime and anti-social behaviour in your area.”

Anyone with information on crime and anti-social behaviour in St Helens is encouraged to report incidents and concerns via 101, or alternatively you can call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

You can also sign up to the MerseyNOW messaging service for free news and crime updates in your area, just follow the link on our website or go to www.merseynow.org.