Great Britain

West Yorkshire Police sees drop in armed police incidents

THE number of incidents that armed police were called to in West Yorkshire over the past year fell by six per cent from a year earlier, the latest figures have revealed.

The data, from the Home Office, revealed that armed officers in the county were called to an average of two incidents a day between April 2020 and March 2021.

The 702 incidents they responded to was down from 746 in 2019-20, a fall of six per cent.

West Yorkshire Police said the drop is down to wider efforts to reduce violent crime in the country, while the Home Office acknowledged the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdowns have had an impact.

The figures also showed that as of March, West Yorkshire Police had 227 armed officers – unchanged from the year before, and up by 91 compared to 2016.

The figure matches the national figure, where incidents have fallen by six per cent to 18,262 last year.

Armed officers are only deployed to incidents where someone else is armed or is considered so dangerous that use of a gun may be necessary.

On May 25, armed police were called to a concern for safety incident in Donald Avenue, Odsal. On April 21 a man was arrested after armed police were called to reports of a man with a gun in Cooper Lane, Buttershaw.

Chief Supt Roger Essell, of West Yorkshire Police’s Operational Support, said: “West Yorkshire Police is committed to keeping the public safe and a very small proportion of its police officers are specially-trained to carry firearms.

“Not only do they respond to firearms related matters, but with enhanced first aid training, they also attend serious road accidents and other medical emergencies.

“These figures show a small decrease which in the main is a consequence of the wider efforts to reduce violent crime and bring offenders to justice.”

Chief Supt Essell said police and partners work through Programme Precision to tackle serious and organised crime through targeted intervention; in January armed police stopped a drug trafficker in Bradford city centre with £50,000 of heroin in his car as part of the programme.

Sohail Ahmed, 26, from Girlington, was jailed for seven years after pleading guilty to the offence in March.

Chief Supt Essell added that tackling use of illegal firearms remains a priority, and the number of shootings in the county is at a five year low.

The number of incidents nationally where officers fired their weapons also fell from five to four, meaning shots were only fired at 0.02 per cent of incidents.

The National Police Chiefs’ Council said the small proportion of incidents which led to an officer firing a gun was a mark of the quality of training and officers’ professionalism

Chief constable Simon Chesterman, the NPCC’s lead for armed policing, said: “The discharging of weapons is always a last resort and I’m proud to see that despite more than 18,000 firearms operations, there were only four occasions when our officers were required to do this.”

Mr Chesterman also said forces are now better equipped when dealing with operations thanks to an increase in the number of armed response vehicles.

“Forces are able to respond to major incidents faster and with greater numbers,” he added.

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