Firearms' officers busied by fake guns

ARMED police call-outs in Suffolk rose by more than 30per cent last year, figures reveal today.

ARMED police call-outs in Suffolk rose by more than 30per cent last year, figures reveal today.

New statistics show that Suffolk police's armed response units were deployed 202 times during the 2006/07 year, compared to 153 times the previous year - a 32pc increase.

Today, the force said replica and ball-bearing (BB) guns being carried in public were to blamed for the leap in the number of times firearms officers were called on.

Police spokesman Simon Stevens said that a substantial number of the calls had been caused by people being spotted in public carrying fake guns, which were mistaken for the real thing by concerned passers-by.

He said: “Suffolk, along with forces nationwide, follows nationally agreed guidelines for issuing firearms authorities.

“These basically state that an authority can be granted if there are reasons to suppose that a firearms officer, in the course of their duty, may have to face a person who is in possession of a firearm, has immediate access to a firearm or is otherwise so dangerous that an authority is required.

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“In Suffolk, a substantial number of these authorities are triggered by people carrying or displaying replica or BB guns.

“These items look identical to real weapons - and the consequence of carrying one could put someone in the firing line of armed police officers.

“For example, a replica gun left on display in a car can unintentionally result in police firearms officers being deployed as a matter of urgency.

“The message from police is simple - don't carry BB or replica guns in public, at all.”

A recent amnesty on BB and replica weapons in Suffolk finished with a disappointing result, with only a handful turned in at police stations around the county.

Although not illegal to own, the force said it was responding to the increased number of call-outs at the time caused by these weapons being carried in public.

It said it had hoped that parents would be persuaded to turn them in if their children owned them, by pointing out that going out with them in public could lead to them being confronted by police armed with real firearms.

The figures for the number of firearms call-outs were revealed following questions asked in the House of Commons by Liberal Democrat MP for Taunton, Jeremy Browne.

n Should more police be armed? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich IP4 1AN or e-mail eveninstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

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