Rise in police firearms use

NUMBERS of police operations in Suffolk in which firearms were authorised has soared by almost 60 per cent in five years, it has emerged.Sightings of BB guns or replica weapons are thought to be one of the main causes of the rise, which is revealed in latest Home Office figures.

NUMBERS of police operations in Suffolk in which firearms were authorised has soared by almost 60 per cent in five years, it has emerged.

Sightings of BB guns or replica weapons are thought to be one of the main causes of the rise, which is revealed in latest Home Office figures.

Last year, 256 police operations in Suffolk involved authorisations of firearms up from 163 in 2001-2. But the number of licensed firearms officers in the county has fallen.

Meanwhile, the number of operations involving the deployment of an armed response vehicle (ARV) has risen by 79pc in six years, from 116 in 2001-2 to 204 in 2006-7.

A spokeswoman for the force said the figures year-on-year fluctuate greatly.

She said: “It is not easy to explain why there would be an increase or decrease in the use of firearms authorities or the attendance of ARVs as it would depend on the number of planned operations and also immediate incidents that the officers would need to be deployed to.

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“Sightings of replica guns and BB guns in Suffolk certainly account for a number firearms authorities and deployments of ARVs.

“BB Guns and replica guns often look identical to real weapons, and therefore the response from the police must be to deploy armed police officers.”

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