The horrific shootings of PCs Fiona Bone and Nicola Hughes have shocked us all and have thrown gun crime and gangs into the spotlight. The appalling act brought the issue of gun crime into our living rooms as we watched the awful events unfold in Manchester on the 18th September. Unfortunately the heartache felt by the community in Manchester has also been felt by other communities across the country who have also experienced gun crime.
Police have had much success in tackling gun crime, but we are never complacent and the events in Manchester are further proof that we need to tackle the problem with the same vigour that we have always done.
At times like this it is easy for people to become concerned and so it is important the public are aware of the facts around gun crime.
The UK has some of the toughest firearms laws in the world and as a result of that, and excellent policing, a relatively small number of firearms are available and in the hands of criminals.
Residents across the UK also benefit from one of the most unique and impressive agencies in the world for examining gun crime. National Ballistic Intelligence Service (NABIS) allows us to examine ballistic material and firearms recovered by police across the country.
The work at NABIS helps us track the weapons in use and it also means we can link offences.
For the first time in UK policing, NABIS gives us a national database of firearms, rounds of ammunition, shell cases and projectiles that have been recovered.
Specialists at NABIS are at the fore front of firearms forensic technology and as a result can provide information to link firearms incidents.
This information can then be quickly handed over to senior investigating officers who can use it to further their own investigation very quickly and establish if the gun has been used elsewhere.
Another part of tackling gun crime is stopping weapons entering the country in the first place. To do this, NABIS works with other law enforcement intelligence agencies to find the supply route and cut it off at the source.
This kind of specialist work is constantly going on in the background and is a major contributor to combating gang crime.
Behind every weapon is someone who is prepared to pull the trigger. It is another strand to gun crime which we pursue vigorously and employ highly trained officers to combat gangs.
We don’t just look at trying to tackle gangs, we also work to prevent people from ever entering them in the first place. It is a fascinating piece of work which requires huge skill to stem the attraction of young men and women to get involved with gangs.
A programme called Ending Gang and Youth Violence works tirelessly across the country to achieve this aim and already we have seen gun crime and serious youth violence falling.
In a Home Office report published only last year on this exact topic we saw the families of gang members make up around one per cent of the population, yet cost the economy more than £8 billion a year, and violence and abuse is being transmitted from one generation to the next.
To tackle this we are joining forces with the Government and other agencies.
For the first time in UK policing, work was also being carried out by the Association of Chief Police Officers to map gangs and gang violence in selected forces across the country which will provide a national picture of the issue.
The horrific events that unfolded in Manchester is the result of a much wider picture which police officers use to tackle the problem from all avenues and make the UK’s streets safer.